Recording stories is easy.
First: think of someone you know who has lived a rich or interesting life. This person may be a family member, a friend, or someone in your community. It may be your grandmother, your crazy neighbor, your friend who never stops traveling. It may be you yourself!
Second: ask this person for a few minutes of their time.
Third: find a smartphone or any camera with video. Chances are you have one in your pocket.
Finally: find a good place to talk and get started! Just to keep the following tips in mind:
Ten simple tips to record an amazing story
- Keep the interview focused by asking a specific question. Make it clear what you are focusing on, so someone won’t think they have to tell you their life story all at once. If somebody has a lot to say, break the interview up into multiple recordings.
- Be very clear about how long the subject should speak. We ask you aim for 5 minutes, since the subject should be answering only one specific question.
- You should establish a signal to wrap things up if they are going off topic or taking too long. This may sound rude, but you’ll find people will thank you for it. Most people are not used to being recorded and easily lose track of time.
- Remind them to provide context and an introduction to the story, as if they were speaking to a new friend.
- Try not to interrupt the speaker. You can avoid this by being clear about what you are looking for and what you need ahead of the recording.
- Find a quiet place to talk and make sure you can hear the subject speak.
- Make sure that you can see the subject’s face well and are relatively close to them. It’s important for you to convey their emotions, not just their words.
- If possible, choose a place to film that’s relevant to the subject’s story. This place will bring the story alive and help the storyteller communicate and remember.
- Keep your camera as steady as you can. Also, begin recording well before somebody starts talking, and let it roll a little after they stop. It’s easier for you or us to edit the video this way.
- If the subject is highly uncomfortable with video, offer to do an audio recording instead. The most important thing is to get someone to tell history in their own words.