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From Heart to Screen: The Power of Video Storytelling









Transcript


Traci:

Hello, everyone. I'm Traci Arieli. End-of-Life doula and founder of Comforting Closure. Today we're going to talk about preserving personal stories through video and the power it has to connect members through generations. When we hear stories about our ancestors, whether it's our parents, grandparents or great grandparents, we're gifted with a sense of belonging to a greater group, a family.


Through these stories, we discover a profound connection that transcends time and space. By embracing and sharing these narratives. We create a collective memory that enriches our understanding of ourselves and our place in the world. In this video, we will explore the power of storytelling, not only as a means to remember and honor those that have passed, but also as a source of comfort, healing and connection for the living.


Will delve into the art of capturing personal stories through video. Together, we'll learn how these narratives can serve as a bridge connecting past, present and future generations. My guest today is Oren Arieli, creative director of Awesomeshot Studios. And just in case you've noticed our last names, yes, we are related. Oren is my husband. So if I slip up and call him honey, you'll know why.


Oren, welcome. And thank you for being here today.


Oren:

My pleasure.


Traci:

Could you share a bit about your background and journey as a creative director in the field of Videographer?


Oren:

Sure. I began my first paid professional shoot back in 1988. And ever since then I've been loving doing video of all kinds. I've always been a photographer and I love being a storyteller as well. You never know what you're going to have.


You know, each call brings a new opportunities, new challenges.


Traci:

And what inspired you to specialize in capturing personal stories through video?


Oren:

I saw the need arise for it when I was helping a fellow videographer. He was doing stories of his aging parents. I saw how emotional these stories would be and how evocative they were and how powerful they were, especially if you have children and grandchildren and you're going to pass down this oral history. It really is such an amazing gift to have, and I witnessed it firsthand when in our wedding we captured your grandmother, who's no longer with us, sadly.


But I noticed that it was the only time where she was professionally captured on audio and video and years after she passed away, we had that clip of her that we were able to share with the rest of the family. And it was such an emotional moment to have that piece of history, that storytelling preserved in a way that it wasn't just coming from me, from somebody else, from another family member. It was them speaking directly.


Traci:

In your experience. How does video storytelling differ from other forms of storytelling?


Oren:

The reason I like video as opposed to audio or written script is because it engages more of the senses. When we talk to one another, we use a lot of body language. There's a lot of subtext in the way we we act towards each other in person that you can still transfer across in video, but you don't get that in in writing and you don't see micro-expressions where you can, especially with high definition video, now becoming the norm.


Oren:

You could really see, you know, the twitch of every eye and the smile and the little crease lines that form on all of us as we as we recount a story, as we recount a memory. And that really helps you to connect to the person that you can't connect to through just an audio podcast or, you know, listening to oral history or written history. It's it's so much more engaging.


Traci:

So the room itself, when you're videotaping someone, what kind of changes or what do people need to look out for in order to make a good video?


Oren:

Yeah, it's very important that you have an environment that helps tell the story about the person. First and foremost, a room that has a lot of visual things going on. While it might look nice in certain shots, it's distracting. You want to focus on the face? The face should be upfront. It should be the brightest part of the image.


Generally, it should be somewhat centered. It shouldn't be lit from behind. It should look flattering to the person, but also the arms in the background. The set dressing, if you will, should help tell the story about the person. Obviously, if you're interviewing somebody who's been, you know, icon of business, having them in a very casual environment might not be the best bet.


But if you're talking to somebody, a family member who has long since retired, you know, let's say they were in aerospace and you have some really nice photographs behind them, elements that really help tell the story of their life. That's really nice. In general, though, I suggest keeping it simple, keeping it clean. Keep the person as the main focus.


Traci:

I know that, you know, there's lighting that goes into it and sound. But before we talk about that, I do want to ask is a lot of people, you know, they have family members who are older, some who might be sick, some who might even being hospice, are in bed, even in hospital. Are there any recommendations or anything you can tell them in order to get a good video?


Oren:

The first thing I would say is you have to make the person feel comfortable. It's very different from unlike the situation we have here, where it's more of a formal studio per se. You want them in their element. You want them to be at home. So wherever they are, I mean, not everybody, obviously towards the end of their life is comfortable in the area where they are.


But if you bring them out of that into something that's too produced, it could distract and you could take away from the story as good as it looks, visually as good as it sounds. Your first priority is to the the elements of the story, to how they can retell their story without feeling like they're under a microscope.


Ideally, try to capture the person at a time where the room looks the best so if you're in a hospice [center], get them at a time. Either early morning, late in the evening, or if you're there visiting multiple times, you get to see where the sun plays on the walls or sits on the furniture and stuff, and you can maybe arrange them to be in a good spot where they're not squinting because they're looking right into a bright light.


They're comfortable where, you know, it might be a chair that they're sitting on or if it's in a bed, but you're trying to capture them in a light that's mostly coming from the front. It's its flattering, its soft, hard lights are something you want to avoid and down lights where it's coming just from the ceiling and these little hot lights that make up raccoon or dark circles under the eyes.


We try to avoid those. If you have a situation like that and you have no other options, then that's when a small light on camera light can fill in those shadows and improve the image. But once again, your first priority is the comfort of the the person who's speaking and the audio to me is, I would say 75 or 80% of it.


People will forgive a bad image, but if they can't hear clearly what you're saying, they'll just tune out. Even if the lighting doesn't look perfect, the audio should be as clean as you can get it.


Traci:

I know that you've done a lot of interviews and people usually aren't comfortable in front of the camera. I know I'm one of those that is not comfortable at all in front of the camera. So how do you encourage people to open up and how do you make them more comfortable?


