Rainbow Family Tree

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Workshop Blog - Session Two
Hi all! Hope you're settling in and finding your way around OK... just to re-cap... make sure you have:

1 - joined the Virtual Storytellers group so that you receive the workshop tips I'll be posting to the group
2 - download the 'How to make a Digital Story' manual RFT_Overview.pdf
3 - check the workshop blog for updates on Tuesday and Friday mornings
4 - participate in activities posted on the workshop forum...
5 - download the legal release, sign and e:mail/post back to me ; )

I can't emphasise the PARTICIPATE point enough! At this point, if we were all in a room together... we'd be nervously commencing the STORY CIRCLE... which is what we'll be doing on-line in the workshop forum between now and Friday.

A digital storytelling workshop normally involves a fair bit of camaraderie and much-needed mutual support. The first one I ran, I chose to make a story too... and I had invited my Dad to be part of the group. I wanted to explore the difficult subject of how my sister and I talked about sexuality/christianity to our kids. I was really nervous about Dad knowing all about this as, in our family, we don't really talk about stuff and mostly he finds out what's going on via my Mum.

It turned out he was really encouraging... when I was worried that I was being too confrontational, his response was something like 'better out than in!'. My finished product is here - 'Dear Sister'

I tell this story because it's now time for us to share... this may bring up all sorts of shy/reluctant/obstinate 'I'll do it on my own terms!' responses in some of you... but, if you can manage to do it, it's worth it... and let's face it, the story you're about to make may well be quite revealing (as all the best ones are)... for me, I'd rather practice all the tricky self-exposure stuff in a safe space before venturing out into the big wide world out there...

For those of you who are looking ahead and wondering when we start the actual technology stuff - this is the rough schedule for the next five weeks (also in the overview guide)

Week One - Session One

Intro to Digital Storytelling – overview and some examples
Who am I? Why am I here? Name games… and a few sentences about your story

Week One - Session Two

Write down and share about 250 words about your story
Find 10-15 photos or images to ‘bring it to life’
Together these elements form your draft script

Week Two - Session Three
How to Edit – introductory concepts
Setting up your project, Software tutorials

Week Two - Session Four
Recording a ‘guide track’ voiceover

Week Three - Session Five
How to Edit 2 – Creative choices for sound and picture

Week Three - Session Six
Finding music/sound FX/images on-line

Week Four - Session Seven
Photo editing (PhotoPlus or photoshop.com)
Sound editing (Audacity)

Week Four - Session Eight
Pulling it together

Week Five - Session Nine

Fine tuning and tech checks

Week Five - Session Ten

Export and Upload

If you'd like to skip ahead and start familiarising yourself with the technology - download the MovieMaker guide (if you're on a PC) or iMovie (if you're on a Mac).

But remember... 90% of the hard work is working out what your story is about and who you're making it for... see you at the workshop forum for further exploration of all that ; )

Session Two Activity
Whether it's about some goofy thing that happened at the supermarket or some profound and identity-shaping memory... the stories we tell often get better in the re-telling. We watch people's reactions to the various plot points and descriptions of key characters... and we elaborate upon the 'good bits' and skip over the boring parts. A good digital story does the same thing - short (maximum 3 minutes) with a clear beginning, middle and end. With images and sometimes music that offer another level of meaning to the carefully chosen words. Of course there are heaps of good stories that don't fit the conventions... but 'conventional' is not necessarily a bad place to start.

There are lots of storytelling tips in the 'How to' guide... Who is your story for? What is it's main 'point'? What feeling (or questions) do you want viewers to come away with?

Session Two's Activity is all about helping us discover the 'essence' of our story... and making that message is communicated clearly and simply. It really helps to get feedback from other storytellers - but make sure, when you're offering feedback, you do so with respect and consideration.

So now... don't think too much about it... tell us what you're thinking of making a story about. What kind of images and music will you put with it. Don't censor/edit... just 'blah!' You might find yourself using parts of this exploration in your actual narration, down the track...

