Five Steps To Becoming A Digital Storyteller
When I was young, I learned about traditional Irish storytellers called seanchaí, men who would travel from town to town telling stories in exchange for a place to stay and a hot meal. Often times, they would use a hand drum or another small instrument to help tell their tales, and their purpose was to preserve the past. As a teacher of Digital Media and Production, I think of myself as a modern-day seanachaí, my instruments being my cameras.
With our new Digital Media and Production class at Avon Old Farms, I have the privilege of showing students how to convey their own stories in a multimedia-driven world. I spend a lot of time talking to students about finding their voice. And just like with writing or speaking, finding your voice is critical to conveying a story. So, if you are looking to improve your skills as a storyteller and are interested in taking on the challenge of Digital Media and Production, here are some things that will get you started.
1. Now, It's Personal
Holiday Video, Filmed and Edited by Ryan Davey
The best stories we tell are ones that we have a connection to. When shooting films, it is critical that we as storytellers have a connection to what we are trying to say. Luckily for me, most of what I do is try to capture the essence of my home, Avon Old Farms School (AOF). Whenever there is a school event, you will more than likely see me running around trying to capture those things that make our community unique. I do this because I want people to see AOF how I see it, I want people to see the beauty I see, and most of all I want that to resonate with our entire community. This is easy for me because I am passionate about Avon Old Farms and what we do. When working on digital media projects, make sure that you are not simply putting together a series of shots, but rather connect with your subject on a level that is personal.
2. Shoot Your Shot
I’ve heard this phrase a lot lately and it absolutely applies to digital storytelling. Your phone is your best friend. Whether you are attempting to capture moments for your own social media or weaving something into a bigger project, you need to be at the prepared at all times. There is no better tool at your disposal than your smartphone. Having a cell phone at the ready puts you in a position to capture magic at a moment’s notice. See your phone as something creative and productive rather than something consumptive. Vlogs, interviews, and incredible pictures are attainable now more than ever. Moreover, the ease at which this can be accomplished is incredible. Never underestimate the power of B-roll and setting. If you see something that moves you, get it.
Growing up, I was always the friend that carried his camera around. Sure there were times that I never took it out of the bag, but I will always be grateful for the times I saw something worth capturing and I did it. Be prepared and you will always see the world as a storyteller, and you will always be in the right place at the right time.
3. Story Over Gear
The Nimrod Club by Noah Matalon '20 for the Digital Media and Production Class at Avon Old Farms
While our class and our program are lucky to have high-end gear to work with, nothing will ever take the place of a good story. Good stories are thought-provoking, heartbreaking, inspiring, and captivating. We do not judge literature by the paper it was written on or the pen that put the ink down. The magic of the spoken, written, or visual story lies with the storyteller. Drone shots, 4K cameras, and expensive equipment are nice but they will not make a lackluster story better. Consider this: you can spend money to buy an expensive sports car, but that will not make you a better driver.
4. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
When it comes to editing, you are always going to find things that need your attention. You will pore over the one second of footage that might not be correct. You will spend hours (yes hours) wondering if somebody will notice that one of your transitions is slightly off. Nobody will be a harsher critic of your work than you are. It is important to take your work seriously and to care deeply about how it looks when presented to others, but you will have to learn when to stop. Being satisfied with your work will be difficult at first, but with practice, you can discover your own unique process. Just like any other new skill the more time and energy you spend editing and learning your process, the easier it will become.
5. Sharing is Caring
Exposed! Episode Two: Promenading With Pierce, Filmed and Edited by WAOF and Ryan Davey
Telling a personal story involves risk. As digital storytellers, accept and embrace this risk. Will people like this? What if it doesn’t work? How do I make this better? These are questions you will ask yourself over and over. At some point, you are going to click that “upload” or “share” button. It’s scary, and like a shot in basketball, the moment it leaves your hand forces of nature take over. Be courageous and believe in what you are doing. Share something with the world that it has not seen before. Believe that your one minute of film or that one picture will inspire the person looking at it.
We tell stories because we want to connect. We want to connect because doing so makes us a part of something larger than ourselves. By showing people who we are, by telling our own digital stories we are able to provide the world with something unique, but also preserve our experience for others to take in. It is an honor to create a new generation of storytellers, and I look forward to what they have to say.
About the Author
Latin, English, and Digital Media and Production Teacher