It’s powerful to write about something you have been through with a community, like bushfire, cyclone, flood, or tsunami; but how can you write a documentary it in a way that is accessible to people who haven’t experienced the event, while staying sensitive to those who have?
I faced this question when asked to be a guest blogger for Aftermath, a project by ABC Open, that focused on natural disasters and the process of how people recover from them. Here are my suggestions for those tackling documentaries for the first time.
My tips for documentary writing
- Think about WHY you are documenting and WHO your audience is
- Be interviewed yourself about a trauma you have been through. This will prompt EMPATHY for the person you interview.
- Start with people you know well and are COMFORTABLE interviewing, then ask to interview their friends
- See what format your interviewee prefers (spoken, audio, video ) and take lots of PHOTOGRAPHS of turning point moments
- In the process of collecting your stories, be SENSITIVE to how people are feeling; you can always stop and come back to it at a later time if it’s too much for someone. Do not be in a rush! Make sure you let them know how and when their story will be shared with others
- Be BOLD and branch out to others in the community at recovery events and those recommended by family, friends. (We had concerts, health classes, art and writing workshops, music workshops all held to support the recovery process.)
- FOLLOW UP interesting stories circulating in the community around you (I heard one about a lady painting her lost roof with butterflies and another attaching an anchor to her house).
- Document public recovery events with photographs and SHARE them with participants in those events (look for special moments happening around you.)
- Identify turning points in the recovery process (such as the return of natural habitats, people smiling more, insurance claims in). It’s important to focus on RECOVERY, not just the events of the natural disaster itself.
- Write for COMMUNITY, not just yourself, to widen the scope of what you cover and help yourself focus on the turning points and moments of joy. This way you will learn so much.
Some unexpected outcomes of the blogging for community guest spot with ABC Open were an exhibition of my documentary photographs, the gaining of video documentary skills, publication of my blogs in other community books and the creation of my own community story book of the recovery process.
The photographs with this blog include one taken when Prince William flew in by helicopter to visit Tully. A shopkeeper gave him a cassowary she had made. Another is of a friend who was out clearing up with his chainsaw almost straight after the cyclone.
Guest post by June Perkins
The ebook of After Yasi, is now available https://authors-unlimited.org/book-member/after-yasi-finding-the-smile-within and will be launched online on February 2nd 2015 https://www.facebook.com/events/866286073402069/?pnref=story
You can find sample pages of the ebook here: http://gumbootspearlz.pressbooks.com/
Best comments for each blog will be given special prizes, either a free copy of the ebook or a choice of a signed print of one of the photographs from the book.
**The After Yasi Blog Tour includes upcoming visits to:
January 29th Michele DeCosta https://micheledacosta.wordpress.com/
Jan 30 (Friday) Jedda Bradley https://www.facebook.com/jeddabradleyartist
January 31 Saturday Carol Campbell http://writersdream9.wordpress.com
Jan 31 (Saturday) Gail Kavanagh (review) http://gailkavanagh.
Feb 1 Owen Allen Place Stories http://owen59.wordpress.com/
Feb 2 (Monday) Ali Stegert http://ali-stegert.com/
Feb 3 (Tuesday) ABC Open (to be confirmed) http://open.abc.net.au
Feb 3 Melinda Irvine (interview) http://businessonblue.com.au/
Feb 4 (Wed) wrap up and thankyou blog from June https://pearlz.wordpress.com
You can also catch earlier visits to
Jan 27 (Tuesday) Karen Tyrrell http://www.karentyrrell.com/
Jan 28 (Wednesday) Dimity Powell – interview http://www.dimswritestuff.blogspot.com.au/