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I am not 100% sure at the moment - i had been planning on doing an updated version of our last one now that we have three children, but with a focus more on intelligibility as well. i am today a bit less interested in doing that as in part i feel like telling the story, even if it is useful for others, is actually very wearing - the day-to-day effort of dealing with being rendered invisible is enough - i am not sure if i need to rehearse it again in a digidoc (because sometimes it feels like it just becomes a narrative which disconnects me from what is is actually like to be our family). So, instead, i am thinking i might do something to celebrate the unconventional parenting relationship we have, or something about the specific relationship i have with our 3 year old. Normally with me a penny drops somewhere and i come up with a 'catch' (either visual or verbal) that will make it all work - so i am hoping that happens this time.

rant over!
Would a "day in the life of Damien" show how 'normal' (yes we do need a better word) your family is?
i would have loved to have had a child. when i was 25 i became pregnant after a one night fuck on a beach in Israel. I had just left South Africa, I was alone in the world and I felt unable to cope with pregnancy and motherhood and so I had a termination. I still feel a sadness about that - and guilt at times. In my 30's I thought a lot about having children and in my late 30's I had a couple of goes at trying to conceive with a friend as a donor and a syringe. Even though I was in a partnership at the time I was doing this alone. Finally when I was 40 I thought the time had really come. I was fit and well and i had stopped smoking. Then a crappy love affair sent me swirling down into a deep depression and when I emerged I felt that it would be irresponsible of me to have a child if my mental health was so unpredictable. So I stopped trying or thinking about it - mostly. I have a great life, a wonderful rainbow family and of course my beautiful fur baby pixilola. I love the work I do and I swell and burst with creative endeavour. I have a nurturing spiritual practice and an excellent therapist. My home, head and heart are all beautiful. But I shall never have a child.
Hi Fanny, this is going to be a beautiful story... you pretty much have a first draft of your narration good to go! Try reading it aloud to see if any bits are too wordy, lengthy or complex... and you'll get an idea of the rhythm that way too. Your choice of images could also add another whole layer to the story and help 'set the tone'... what kind of look/feel are you going for?
Do you mean a bio-child Fanny? Coz I had a struggle two years ago when I realised that freezing eggs just didn't work. I was hoping that I could freeze eggs for the future where I may possibly meet a woman who wanted to have my biological child. I was told eggs typically don't survive the freezing process, so I mourned and it was hard. Then I started to have a strong connection with my partner's child and I realised that I would love any child that lived with me as though they were my biological child.
Sean
thats lovely thank you sean ... and yes ... i hope that i may be lucky enough to live with a child and if i was i would love that child unreservedly. there is a sadness about having turned away a soul who sought to be in my life but i also try to be gentle and compassionate towards myself about it.
hi all,
I am thinking of a story about my grandfather who has effectively cut off communication with me since I was outed to him early last year. We have always had a tricky relationship - he's a very complicated person, but also one who looms large in my psyche. A few years ago I wrote 2 poems and a reflection about him, and about my other grandfather (who is complicated for very different reasons). The poems used the metaphor of a piece of woven cloth for each life. I'm wondering whether this might translate to a digi story: perhaps with a coda that updates the story to where things stand now... There's not a strong narrative thread - but every way I can think about doing it as a "story" seems far too twee and simplistic and unsatisfying. I reckon there are plenty of image opportunities, but not sure if there's too little context for people to "get it"? ( I have to admit to not being so good at "showing" rather than telling - always want to explain and give background to everything, which I might need to get over if I'm to do this). And, maybe it's too long-winded? Anyway, let me know if you think it might work, or if I should keep thinking!

Here's the poem - with ideas for images next to each verse. I'd think of reading the words over 1 screen per verse:
Grandpa Don’s life as a weaving

It would have a framework of tartan (MacDonald of course),
design all neat, sharp edges and straight angles.
Strong, definite colours:
strong beliefs strongly expressed,
and even more rigidly adhered to.
Deep greens of the jungles in Borneo,
navy blue for wartime service.
Black pockets of deep distress: the impact of
rescuing scarified POWs,
these cast shadows over his remaining years,
- edged with the bitter red of frequent outbursts,
and vituperative intolerance.
lines of colour in a gridline pattern - it would be great to add them incrementally as they are spoken of if it's technically possible??

It is an uncompromising life.
Service, loyalty, sacrifice
- for God?
Perfection the standard for himself
and his family.
Rejection the consequence,
and the fear.
stark images of religion, perfection, rejection - maybe a cross, an RSL badge and a big red X

And yet,
when I think I have him boxed,
that I can claim to have captured his essence,
and dislike it,
subtler threads emerge.
A silver lilt,
the tin whistle playing a hymn of grace.
His rich tenor picks up the harmony in warm brown tones
and a new design emerges.
a cardboard box, opening. Music, Amazing Grace played on the tinwhistle

