The Making of a Legacy – Part 6: Oral Storytelling Preferences and Personalities
In this 12-part series, we’ll be highlighting the life of a beloved family member: Uncle Al. He was a WW2 Vet, a Ford Motors man, and an amazing storyteller. This is a story about stories, and how those stories had a profound impact on all of us in the golden days of our dearest Uncle Al.
When we all sat down to listen to Uncle Al tell his WW2 and Ford stories, with the video camera rolling, Al didn’t miss a beat. He was, so far as we could tell, totally comfortable on camera telling his stories. But not all people feel the same way. Al also told most of his stories in only a few hours, but I’ve had clients who had many more stories that spanned multiple days of multi-hour sessions, totaling as many as 14 hours (so far).
As I did more and more projects, I realized that a video record of a loved one sharing stories was perfect for some situations, but not all of them. For instance, for those people who are very camera shy, or who might feel self-conscious to the point of declining to tell their stories entirely, the camera is really not a great option for them! And for the people with hours upon hours of beautiful stories, at a certain point, the cost to store Gigabytes or even Terabytes of video of a stationary person outweighs the necessity for the video format. For these reasons, I started offering and even encouraging audio-only interviews instead.
Compared to video interviews, audio-only interviews:
- are less intimidating (people often forget about the microphone a couple minutes into sharing their stories whereas the camera stares at them the whole time)
- are less expensive (you can pick up a voice recorder on Amazon for $30 or even less, or pay nothing extra if you already have a smartphone)
- are less setup and more convenient (you don’t have to worry about your appearance, the appearance of the location you’re filming, the lighting, or the technicalities of a camera)
- require less space to store (actually, a fraction of the storage space video takes up)
Now, you may be saying, “But I want to be able to see Grandma telling these stories.” I completely get it. And if Grandma is on board, absolutely go for it! But if you’re not the one on camera, it’s best to let Grandma decide if she feels comfortable being recorded on camera (or at all).
If you’re going to record a loved one’s memories, take the time to talk through their preferences with them for sharing those stories. Do they want to do short sessions over time? Get it all knocked out in one or two sessions? Do they feel comfortable on camera or would audio-only be more comfortable? Be accommodating and respectful of their wishes.
Stay tuned for Part 7, where we’ll talk about setting up and preparing to interview one of your loved ones to capture their memories. Or, if you’d like to read this series from the beginning, click here for Part 1.