A how-to guide based on the idea that recorded narratives from elders are of long-lasting value to the children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews who will outlive their family’s great storytellers.
Sargent-Hamill’s credentials (a bachelor’s degree in gerontology) and her practice as an independent filmmaker manifest in her heart-and-mind approach to shooting a dynamic video interview. While she relays personal anecdotes of how meaningful these late-in-life documentaries have proven to be, the author also discusses practical matters—such as headroom and symmetrical balance of a shot—that even the best-intentioned amateur videographer may not consider. Structurally, the information in the “Develop the Concept” chapter that opens Section 2 (“Things to Consider Before You Begin) would be more useful if it preceded, or was woven into, Section 1, which is concerned solely with project development. The rest of the book, however, benefits from a smooth, resourceful organization of ideas and exercises. The “Evaluate Your Electronic Equipment” section is thorough while managing to abide by simple terminology that even those aloof to digital technology will comprehend. Sargent-Hamill takes into account many before-the-interview details in a streamlined manner with details such as addressing personal discomfort of interviewees and checking the interview site for the best seating arrangement respective of a pleasant but not overwhelming background, finding ideal lighting and unobtrusive ambient noise, etc. While she provides examples of specific questions to ask, along with a sample genealogy-based interview outline, she also recommends preinterview chats to obtain the nitty-gritty information that can shape, or at least fine-tune, the interview structure. The book also covers supplementary or substitute methods of chronicling loved ones’ lives—photo journaling, exploring community archives and interviewing those whose lives were impacted for the better by the documentary subjects. Near the end of her book, Sargent-Hamill offers some basic tips on editing, pointing readers in the direction of medium-specific resource guides.
A sharp yet understanding guide to high-quality documentation of family history that proceeds with heart, logic and efficiency.