"And following the wrong god home we may miss our star..."

What I Am Doing in this Post: Venus

I have posted three versions of the same digital story.

If you don’t have time to think about process (and why should you?), please just watch Missed Star Two.

I have just completed a webinare series with Rob Kershaw of the Center for Digital Storytelling on creating digital stories using the online website called weVideo.com.

The main reason I took it was to learn movie editing a whole lot better than I do now–I mean, than I did six weeks ago. After about forty intensive hours with my head inside the weVideo software, I can confidently say I know a whole lot more–not enough, but a big step forward.

I wrote two complete scripts and chose one based on a memory that suddenly popped out of the cosmic soup from 1971. (In the video, I say 1969, but I didn’t feel like re-recording once I realized the error.)

In the script, I braided together my remembered story and a poem by William Stafford called “A Ritual to Read to Each Other” (I’ll put the words to the poem at the bottom of this post). Kim Stafford was kind enough to give me permission to use the poem as long as I don’t try to make any money from it–so please hold back on those big checks I know you were ready to jet my way.

I ended up making three fairly distinctly different interpretations of the story, called “Missed Star.” Here is my first version. I am stumbling around in weVideo, trying to learn the basic software while still getting through a coherent story:

Missed Star One

Rob critiqued Missed Star One thus:

“First of all, ‘hearing’ your script really helped me get a better appreciation for it. It was beautifully read. I was initially worried about the William Stafford poem inserted but I worked for me through your reading.

If it were my story, however, I would edit the visuals. I really wanted to pay attention to your voice and the story but the visuals were a distraction.

Overall I thought they were too literal. Each time you mentioned Estrella you put the image of the young girl. Also these images of Estrella both as a girl and a young woman were awkward for me. I’m not sure who they are, but I’d be very careful using an image of someone that is not the person you are talking about, especially in the context of the story being told. Also the detective and the ABC anchor woman as well.

If it were my story I would cut the number of images and try and stay with a consistent visual theme rather than trying to represent everything you are saying. The images that worked for me most was the jellyfish video (and not necessarily because you talk about moving around with self-absorption like a jellyfish) but it gave me space to hear your words.

The image of the people getting on the boat was also powerful given what you were saying at the time about finding Estrella’s body and seeing the grainy image of the back of her head with the brooch.

Finally almost every image had a zoom which also added to the visual distraction. I felt pulled around by force rather than immersing myself in the image. If it were my story I would be more selective when to add Ken Burn’s effects and also slow the motion down.

What about ‘seeing your story’ as a series of river and/or forest images instead of a literal visual treatment?”


Missed Star Two

I thought that was interesting feedback, but I was tired of learning weVideo. I stretched out on my couch at home, moved all the media onto my iPad and built this version using iMovie:

Missed Star Three

Back the next day to weVideo. I started over with a new idea, and I spent another bazillion hours on this version. In terms of learning tricks of editing, this was the most invaluable version for me. I learned to layer images and control what is called opacity; I learned to fade to black, to control audio, split audio, split clips–on and on. Needless to say, I am THRILLED with the learning that took place with this final version:

Rob’s feedback:

“I enjoyed it… for the most part. I love your video choices a lot. I didn’t see the flickers in the transitions or if they were there they didn’t register and maybe that’s a good thing.

Here’s what didn’t work for me.

I honestly didn’t like seeing the performance poet. I liked his voice but not him staring at me ‘performing’ i found myself looking at him his hair, the backdrop and not at all paying attention to the words he was speaking. This was especially acute at the end when the great footage of firefighters trudging up the hill transitioned to him. It killed the impact of that video completely. What if you kept whatever video was playing going while we hear his voice (not see him).

The music at the beginning was too grand. It worked from about the middle on for me. What if you used another piece of music, more spare not so stately at the start.

I still am not a fan of the image of the woman in the pink pant suit. Is she a real person related to the story?.

But as we say these are aesthetic choices we make and have our reasons for. I love that you are enjoying the medium and the process. That is vital. Kudos.”

Which one is my favorite?

Darned if I know! Learning was all for me with this project, and perhaps a year from now, I can revisit these videos and see how far I’ve come from this high water mark!

I don’t expect that you watched them all, but, if by any chance you saw at least two, I’d love to know which was your favorite and why?


A Ritual To Read To Each Other

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider–
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe–
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
William Stafford

Sandy Brown Jensen

I am a retired writing instructor and faculty tech specialist from Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon. I still teach and am also a photographer, poet, blogger and digital storyteller (short videos).

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  • I watched 2 and 3. I felt touched by what you (and Stafford) are saying in this. For me your images were evocative, and the continuity of the voice or voices was important. I’m really enjoying sharing your learning process, and the parts of you that come into view in the creations.

  • I like your voice reading the Stafford poem best. I like the images of clouds, water, etc. best. Though I understood Estrella died the summer of the fires, I wasn’t able to relate the images of forests burning, fire fighters, etc. to the meaning of the poem and the meaning of your experience…my literal mind wanted to connect the fires/fire fighters. I liked the techniques you used in the 3rd version. I love how you work and fire burning in you.

  • I watched two and three, and strongly prefer two. I agree with the instructor’s comment that the face-on encounter with the man delivering the poem interrupts and threatens to overwhelm your story about Estrella. Not seeing him, but listening to him while other footage made up the visuals would work for me, too.

    • Thanks for those thoughts, Lloyd. Strictly student work showing the decisions and struggle that go into these projects.

Sandy Brown Jensen

I am a retired writing instructor and faculty tech specialist from Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon. I still teach and am also a photographer, poet, blogger and digital storyteller (short videos).

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