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Running Of Bulls Documentary Part Of Chicago Journalist's Exciting Journey

By Kayla Martinez | July 20, 2017 2:59pm
 Reporter Mark Schipper, far left, with two Navarrans in Plaza de Toros for San Fermin festivities.
Reporter Mark Schipper, far left, with two Navarrans in Plaza de Toros for San Fermin festivities.
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Mark Schiffer

CHICAGO — Mark Schipper has been here, there and everywhere, writing for DNAinfo, the Tribune, the Chicago Reader and other news organizations.

But his latest project took him far from Chicago. All the way to the streets of Spain and the running of the bulls.

Schipper is working on a documentary called "¡Fiesta!" which highlights the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona, a 9-day celebration that honors the patron of Navarra, San Fermin.

Arriving just before the beginning of festivities, which ran from July 6-14, Schipper got to Pamplona on a day he described as "the calm before the storm."

"You have to manage it with a battle plan, or else you wont make it through," Schipper said.

The documentary is directed by Neal Waters, a lecturer at San Jose State University. The work is part of a New Media project, featuring interactive infographics, maps, interviews and photographs to document the experience through four different perspectives; the local, the foreigner, the bulls and Pamplona.

Schipper joined the project in March along with six other journalists, taking on the role to shoot video, do research and writing feature pieces such as a man-on the-street segment interviewing foreign runners, including a father-daughter duo from Berkeley, California, who participated in the running of the bulls.

"That will never be not an interesting question: Why are you running against the bulls?" Schipper said.

The festival is a non-stop celebration that consists of two anchor events each day. The first begins at 8 a.m. with the running of the bulls, three minutes of extreme speed to kick-off festivities. 

The second begins at 6:30 p.m. and is called the "corrida", or more commonly known as a bullfight. In between the two, there are several events that take place throughout the day of religious elements like San Fermin processions and services.

"It was fun on top of fun and you meet people from all over the world," Schipper said. 

With sharp curves, tight and winding streets, Schipper says "nothing on earth could prepare you for the sight" of eight bulls coming after hundreds to thousands of runners.

Differences between the foreign and native runners are noticeable through details in their form, Schipper says. 

"Native runners run beautifully and with a purpose and with technique," Schipper said. "As if they were part of the pack for the absolute determination and for no other reason but their culture."

From balconies to barricades, Schipper worked on getting a bird's eye view and getting close enough to see people's expressions, among a tight crowd where "there's no where to go and everyone is enjoying themselves."

Though Schipper didn't participate in running of the bulls, it's been something he has considered.

"Everyone who loves me hopes I never do it. Maybe next year if my hamstrings are feeling loose," Schipper said.

As for being a reporter in Chicago and being among the running of the bulls in Pamplona, there is a common ground.

"I've talked to a lot of politicians in this town that would've liked to have done to me what the bulls do to the runners," Schipper said.

The documentary is expected to be complete in March 2018. To view preview footage and teasers, visit Fiesta's Facebook and Instagram page, or their website.