As feminists, we believe that telling stories does not have to be “contracted out” to others; it is far more powerful and transformative for people to create and share their own movies. The process of people telling their stories in their own voices is as powerful for the storyteller as the end product is for the audience. Participants produce the stories themselves; they are the ones who speak, who decide what is said, and how it is said. Participants’ stories are not mediated through another nor are they (re)presented. Through the storytelling they represent themselves.
The methodology takes people through a creative process of body-mapping, word play and games to reach for the story they want to tell. We then screen digital stories to open up a discussion on the process and ways of visually representing a story by shaping it into a poem, letter, animated comic strip, dream and more.
Representivity – the ethics of storytelling – is critical, and involves asking questions such as: Can all stories be told by the people who experience them? What about stories we find hard to listen to? Is there such a thing as impartiality or objectivity? These challenge the storyteller to think deeply before writing their narrative.
After the storytellers write their narrative, we facilitate a storytelling circle that is held as a safe, confidential and respectful space. It is important to approach the circle with sensitivity because some stories are being told for the first time. People are encouraged to give feedback in an affirmative way. Prompts may include: What did you see, hear, smell? What is unclear? What do you want to know more about? We close the circle with a poem and a ritual that honours each person’s story.
Once the circle is complete, the narrative is crafted into a story script. Sessions on storyboarding, narrative structure, and visual imagery assist storytellers in developing their scripts to a place where they are ready to be digitised. We encourage the use of original photos, hand-drawn pictures and documents such letters or certificates – images with emotional content that give visual meaning to the script. We start structuring the story using mostly free and open source software such as GIMP and Audacity.
The ethics of imagery are also important. We discuss the politics of representation, and key to this is the safety of those whose images are shown. We insist that storytellers get permission if they want to use images of other people. Often the workshops we host are with activists who could be at risk if their stories reveal their identity, and we teach innovative ways of making faces unrecognisable.
We use Windows MovieMaker or iMovie for Mac, depending on what equipment people have at their disposal, though we are exploring free and open source options since we are politically committed to using open source tools and platforms. The digitally recorded story and images are dropped into Movie Maker or iMovie and transitions, titles and soundtracks are added, completing the story. We hold a story screening and celebration, and we end with a closing circle.