Collaborating For A Cause

The collaborative project.

I must say, working with people I never had a verbal conversation with and processing an idea into a final project is a first for me.

I’ve worked on several projects in the past, but this one was special and quite a bit different. I really wanted to create a video that didn’t rely on the technical qualities of good stock video and hired talent, but instead had content- content that would stand on it’s own.

The story I narrated was one that happened to me several years ago. I never really thought about it since that time. But the input by the team members and the content of this class gave me the opportunity to look within myself to find a story that was personal and relatable.

Norma mentioned that she was leaning toward a topic about helping someone. We bounced ideas around and the topic veered into several directions, but we ended up with a story with same meaning at the center. We were all able to contribute photos or footage (even sneak in a cameo) and in the end, tell the story we set out to tell.

Telling a story like this was what I wanted to do from the first day. That is the reason I took this class.

Digital Stories with One Image

In chapter 9 of Digital Storytelling, Lambert talks about designing your digital presentation. In the chapter he shows several examples of way to frame your digital story. One example (under the heading One Picture Many Pictures) that caught my attention features a video that uses a single photo that is cropped several different ways for a large portion of the story. That is one aspect of digital storytelling that I have found most interesting. The fact that you can tell a story with minimum visual elements.

I went to the web and searched for other examples of single image digital stories and found a trove of them. The following video links go to a site called “Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling. The video link below lead to a digital story that uses one image that slowly zooms out while the narrative and music carry the story. The expanding view of the scene gives more and more visual information as the story gives more and more aural content. It works.

Kindertransport: The Unknown Children of the Holocaust

Here is a second. The photo is static throughout.

Robin’s Market

While you could that the image of the market could be cropped to match the audio, the full screen shot of the market onscreen while the narrator describes the scene is a different approach.

Sometimes I find that too many times excessive edits never really show more or create more interest in a visual presentation. That is especially true in digital storytelling. The story is the most important element. The music and visuals are there to reinforce what is being told.

These examples show that less can be more.

Lambert, Joe. Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives Creating Community. 4th. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.

Changing Conversation

Communication Tangle A
Joe Lambert mentions is his book “Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives, Creating Community” that, “the art of conversational storytelling has diminished or disappeared from our lives”[1] Personally, I don’t fully agree. I think that there are so many ways to tell stories that conversational storytelling-in the traditional sense- is competing for space. The way we have a conversation is changing.

In his article “The Positive Impact of Social Media”, Dave Parrick writes, “It isn’t just your inner circle of close friends and even closer family members that social networking sites allow you to communicate with easily and effectively, either. They open the world up to you.”[3]

The interesting thing about technology is that as much as it advances our ability to express ourselves as a society, it doesn’t necessarily do the same for the content of the individual conversation.

Take for instance the person who tweets on Twitter. In a traditional conversation, would that person contribute anything different-good or bad?  How about this observation from Ann Smarty in the article “Social Media and Society: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”. In the article she makes a reference to something we’ve all seen, endless posts from “vain people on Facebook”[3] or those who conduct a regular “sob fest, usually vague. Or way TMI about their struggling relationship with someone they should have dumped six months ago”.[3] Would that person tell a different story in a traditional conversation?
Word processing hasn’t turned people into literary geniuses, it just allows more people to write letters and notes with spell check-but with the same content as before. Having a camera in everyone’s pocket hasn’t created a generation of Ansel Adams-just an army of people with a wallet full of digital snapshots.

The new technologies haven’t killed conversational storytelling. In fact, they allow more people to to tell more stories, more often- but not necessarily face to face. Digital storytelling allows those who can tell a great story to spread those great stories to a much bigger audience-it also allows the same for those who do not tell such great stories.

Conversational storytelling has not gone anywhere- it’s just has an expanded zip code.

[1]Lambert, Joe. Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives Creating Community. 4th. New York: Routledge, 2013. Print.

[2]Parrick, Dave. The Positive Impact of Social Media.http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/positive-impact-social-networking-sites-society-opinion/

[3]Smarty, Ann. Social Media and Society: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly http://www.seochat.com/c/a/social/social-media-and-society-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/

Some People Have It Made

Often when you see someone successful you make the assumption that may have always been the case for them. When I first heard about Howard Potter’s story about how he turned his life around and started one of the most successful graphics companies in the area, I felt that it would be something people would like to hear.

