When did you first hear of Banksy?
I don't remember when exactly; I've always known about Banksy as a British street artist. I have an art background and went to art school; it might have been then that I got to know his work, but not nearly as intimately as I do now after having made this film.
Were you in New York in October 2013?
I wasn't in New York. I knew of Banksy's residency from the news, but I didn't really get the same full-throttle media explosion of being in town. [President of HBO Films] Sheila Nevins specifically approached me because she was inspired by what was going on with Banksy that month and wanted to represent it in a film. I had previously done a film that HBO had acquired called 'Me at the Zoo,' which also used a lot of user-generated content from the web and told a story that already existed in a public space. It seemed like a good fit to apply that style to make this film.
How did you go about harvesting material from social media?
In this case, people who had posted a photo or video related to Banksy oftentimes included a hashtag, so we searched #BanksyNY and #BetterOutThanIn. When we use a hashtag, in addition to just bringing attention to a subject, we're also creating a massive online archive. Part of this project was really about accessing this archive and using it to tell a story.
What made certain users stand out?
Sometimes it was just simply the amount of accurate coverage that some people had. For example, we turned the dog-walkers into characters because they were really comprehensive. They filmed themselves looking for Banksy's pieces each day. It was examples like that that made the film really exciting, because you were watching real people documenting their experiences, not even realizing if there would be an audience for it.
Did any piece of user-generated content surprise you?