Oren:

First and foremost, you want to develop a rapport with the person. You don't want to sit somebody down and just start peppering them with questions. You know, there's a warm up phase to get to meet your face. Now, I'm assuming if you're like me and you come into a situation where you might not know the person and you're interviewing them for the first time, they've never met you.


They don't know you from Adam, and you're asking them to share something personal That's a little more difficult than if you already have a rapport with the person. You know them and you can connect. What I tell the person almost always is my job or my role is to make them look and sound their best, whatever it takes.


And so that's what I'm here for. And that usually helps calm some nervous people down. But once again, if you can connect before the interview begins, shared stories share experiences, that's always helpful.


Traci:

Now, the type of legacy interviews we're doing can get really emotional. How do you balance capturing, you know, the authenticity and raw emotions of a personal story while maintaining sensitivity and respect for the interviewee?


Oren:

That's tough. Some people are going to be more emotional than others. You can have people telling the most outrageous stories with a blank expression on their face, and then you could have somebody telling what seems to you maybe insignificant detail and it brings them to tears. So you do have to respect that. People are going to go through emotions at different times for different reasons.


You shouldn't judge. You should just be there to listen. We have two ears, one mouth, so just be a good listening partner and take in their story. And if you see that they can't get past a certain point, if they're they have a stumble or a mental roadblock or it's too emotional for them, maybe skip that question. Come back to it.


Try another route around it. Move on to something that might not be as emotional. Some people, you know, they have to internalize it for a while. They have to repeat a story that they haven't spoken about in a while, and that brings back fresh memories. That's it's a new wound for them. So sometimes just going past that and maybe revisiting it, if it's an important question to ask, or if you notice that it was getting, you know, a good response, then you can try revisiting it.


Traci:

Have you encountered any unique or memorable experiences while capturing some of these videos, and did you want to share any?


Oren:

There was one interesting gentleman that came in for the interview and he was wearing a Mets jacket [New York Mets]. I'm originally from New York, so you know, of course, I recognized it right away and then started asking questions about it. It turns out through our conversation, before the interview began, that he grew up in the same town as my sister is currently living in, Queens.


And he was telling me about his childhood stories about going to see the Mets when he was younger, which something my brother-in-law does all the time. So we really connected on that aspect. We have the same general background, we know the same places, and it really helped, I believe, helped him relax during the interview and see me more as a trusted person versus some stranger that's there to pepper him with odd questions.


Traci:

Some of those pre interviews and pre conversations, maybe, you know, spending 15, 20 minutes when you can, you know, over a cup of coffee might be a good thing to do. Are there any particular challenges that that stand out to you that you've faced that you can tell us about?


Oren:

Yeah, I'm going in as a person who doesn't necessarily know the back history. I'm not a family member. So for somebody to open up to me, they have to develop a trust. We have to develop a mutual trust and they have to believe that I'm not there to exploit them. I'm here to help them tell a story. So I'm providing a service for them that is going to be passed down to their children and grandchildren, the rest of their family members.


I'm there to be kind of an impartial observer. I'm there to be open to whatever they're there telling me without really pushing back. I mean, I'm not there to challenge anything. I'm there to listen, capture and maybe shape the story. Just so instead of going on for longer periods of times, I can narrow down to the most important elements.


And because some people talk for a great length of time and some people are very short, so with people who are very curt and short, you might have to pull out from that more details. And that's just as much of a challenge.


Traci:

How do you believe the preservation of personal stories through videos can impact future generations and contribute to collective memory?


Oren:

For me, it comes down to a very personal things like I know that within my family, my mother is the story keeper of the family, so although I haven't done it yet, but I'm going to get to it, I will be capturing her stories on video and she is a fountain of of information. Honestly, I don't know where she stores it, but she has, currently at least, very great recollections of these stories of people that intersected my life or my sister's life or other family members lives.


Some still around, some no longer around. But it was part of my growing up, my history, and that's going to be lost when she's no longer here. So my sister doesn't know these stories offhand. I don't know these stories offhand. So we might look through an album 20 years from now and wonder who is that person? Whereas I know my, you know, my mother would know that right away. And she'd tell me, like, all the back story.


Traci:

So, I guess we're doing this for my parents, too, because as soon as they see this video, that'll be the next thing. So this time when we go visit them....


Oren:

You're on notice.


Traci:

So in your opinion, what makes a video storytelling telling project really a successful and impactful?


Oren:

I believe it's impactful if it affects people as if they were sitting one on one with them. If it doesn't feel like you're watching through a piece of glass, whether it's on the screen, a tablet or phone, whatever it is, if you feel like you're in the room with the person and they are telling the story to you, then I feel like I've done a good job.


And that's where minimizing distractions, as I mentioned before, you know, the focus being on the face, the person looking good and sounding good and sounding clear, that's where it really comes in. If you can avoid the artifice of the whole production and just get down to the story, then I think it's going to be a very meaningful interaction with whoever's watching.


Traci:

Oren, thank you for being here and sharing your insights on the art of capturing personal stories through video. If people want to get a hold of you, how can they reach out to you?


Oren:

Pretty easy. I'm available on awesome shot dot com www.awesomeshot.com. The email is info@awesomeshot.com. I'm fairly easy to find.


Traci:

Hopefully, you've seen the significant impact that capturing our stories and video have on our lives. The stories we collect and maintain become priceless, connecting us to our past, grounding us in the present, and guiding us into the future. Thank you for taking the time to watch this video. Remember, every person has a story to tell, a story that can touch hearts and inspire others.


If you have any questions, please comment below or reach out to me directly. And if you [have] found this video to be helpful, please like share, comment and subscribe.



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