Here is the blue of oceans,
surfing, fishing, riding,
The way he’d hold us tight in welcome,
tears welling up when we left again, too soon.
Lush green the garden he spent his retirement creating,
his creativity and dedication reflected
there as much as in his pastoral work,
continuing still now in more muted tones of dwindling health.
images mentioned in the verse - boat on blue ocean, hugging, lush garden, elderly hands or walking frame

Running through all are these threads of constancy:
gold for the care and love he’s shown
(apparent in the accolades at his 80th)
- to those “outside” the fold,
if not to us.
Gritty grey determination follows
the blazing orange of justice,
keeping a stiff upper lip.
Love, after all, is conditional on
doing what is “right”, whatever the cost.
orange words: should, must, no, yes, righteous, good, for your own good, silly idiot, faithfulness

I carry that legacy too.
photo of me stretched in all directions

It is a complex weaving,
more so than a granddaughter can perceive.
Within un-blurred gridlines
grace and duty remain
in tension,
the fabric stretched to breaking point.
Beauty and sadness, creativity and judgement
jostle for loom space,
scant room left for hope.
same gridlines as the first screen, but these ones all distorted out of shape

Coda
My grandfather doesn't communicate with me anymore.
back of an old, bald grey head
When Melina and I got married, we sent my grandparents an invitation.
photo of our invitation
no response

We flew to Brisbane last holidays to see them.
Plane
We saw Grandma for 40 minutes. Grandpa wouldn't come, even though they live in the same nursing home
nursing home image - a bit bleak

I wrote him a letter. He didn't open it.
letter half pulled out of envelope

How do you talk to someone when they act as though you don't exist?
grid lines image spinning crazily to fade
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Hi Bronwen... I love this poem and can imagine lots of evocative images (either abstract OR personal photos that capture the childhood you describe). And the coda kicks ass, provoking lots of questions...

My only note of warning... at over 500 words it's likely to run well over the generic no longer than 3 mins goal. That's not to say that longer pieces aren't also beautiful but you need to bear in mind the context in which people may be watching... on-line (where their attention wavers quickly) or as part of a compilation of lots of other stories (where they can easily switch off whilst reflecting back over the last couple of pieces).

You may find that strategic use of images and sounds might replace some of your words (e.g close up of a ball on freshly mown green grass and the sound of crickets/kids laughter)... also read it out loud to yourself so you can start thinking about pacing... there's the first part (more or less what you don't like about him); the second part (your more positive warm reflections) and the sting in the third (his rejection of you)...

You want that last bit to really bite, so timing and atmos of the first two parts will be really important. It's shaping up really well already ; )
WoW! there's some really intense stuff in there. My grandfather was suddenly ill recently and I went to visit him in hospital and on the way there I realised he hadn't actually spoken to me in 10 years. Its hard to send out love to people who seem so intent on hurting us. And it's even harder for me to understand why someone would want to live and die by prejudice because it means that, as a result, they miss out on so many amazing connectoins and relationships.
Sean
Hi all,
Well I had it in mind to tell the story of when we went to visit Bronwen's grandfather too, from my perspective. But I don't think that is a good idea anymore. I don't want to do a repeat and I don't want to tell Bronwen's story even if it's in "my way" which she is now saying it would be. It would feel too much like narrating someone else's life. So I'll have to think of something altogether different.
I'm supposed to be making a digital story for the 20th anniversary of JAFL (Jewish Adelaide Feminist Lesbians). It's supposed to tell about my association with the group. It was a closed group for many years and I used to agitate around the edges, trying to get my foot in the door. I am the youngest member. Three women were invited to join at the same time I did, about 8 years ago. So in some ways I don't feel like a real member anyway.
It's all complicated by the coming out as a Jew that I did at the same time as coming out as a lesbian in my 20s. So I could do an onion peel piece showing the layers.
These ideas are just bouncing off yours - Sonja's, with the multiple labels and identities; Fanny's with the what could have beens...
Anyway that's all I can think for now. I'll get reinflated sometime.
Hey Nikki. It sure is tricky managing that line between wanting to represent and not wanting to breach privacy. We struggled with that when we did a digidoc with Sonja a few years ago. Have a look on the main page (or my page) and you can see it - i basically narrated the story with the children (off camera) flipping through drawings they had done to give image to our story. You can see their hands and their giggles occasionally - that was our way to 'show' our family whilst remaining private.

D X
So great to see you get bitten by the bug Nikki! Have you downloaded the 'How to make a Digital Story' guide? There are some tips there that might also help whilst you're brainstorming with that big piece of white paper... and as both you and Damien have implied, the story you most need to tell right now has a way of making it's way to the front of your brain!

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