Creating our first Digital Stories as part of the FTX
I know it is not a very difficult task to create a digital story (especially with the kind of easy-to-use software that is available today) but the process of creating a story that is personal to you can be extremely stressful and can take a lot out of you. Remember also that for many of the women who took part in the FTX, this was a first.
Here is what the process involved:
The story circle took the most out of the majority of the participants as they reached into the deepest recesses of their soul to pull out a personal story. This element of the workshop took the longest time as well.
Once the stories poured out, full of emotion and accompanied often by tears and heartbreak, the facilitators broke them into parts so that they could help us all to put a story idea together with some clarity and focus. Once this was done we had to write our scripts. It is one thing to break down and ramble on about something that hurts you to the core. It is another to take a step back, look at what happened and clearly put the words down so that it can be developed into something you can share with others.
The next step was to record the narration once Jan or Jenny or Val had looked at the scripts and told us if there were any amendments that were needed. We had been taught Audacity by Cheekay so we knew how to record, remove noise, increase the volume and edit the narration if necessary.
With the narration completed, it was time to visualize the story. This was tougher than one had imagined. Whether it was one’s own story or a story about someone else in which one was present. you had to be careful about who you depicted, whether to use visuals but annonymize them, whether to use sketches instead or to find abstract photos that would serve the purpose.
Once the visuals were found and worked on using open source manipulation software, it was time to merge the narration, the visuals and add the music and the transitions so that it became a story. We had been given a tutorial in both MovieMaker (for Windows) and iMovie (for Mac) so that we could put our digital stories together. Easier said than done of course. Some of us found we had too many visuals, others found there weren’t enough, syncing the narration with the right visuals was a challenge too. And we had a deadline to work with. Yikes! Tough facilitators wanted it done in time so that there could be a screening on the fourth day :). It didn’t help that everyone was trying to be a perfectionist, wanted their stories depicted just so!
There was frustration, there were cries for help and poor Jamal, the facilitators and some of us were called upon to assist at various stages of the exercise as data disappeared from laptops and the Movie making apps did all sorts of weird things.
It didn’t help that the internet connectivity was slow and intermittent and that the airconditioning played havoc with our lives. Headphones were broken and some laptops faced static issues.
We had been told that we should only use open source or licensed software and copyright-free images if we wanted to distribute the stories later or use them for training purposes. Certain websites were identified where copyright images and sounds were available.
It is not surprising that many of us worked through the night in order to finish our digital stories, and even then we weren’t really satisfied with them. We wished we had had more time, that we were better illustrators, better photographers, better script writers and narrators, better at putting together a movie.
But when the time finally came for the screening of the Digital Stories we had created, we realized that we had unnecessarily been too hard on ourselves.
As I viewed movie after movie, I was amazed at the way each story had been crafted. The sensitivity and the pain came through each story as did the courage of each of the women whose stories we saw and heard. The talent and technique, the artistry, the ability to put into words something so personal, so deep, so heartbreaking at times that all you wanted to do was go and hug the storyteller.
I think our facilitators were as surprised as we were at what we had accomplished in three days. As I watched them watching the visualization of the stories they had heard that first day, I saw some of the expressions – the empathy, the amazement, the pride and the joy of seeing the result of the process that they had started only a few days earlier.