In the video above, Howard tells his story with narration by myself. The 6 minute video  almost entirely features Howard on the screen talking.

To capture his story intimate and  uninterrupted, I set up 3 cameras on tripods and turned them on. I would then talk to him and let him talk, stopping periodically for details.

I later edited the 35 minute interview into 6 minutes. I achieved the camera motion by key framing the original footage.

I think you’ll enjoy this story of perseverance.

Script:

Narrator In Utica, New York, you’ll find one of the area’s fastest growing graphics production houses, A&P Master Images. Designing and printing t-shirts in 2003, A&P Master Images has expanded into several areas of printed commercial graphics production in just a few short years. The business owner, Howard Potter, is the driving force guiding this company. Some people say that he’s got it made and assume that has always been the case-but those people would be wrong.

Some people face great challenges.

Howard: I ran away often when I was younger. Didn’t have a very good life growing up living with my mother. Because I was running away so much and everything, I ended up going to a court system. I had to make a decision from the judge to either stop running away and go live at home, which wasn’t the best living situation, or, go to the House of Good Shepherd. I ended up choosing go to the House of Good Shepherd. I was 11 years old, didn’t really know what was going on in life, but I knew what was going on wasn’t good for me. I went from group home to group home, and a foster home.

Narrator Some people have difficult paths to follow in life.

Howard By the time I got to be about 15, 16 years old and I had just learned about finding out that I have a biological father. I thought my stepfather was my biological father. My mother had said at one point, she claimed this person was my father, another person was my father. The third person was actually my father, and so after the first two times when I was told, “This person’s your father,” I was, “Whatever, not a big deal. I don’t really care. It’s probably not even sure anyways.” It also, in the back of your mind, you’re thinking, “What was my mother doing? What kind of person was she?”

I started getting to a point where I started having an attitude and a chip on my shoulder. I had something to be mad at every day. Whether it was my mother never calling me, or getting picked on, or just crying yourself to sleep because you’re living in a group home with people you don’t really know.

Narrator Some people make big changes in their lives.

Howard I really sat back and thought about everything, and I’m, “Listen, you know, I either get this together myself, or I’m out on the streets.” My pivotal point was at the age of 16, “You know what, you need to stop feeling sorry for yourself, because guess what, at the end of the day, you’re all you have. No one’s going to care about you more than you.” I had to encompass and gather and be, “Listen, this is what I don’t want in life.” Getting a job, getting my first job at Wendy’s at the age of 16, opened my eyes. It was, “Wow, I can make money, I can buy things.” At the age of 16 I got a couple jobs. I started saving up money. I ended up having a couple bank accounts.

By the time I was 18, I had discovered, “Hey, you know what? I went to [Moses 02:29] for two years for graphic design, this is what I want to do.” By the age of 18 I had $4,000 saved. I was in my second year of college. By the time I was 21, I bought my house. Two months after we bought the house, we got married in our back yard.

Narrator Some people face big setbacks in their lives.

Howard The following year after my daughter was born, I had started my own company, A&P Master Images. When my daughter turned three and a half I got a rude awakening of her being diagnosed with a very rare disease. They have to give her blood transfusions and platelet transfusions. It’s very scary to be a young father and then to have a young child be diagnosed with something and see them in a hospital bed.

Narrator Some people overcome adversity.

Howard The thing I was able to do while I was in the hospital, I was able to sell and still design for my clients, so I wasn’t losing any money being next to her and making sure she’s safe and being there for her.

Narrator Some people beat the odds.

Howard I chose to change and be the exception to the rule because by all rights, being around people doing drugs growing up, or being abused or this, that and a third, I had every excuse not to be where I’m at today.

Narrator Some people remember the past…

Howard Everything that I’ve done and become in life so far, is all derived from where I started to what I experienced.

Narrator And some people take the time to mend valuable relationships.

Howard I am excited and proud to say about four, five months ago, my mother and I did start talking again, and she’s part of my children’s life. This is a whole ‘nother [pivocal 04:14] moment for me in life to develop being a really good father and taking a step back and be, “You know what? Everything that you did and allowed to happen to me in the past …” I can sit there and hold on my shoulder and say, “You know, I don’t want you around my kids, I don’t want you around me,” but I’m giving the chance to her to not only her to develop who she is and be a better person, but for her to have that second chance in life to fix what she did wrong the first time.

