As Long As We Keep Telling documentary

In the first half of a two-part documentary course, I researched and developed a 30-minute project, finally pitching the idea to classmates, the instructor, and the programming director of the local PBS station. My project was chosen, with two others, out of 16 ideas to be produced in the second half of the course (taking place this spring).

Through interviews with folklorists, historians, and storytellers–supplemented by a rich array of ghost stories and legends–As Long As We Keep Telling explores the question, “Why do we tell ghost stories?” Although the reasons may have changed over the years, the tradition of sharing unexplainable experiences with others has not died despite attacks from rationalism and science. As producer, I led my production team to plan, shoot, and edit this documentary over four months.

Research

The majority of the research for As Long As We Keep Telling was focused on finding experts who could attempt to answer the question of why we tell ghost stories from an academic perspective and to find individuals with ghost stories to share. Along with finding potential interviews, my research into folklore and cultural history helped me shape a framework for the documentary in the form of a one-page story overview, an expanded synopsis, story beats, and an initial b-roll shot list.

Early black & white illustration of a ghost

18th century illustration

Books and DVD resources

Sample research sources

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black & white photograph of a ghost

19th century double-exposure photograph

Production

In January 2012, I gained a team of four undergraduate and graduate production students to bring the documentary to life. We filmed interviews with experts from folklore, history, and anthropology disciplines as well as captured ghost stories from professional storytellers and individuals with personal supernatural experiences. As the producer, I contacted and met with all interviewees, secured location agreements, made shooting schedules, and worked with the production team to design the style of the documentary. During shoots, I helped set up the location and equipment, and conducted all interviews.

In post-production, I worked with the team to edit the footage down to the 26-minute finished product. The documentary was screened in May 2012 at the state-of-the-art Indiana University Cinema to a great crowd!

Crew member sitting in interview chair

Crew members adjusting camera

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Production timeline

Gantt chart depicting production timeline

Companion website

keeptelling.indiana.edu

During the research stage, I created a sitemap and initial wireframe for a website that would accompany the documentary. The proposed navigation and layout (below) are designed to serve users who may have found the site in a number of ways and may have different goals when viewing the site:

  • A user has heard about the film and wants to learn more about it. They may start in the “About the film” section, for details about the documentary and information on how to watch it.
  • A user finds the site when searching for information on ghost stories or other issues brought up in the film. They may be more interested in the topical “About ghost stories” section, and after reading stories or watching clips from the documentary may become intrigued enough to explore more about the film.
  • A user has seen the film and wants more behind-the-scenes information. They may either start in “About the film” to meet the crew and read production updates, or in the “Media” section to see production photos or assets used in the film.

 

Sitemap

Illustration of site map for website

 Initial wireframe

The website was coded by one of my production team members, and the team worked together to create the final design and architecture.

Read more: As Long As We Keep Telling Pre-Production Book (under working title “A Ghost’s Story”)

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