Category Archives: Video

Tender Years

I had the distinct pleasure last week of hosting Joe Lambert and Brooke Hessler from the Center for Digital Storytelling for a workshop at Kenyon. I believed that I was going in as the on-site tech support guy, so I didn’t think I was going to make a story. See,  I was going to be helpful to other people, and watch Joe and Brooke to really learn how to facilitate a story circle.

Concetta (who had been in our 2012 workshop), said that was sad, because I’m a good storyteller. (Which is not, to be honest, something I’d gone into this workshop considering.) And there was a ripple of agreement in the room, that my colleagues wanted me with them as a participant. And Joe said “no free riders.”

So I started wracking my brain for a story to tell.

The penny dropped when, during another person’s turn in the story circle, Joe pointed out that writing a letter to someone can be a great storytelling prompt. I started thinking about people I’d like to talk to, people I might owe a thank-you note or an explanation.

I remembered that I have a story which recently eluded telling.

And here’s another way to tell it.

From a storytelling perspective, shifting the audience made all the difference in the world. By making it a piece for Melanie, instead of for “the world”, clarifying an in-joke became sharing an anecdote. And technically, relating the story out loud, and getting feedback from a room of supportive colleagues, helped me find a lot of the connective tissue which I didn’t find alone with my keyboard.

So thank you, my Kenyon and CDS colleagues (and my wife, who saw a rough cut), for sharing your courage, for your aesthetic input, and for sharing this story with me.

My case, of which I’m certain

TDC 1222 asks us to write a list of our regrets, and video ourselves throwing it away.

I did it my way.

(Kids, ask your parents. Or possibly your grandparents.)

As you can tell from the watermark, I used WeVideo to make this. We’ll be using it next week at a workshop run by the Center for Digital Storytelling, and I’m the local tech support, so I thought I better try it out. It’s a web-based video editor, with a clean interface; I can see why it might work well as an intro tool for new video editors and in community outreach situations.

Also, it can import video from a USB webcam, which apparently iMovie can’t. This shot comes from my Logitech webcam, perched upside-down on top of my monitor. (That simultaneously solved the problem of how I can film my own hands, and how I could get the writing right-side-up.) My hands aren’t quite in frame enough at the end, but it got the concept.

The silence at the beginning is a little disorienting; if I were going to work more on it I’d try to capture the sound of pen on paper or maybe add a soundtrack. Let’s file that under “lessons learned”, and certainly not under “regrets!”

Rained real hard and it rained for a real long time

Of my storytelling to date, I think this is the one I’m most proud of. But then, it’s about one of the things in my life I’m most proud of.

I made this during a workshop we hosted for faculty at Kenyon. It’s out of the Berkeley Center for Digital Storytelling model. (The workshop was actually coordinated by a trainer from Ohio State’s Digital Storytelling program.) This is a storytelling tradition which focuses on autobiographical narratives, respecting the storyteller’s experience and the “gift of voice” when they tell it themselves. There’s a strong social justice component to telling untold stories, which I think is part of why this particular mode of digital storytelling is appealing to academics (especially those pursuing a service learning pedagogy).

It’s also a very intense process – really a full 40-hour week of work, considering the writing process, the tech training, and the process of recording, finding and layering soundtrack, and image selection, ordering, and import. A tremendous amount of the work is done in writing circles, in which these personal narratives are laid out for the group’s supportive critique. That’s a lot of vulnerability to give, and accept – and honestly, my story didn’t require the kind of exposure which some other storytellers engaged.

This story is based on the diary I kept while on the rebuilding trip, and audioblogs I made at the time. Those audio reports were a particularly exciting composition exercise – every night, imagining myself as David Strathairn as Edward R. Murrow, I sat down and wrote my reflections on the day and the trip, and edited them into a short news-like report for my friends up north. I then posted them to Blogger through a now-defunct service which let me make audio posts through a cell phone call. (These were the pre-smartphone days, kids, at least for me. I was working on a Virgin Mobile pay-as-you-go burner.)

Fortunately, I saved those MP3s before the system went belly-up. I’ve put them on Soundcloud, but marked as private. I haven’t decided whether I want to revive those particular moments yet; as years have passed I’m less impressed with the emotional rawness and quick polish of that work.

Truthiness! Stephen Colbert in a parody of the I had a fair amount of trouble with the “truthiness” of the process. Some of the images in that movie are actual shots of the day in question. Some are other shots of our trip, or of New Orleans. Some are CC-licensed shots from Flickr or elsewhere, unrelated to my life at all. I had to wrestle with that. Did I sell out my own story by using a picture of “college students” which is from Madrid, not Gambier? Did I fail to carry the stories of the people of New Orleans when I used pictures of cleaning up a South Asian volcano blast? At the end of the day, I decided that the images help me tell a story which I still believe needs telling, and I made my peace with it. I still grit my jaw every time I look at them, but I’m proud enough of the result to share it with you.