Stories in Time is a television show for local access television. I tell a 10 - 15 minute story into a wide-eyed camera and they play it every week. Its the only storytelling on TV in our area. Stories in Time has been airing since February - Montgomery Municipal Television, Channel 16, Kensington, MD.
Before we left on vacation I banked a number of stories so have not had to tape for a month. But now it was time again. Usually I go in with the story planned and rehearsed. Sometimes I have not been really happy with the way they played - finding myself looking more like a talking head than a storyteller. Well what did I expect. That is what I am - photographed from the waist up - talking.
This week I decided to "work" a first time telling of a recent incident I had written about on the blog - "Its About Hope". After writing it down for the blog more memories of other forays to beauty shops had emerged that I could use and I also wanted to add something that would tie things more tightly together.
Melissa, the producer and sound engineer, called out. "Anytime you are ready, Ellouise." I took a breath and called back "3 - 2 - 1 - go." I looked into the big round and dark eye of the camera and started telling, working my way into a new story.
You know, its all about trusting the process, isn't it. I felt the story, saw the images, new images, told it, laughed through some bits of the telling and closed as I had wanted to. It felt right.
Melissa was laughing when I walked into the sound booth. "Great story and have I got a story to tell you about when I got my hair cut. I was five and I still remember it."
When I watched the play-back I was pleased - yes, its still a talking head, but my eyes are more engaged, I am working the story and working with the camera in a new way. And it came through.
Five things I have learned about telling stories on televison:
1. Wear something comfortable so that you can forget your clothing.
2. Politicians and power folks wear red: I have found that a faded blue denim shirt works best for me - makes me look more friendly and relaxed. These days I am wearing a blue work shirt I bought in the Jonesborough Visitor Center the last time I attended the National Storytelling Festival.
3. Use a stool if you can. You will have free range of motion in your arms and upper body. Sitting in an overstuffed chair just drags the life right out of you.
4. Look into the camera and imagine the best audience you ever had and work to them.
5. Time your stories two minutes under your allotted time. This leaves room for breathing, good pauses or an on-the-spot inspiration. The engineer can always add something if you end short and that's better than rushing the story.