Narrator Some people succeed -because of their personal efforts to get where they want to go-
despite the obstacle.

They have the desire to change their lives for the better. Some people don’t have it made-they make it happen.

Music

Garnet
Jacob Bergman, Stacktraxx Music, Inc.

Just Horizon
Mike Brisell, ASCAP.
Instant Replay
Rick E. Lewis, Roy Reehill

So Many Ways To Tell A Digital Story…What’s A Man To Do?

When I started this course my intention was, and still is, to learn to communicate using the many tools available to tell a story online. Since I have a background in editing video I tend to always use that style of story telling.

Several of the examples in the readings give interesting examples of different ways to tell a story.  The stories in the “Densho Archives” illustrating the conditions of the Japanese internment camps during World War 2 are effective as straight narration, but when either stills or supporting video is included, the impact is stunning. In the past I have read a little about the internment camps and mostly how the American propaganda machine tried to put a favorable spin on the camps and described them more like…well, like going to camp. These documents and the presentation disproves that fact.

The videos in “Exploring Youth Activism” serve as a voice for the those who have no access to media. These stories are so much like the stories told today by students and other small groups; but today the internet allows you to get your message heard around the world instantly.

Watching the videos brought several unheralded activists in several movements of that decade. Many of the overall stories are generally known, but this presentation allows for acknowledgement of the  efforts of the unsung.

For me the story “Another Side of the Sixties” sheds some light on a question I’ve had for years.  While the majority of media focus at the time was on the liberal youth groups, why did the majority of elected officials seem to be comprised by a majority of conservatives. The Young Americans For Freedom is a group not often remembered in historical reference to the 60s. While their numbers dwarfed the headline grabbing Students For A Democratic Society, they didn’t leave as big a historical footprint. Perhaps during the 60s while invisible to the media, their presence was best felt in the ballot box. It might be an assumption, but I would guess that the Liberal activists were not only a smaller organization, but were also not as dedicated to casting their votes.

All the above presentations are primarily photos and videos that the viewer watches in linear fashion. Within These Walls offers a non linear approach to story telling.

When visiting the site “Within These Walls” I was a bit confused at first. Since I’m so accustomed to seeing videos and animated graphics pop out, I was anticipating those type of results when clicking on icons. The click as you go to move the story in the direction you choose is something I would like to try-and include video of course!It is the exact type of project that is a departure from my comfort zone. However, that will require learning how to use the application.

Oh my, there are so many ways to tell a digital story…what’s a man to do?

Mobile Story- October 20, 2015

In case you’re wondering after you reach the end-yes it is mostly a true story.

October 20. 2015

Script

SCENE: Inside car driving

TODAY I DECIDED TO TAKE THE SHORT TRIP TO UTICA AND VISIT THE PHOTO EXHIBIT OF A WOMAN I MET UNDER MOST UNUSUAL CIRCUMSTANCES…HER NAME IS SYLVIA DESWAAN…

Photos to support audio

I WAS SHOOTING VIDEO FOR A STORY FOR A WEEKLY TV SHOW….IT WAS AT THE FUNERAL

FOR A POLICE OFFICER WHO WAS SHOT AND KILLED DURING A ROBBERY…

IT WAS A COLD, RAINY DAY AND WHILE I WAS FILMING I NOTICED A FRAIL OLDER WOMAN WITH A STILL CAMERA FROM THE 60S TAKING PICTURES OF THE MOTORCYCLES

WHEN I TALKED TO HER SHE SAID THAT SHE WAS A WORLD REKNOWNED PHOTOGRAPHER WITH EXHIBITS AROUND THE WORLD…SHE ALSO TOLD ME THAT SHE STARTED AN INTERNATIONAL ARTIST RETREAT CALLED SCULPTURE SPACE

Sculpture Space footage and Sylvia DeSwaan photos

…SCULPTURE SPACE  IS LOCATED IN UTICA AND HOUSES ARTISTS FROM AROUND THE WORLD FOR RESIDENCIES AND THEY CREATE ART PIECES THAT ARE EXHIBITED FIRST IN UTICA AND THEN HEAD FOR DISTANT DESTINATIONS.

