A Sociological Response: Is There A Vaping Documentary Curse?  (My Most Recent Published Article in VAPEmagazine)





             A Sociological Response: 

  Is There a Vaping Documentary Curse? 

          Written by Tony Ottomanelli II

When contemplating the ideas behind my current short documentary project, titled “Who Are The Vapers?” I can’t help but wonder about whether or not my team and I will receive the overwhelming support I have anticipated. An article I wrote published in October’s Issue of VAPEmz on page 92 was a clear indication that this film would be made sooner than later, but only with the support of the vaping community. We introduced the production of our film by creating social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram just about three months ago.

Not to mention, “Who Are The Vapers?” now has a YouTube channel and a LinkedIn account, emerging as additional promotional opportunities in the social-media realm. The fact of the matter is that in 2015, an online presence is vital regardless of which type of project it is. I assumed there would be an enthusiastic reaction from the Vaping Industry of widespread immediate support. Therefore, as I write these words now near the end of November, I must continually remind myself that it has only been about three months since the film’s social-media introduction and almost two months since the official announcement of our ethnographic documentary in article the October Issue of VAPEmz.

The key word to reflect on in that last sentence is “Ethnographic.” Due to the fact that I’m approaching this short documentary from a Sociological Perspective, conducting qualitative research while facilitating an observational protocol related to Ethnographic methodology. Ethnography is a word many people are not accustomed to often hearing. Simply put, “Ethnography” is the examination of broad culture-sharing behavior of individuals or groups. It is a research method that is used by sociologists often when studying groups, organizations, and communities that are a part of a larger complex society (Creswell 2003:200).

What’s promising, however, is that this project could be published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Video Ethnography, instantly categorizing the film as a valid social scientific study for Academia to offer as a reference for students and faculty to consult. Thus, our strategy of inquiry toward our research question is the Ethnography, which is what uniquely sets our documentary apart from the others.

Regarding this, we will be filming interviews with individual VAPERS in order to capture their authentic and emotionally-charged stories of how they were able to quit smoking by switching to Vaping; taking us through their mental museum of past tobacco abuse. The backstory of any vaper can be riveting and VAPERS are not usually ones to shy away from sharing their personal transformations with others. Already, I have at least ten interview subjects on deck, eager to begin this process. We could always definitely use more supporters and volunteers.

It is inevitable that if I expect more support, especially through offers of funding contributions, then I must accept the fact that it will take a lot more time and a lot more hard work, which I’m certainly up for the challenges and ready to get after it ASAP. When I commit to finishing a project, I always ensure its completion. Otherwise, what’s the point? 

Subsequently, I’ll be extremely displeased if FDA regulations are passed before the release of my ethnographic film. I won’t stand for highly restrictive regulatory policies being enforced on vapers. It’s entirely un-American. “Who Are The Vapers?” could very easily be influential towards generating empathetic attitudes thus creating more social approval of Vaping nationwide.

All things considered, even though I am optimistic about my project, I feel as if there is a stigma surrounding the act of filming an independent “Vaping Documentary” project. Recently, fellow Vape News Magazine Writer Susan E. Oser, known as Angelwriter in the online vaping show world, and I had a chat and she reminded me of the issues she knew of and heard about concerning vaping documentaries. She reminded me to look up some previous projects made in the past, which I had briefly done so prior to our discussions, yet I had not gone back to visit that portion of my research lately. 

Henceforth, I came across a once highly anticipated feature-length documentary that has yet to release a single second of footage over the past three years, titled “We Are Vapers.” I will refrain from mentioning the name of the filmmaker, yet I have tried contacting him by email and through social-media. He did accept our connect-request from our documentary film’s account @WhoAreTheVapersFilm as a connection through the social media outlet, LinkedIn. We sent an appropriately worded and respectful message with nonconfrontational inquiries and are still awaiting a reply. 

Regardless, my fellow contributing writer and friend, Susan Oser, suggested perhaps there may be a cloud of skepticism among the Vaping community, due to the fact, that promises were made in the past and many pledged their support to a number of potential projects with little or no results. 

Unfortunately, for this past project known as “We Are Vapers,” the filmmaker raised $20K+ for the much anticipated vaping documentary, yet still no footage has been seen and their website was deactivated. In an article online, writer Anthony H. states, “There is nothing to show for We Are Vapers except a lot of excuses, a defunct website, and a close-lipped attitude towards the community who donated nearly $22,000 to make it happen” (http://www.v4p3r.com/we-are-vapers-footage-found/). 

Taking this into account, in attempt to garnish more support within our community of united Vapers, particular questions do arise: are certain vaping groups and individual vapers seriously “reluctant” to show support? Is there suspicion with getting involved all because of this one past project which seemed shady all because it rose and fell so fast?

Don’t get me wrong, overall support for our own project is not entirely absent. As of current, we have attracted a thousand Twitter Followers @WhoAreTheVapers, but my expectations were much higher. Why wouldn’t my Vaping Documentary project get more immediate attention and overwhelming support? Especially given the political climate suffocating our Vaping Industry and the genuine passion shared by all vapers for choosing a vape-life. I can’t help but think of that failed feature-length documentary project. Or should it be referred to as a successful scam? Many claims have surfaced.

Personally, I’m not taking sides on “who did what?” I’m unaware of many details surrounding the past project, but the Sociologist within me says, “question this situation.” Yet, the issue at hand revolves around my other questions as to why my own promising independent film project has yet to attract the instant support it deserves? Although something tells me, “that one failed film can’t seriously be a factor.” Then again, Sociology would reply by stating, “it’s obvious that everything is connected within our social construction of reality, everything.” 

Perhaps it is a major factor for my own challenges with the production of an independent vaping documentary? All in all, if I’m going to make claims of thinking big, then I need to look at the big picture too. Perhaps the filmmaker was, in reality, honest with his intentions and totally underestimated his budget plan. Whatever it was, it’s over and all we can do is move forward and keep trying.

With the upcoming 2016 release of the feature-length vaping documentary, “A Billion Lives,” their groundbreaking footage serves as concrete evidence that hope remains steady for vaping as acceptable subject matter openly embraced by the filmmaking community. Of course, this particular documentary is funded by a major film production studio, which I was informed of this fact by Director Aaron Biebert, when we briefly had a chance to communicate via Facebook. While they most likely had to overcome many obstacles producing their film, nothing will ever be more challenging than attempting to make a film independently. Fully funded by a major studio or not, I still respect their crew a great deal for their relentless dedication and courageous sacrifice. They’ve made history, it’s undeniable.

In retrospect, Please feel free to contribute in any way: spread the word, follow our social-media, contribute funds, sponsor us, vouch for what you believe-in, whatever you can do to assist us in completing this film. Help this filmmaking-vaper complete a documentary project consisting of artistic expression combined with academic research, which will most definitely be beneficial for many involved. 

To all my Vaping activists across the nation, it’s vital to promote vape-education to gain more positive social expectation about this harm reducing creation we’ve all stumbled upon for Smokers who seek alternative stimulation. Ultimately, a newly acquired inhalation, a fresh taste of modernized elation. When all’s said and done, is there a vaping documentary curse? Not at all, some people just seem to take a turn for the worse. 


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