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The Importance of Production: Beyond Community Practice and Process

STORYCENTER Blog

We are pleased to present posts by StoryCenter staff, storytellers, colleagues from partnering organizations, and thought leaders in Storywork and related fields.

The Importance of Production: Beyond Community Practice and Process

Ary Smith

By Rob Kershaw, Director of Canadian Projects

I think a lot about digital storytelling. That’s a given, since I work for the Center for Digital Storytelling (StoryCenter) and facilitate digital storytelling workshops. I probably ponder too much. Just ask my family and friends. I know my colleagues at StoryCenter and practitioners around the globe would agree; we’re always on about storytelling, constantly trying to provide the best workshop experience possible.

Lately my obsession has expanded from the practice and process of digital storytelling – why we make them and how they’re facilitated, to the form and function of digital stories – what they are (or can be) and how they work. It’s been refreshing and even imaginative to consider the ‘production’ of a digital story rather than merely what the story is about. I’ve begun to immerse myself in the theories, the art and language of film-making, video editing, still photo animation (Ken Burns effect), image sequencing, non-diegetic sound and audio editing sounds… in short the craft of the director, for it is ultimately the ‘director’ who is the digital storyteller.

That’s a bold expansion of thought and ideology in a digital storytelling community that often emphasizes process over the final product, where process has been qualified primarily as a practice of community building and bridging across generations, a process of inner exploration or personal healing, and as a means for political activism when connecting personal stories with the broader public issues that a community faces.

When Joel Knopf approached StoryCenter last summer to look at the possibility of an internship, he brought a passion for sound and knowledge of sound design along with his enthusiasm for stories. His ideas about sound, and my evolving interest in digital storytelling production was a good match. Together we created and ran StoryCenter’s first Sound and Story Workshop back in the fall of 2014.

This first workshop was an experiment of sorts - a one-day snapshot workshop with emphasis on sound. How does one consider and integrate sounds into a digital story? What works? What doesn’t?  Why music? Why not? One day clearly wasn’t enough so we have expanded the workshop to two days.

If you’ve taken a StoryCenter workshop before, this is a great chance to expand your sound production and creative skills. If you’ve done some sound or video production on your own, this is a great chance to think about story and sound.

It is a small but significant step for StoryCenter to run workshops that attend to areas of production without losing the value of our process. We need to pay attention to the finished digital story and its production as we give accolades to the workshop process. After all, the product is critical to a story’s ‘truth’.