Making Video History, Revisited

In 2018, I wrote a post, Make Video History, describing my experiences creating videos – especially oral history videos – and encouraging others to do so.  (In those quaint old days, I included a link to zoom, figuring that most people weren’t familiar with it.)

In the 1980s, I conducted oral history interviews of my parents on video.  They were about 70, and I didn’t know how long they would live.  I made these interviews with younger relatives in mind because they wouldn’t be understand my parents’ stories at that time but might be interested when they were older.

I hadn’t watched all the videos until recently, which was surprisingly meaningful for me.  I knew the overall stories of my parents’ lives, but I hadn’t remembered a lot of the details they discussed in the interviews.  We made 15 hours of video during a series of sessions over a period of months, so I didn’t get a fuller understanding of them until I just watched all the videos.  I learned a lot about how the world looked through their eyes and I gained more empathy for them.  They died quite some time ago, so it’s really nice to have this record of them.  Seeing and hearing them converse is way better than looking at still photographs.

When I mentioned to some friends that I had watched these videos, they were interested in making videos of their own of their families.  So I provided the following suggestions, which you might be interested in as well.

You might want to create video records of older friends and relatives while they still are alive and in good health.  You’re not getting any younger, so you might want to make a record of yourself or your partner for your kids or others.

You might think of these videos as a combination of interviews and conversations.  It helps to have a general structure like an interview but the flexibility of natural conversations.

The “interviewer” and “interviewee” should plan what topics to talk about.  StoryCorps suggests this great set of questions you can choose from.

You should plan the approximate amount of time you want to spend on these conversations.  For example, you might plan to record conversations for two to five hours, and you might break it up into several sessions.  The amount of time you want to spend and the purpose of the conversations may help you decide what you do and don’t want to discuss.

For instance, my parents lived through the Depression, World War II, the McCarthy Era, and Civil Rights Movement, and I wanted to hear about their experiences of these major events.  You might or might not want to focus on events like these.

I wouldn’t suggest doing 15 hours.  I was able to keep my interviews so short because of my great ability to get my mother to answer my questions directly without long digressions.  (I wish.)

Zoom is great for making videos because you can easily arrange for people to look right into the camera, set up the background as you like, and record the conversations.  Zoom is so convenient that you might even use it if you have two computers in the same home.

Take a look at my prior post for more suggestions.

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