July 9


Number Three: Interviews

Good family history interviewing creates a recording, video and sound that can be used in your life story family history film or book.

In the making of any life story family history film or book inevitably there will have to be some interviews. Those who are still around know those old stories and are in a better position to guess. But somebody is going to have to ask them. That’s where interviews come in. With today's modern technology interviews can be conducted in a lot of simple ways. Still the best way is in-person, face-to-face with two COVID-19 vaccinated people in the room: Interviewer and the Storyteller. And you might have a techy friend handling gadgets like cameras, audio recorders, lights, batteries, etc so you can focus on the stories.

Interviewing isn’t hard if you do two things: Listen deeply and ask good questions. Typically an interview session is somewhere between two to four hours with breaks. A professional interviewer is skilled at being methodical in helping the Storyteller cover their stories in a way that makes sense, is interesting, and efficiently gathers the facts and the complete story. Sometimes using props like photos, mementos, trophies and memory zingers like newspaper headlines, letters, scrapbooks and documents can trigger stories that aren't actually forgotten but are just buried deep inside one's memory. Emotion is a key element of a Storyteller’s delivery and the Interviewer is key to creating a safe and non-judgemental space for deep sharing to happen.

Other methods of interviewing use online digital platforms like Zoom, Google Meetings, FaceTime, and Skype. The video quality might not be as good as being in the room with somebody with a great video camera but the fact that we can include people in films and books who are on the other side of the country or planet without having to get in an airplane is a huge advantage. It also adds powerful, credible content in a first hand kind of way. The trick is setting up a date and time with your interview subjects and making sure that they have a working internet connection and a webcam-equipped computer, tablet or phone. These virtual interviews turn out quite well actually.

The product of a good interview is a recording. The best approach is to record with video and sound and that way you can then later make either a film, book or both. The audio recording is most useful if transcribed into readable text so it can be searched and later used for reference when editing video or edited into a readable narrative for your book. Even the old-fashioned telephone works good enough for story-gathering and smart phones have great apps that can record an interview phone call and automatically transcribe the audio into editable text!

Personal historian Cory Bretz can coach you on how best to use these technologies so you can record the stories of your family members. Or you can schedule Cory to do the interviews for you in-person in British Columbia or online almost anywhere.

Schedule a free Family History Zoom Consult with personal historian Cory Bretz.

And to get you started, download free 110 Interview Questions that you might ask your Storyteller during an interview. 

About the author

Cory Bretz is a filmmaker and personal historian. He specializes in interviewing elders and helping families inspire their next generation with their life stories, family history, wisdom, blessings, and old photos. He can help you create your own life story family history film or storybook. Cory also loves producing fundraising and profile videos for non-profits and conscious corporations that help them do their good works.


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