This is part 2 of our two part interview series with United Way of Greater Portland.
United Way of Greater Portland created the LIVE UNITED storytelling library (LUbrary) in 2011 to create and share stories that bring people together and distill the issues affecting their communities. It is a resource for the community, funded by the community. Each entry in the LUbrary is a strategy to build a better world. Jessica Esch and Suzi Piker draw the pictures, set up the cameras, capture the audio, and piece it all together to find the story. But the end result belongs to everyone.
Today Suzi Piker is sharing her knowledge and insights on digital storytelling.
When it comes to digital storytelling, do you have a process that you follow for bringing the story to life?
Suzi Piker (United Way of Greater Portland): There are many ways to approach stories but I prefer to keep my process as organic as possible and to let the story drive the process.
I do not walk into an interview with a firm set of questions. I do sometimes have a “cheat sheet” that I can quickly scan for reference but I definitely do not have a strict outline to cover other than general topics. It takes a bit of practice and patience to learn what rabbit holes to travel but I try to stay in the moment and be present and to follow the other person’s lead by listening and watching their behavior – what makes them lean in, tick, pause and light up.
In terms of video storytelling and process are concerned, I always aim for good, clean audio and a sharp image of the interview. That’s the baseline. Everything depends on that foundation if I’m telling the story in a non-narrated style. From there, I collect the pieces of the puzzle – b-roll, outtakes and additional media. I remind myself constantly to trust this organic process and to just capture, capture capture.
The role of editing and production can’t be overstated in terms of my storytelling process. I don’t know how I want my story to take shape until I start to play with the pieces and shuffle everything around. That’s a luxury we have with so-called non-destructive editing software like Final Cut Pro – you can play.
What do you think is the most important element of a story?
Suzi Piker (United Way of Greater Portland): I think that the importance of character can’t be overstated. To me, people just being themselves is endlessly fascinating. The trick is to get to a place where people are being themselves and feel comfortable. This is actually incredibly challenging and often exhausting because it gets back to being in the moment with them and listening. You can’t tune out or be fiddling with your gear. You have to be engaged.
What are your top three tips for conducting video interviews?
Suzi Piker (United Way of Greater Portland):
1. Good, clean sound and tack-sharp picture. Nothing matters if you don’t have good audio and footage that is in focus.
2. Be human and put people at ease.
3. Don’t be afraid to go off-script.
Suzi, thank you so much for joining us for today’s blog post! I’m sure a lot of readers will be using your great tips for their next digital story.