Video footage for Utica Psychiatric Center and the former Insane Asylum

HER STORY SOUNDED A BIT INCREDIBLE…ESPECIALLY SINCE NEAR THE LOCATION OF THE FUNERAL IS A MENTAL HEALTH FACILITY. DUE TO OVERCROWDING, PATIENTS ARE OFTEN RELEASED ON THE STREETS TOO SOON. A TRADITION THAT GOES BACK TO THE NEARBY NOW CLOSED NEW YORK STATE LUNATIC ASYLUM AT UTICA WHICH OPENED IN 1843 OPENED. YEARS LATER IT WAS RENAMED THE UTICA PSYCHIATRIC CENTER AND CLOSED IN 1978. I WONDER IF SOME OF THOSE FORMER PATIENTS ARE STILL ON THE STREETS.

Sylvia DSwann self Portrait photos

SYLVIA DESWAAN IS NOT A FORMER PATIENT. EVERYTHING SHE SAID WAS TRUE…I HAVE BUMPED INTO HER SEVERAL TIMES

Utica train Station footage/Sylvia DeSwaan photo of Rick E. Lewis supered on each other

..MOST RECENTLY WHILE FILMING A SCENE NEAR THE UTICA TRAIN STATION FOR A MOVIE FOR THE UTICA 48 HOUR FILM FESTIVAL

Footage from the movie “Lost Dog”

…WE CAST HER AS AN EXTRA…

Facebook still from Sylvia DeSwaan

SHE HAD SENT ME A PERSONAL INVITE TO HER EXHIBIT. I MISSED THE OPEN. I MISSED THE MEET AND GREET AND SO I DECIDED TO MAKE SURE I COULD GET TO THE EXHIBIT BEFORE IT CLOSES ON OCTOBER 31.

Video footage walking to the gallery

I’VE BEEN TO HER HOUSE AND SEEN HER ARTWORK, I’VE SEEN HER PHOTOS ONLINE BUT I’VE NEVER SEEN HER PHOTOS IN A GALLERY.

Video footage of locked closed gallery.

I GUESS NOT TODAY.

Music: Someone Your Own Size-RW Smith

Double Agent-Everet Almond

Photos: ©Sylvia de Swaan. Awesome Inc.

Using Digital Storytelling Ideas from Class in the Real World

When I started this course, my intention was to learn how I could apply my video and journalist skills to the web. Well, the very first assignment offered me the chance to apply a new communication skill.

When we made a digital selfie and posted it in our blogs, it gave me the idea to apply it to a real project I was working on.

I have a multi platform project called “The Beer Next Door™”. I visit craft beer festivals, breweries, etc and post entries on Facebook, the website www.TheBeerNextDoor.com and compile the footage into a TV show of the same name. At the end of September I attended The Great American Beer Festival in Denver.  It’s like the Super Bowl of craft beer. I got an interview from the Bill Gates of Craft Beer. His name is Charlie Papazian.  While I was excited to get the interview for the show, I knew that many local home brewers and craft beer fans would love a chance to talk with him. That’s where the Selfie idea from class kicked in!

I reached out to the local community of craft beer enthusiasts and asked them to send a video selfie asking Charlie a question about craft beer.

I couldn’t believe how excited the local home brewers were. The biggest problem was getting their questions. Their reactions were like those of a child when the child meets Santa. You’d think the kid would be happy, but in many cases the child is terrified!

Well, these grown men took days to formulate their questions. I gave them a deadline that was before I left for Denver so I could prepare the files. I received them after I arrived in Denver and got everything ready for the next day’s interview.

Here are a couple of email comments I received from respondents:

Rick, this is surprisingly hard to do well, not to mention concisely… Here’s one attempt with a slightly shorter alternate to follow. Hope it works for you.  If it doesn’t, my feelings won’t be hurt.

Received the night before my interview explaining what took so long: Remember that Charlie is the godfather of home brewing…

I did get the questions I needed and the interview and I intend to use some in my TV show. Here is a question and response I posted on the Facebook page. I decided that this was a bit too long and esoteric for the casual TV viewer of the show so I posted it online.

Here is the video and response.