Share – on video

More and more groups collecting oral history that I work with want to have a DVD as a major final outcome.

Unfortunately many of them want the DVD to last for 45 minutes to an hour. It takes major programming making skills to make an hour long programme that will hold an audience’s attention for all that time. Much better to have 20 to 30 minutes of great material that leaves the audience wanting more. ‘You’ve got to learn to murder your darlings’ is one of my favourite mantras!

The advent of YouTube has brought a platform to share your videos with the world, as well as a useful cap on the maximum length of contribution they will accept. I deal with short digital stories in another section. Here I concentrate on some of the longer video productions I’ve been involved in.

Riveting Stories

I acted as the Advisor on an oral history project on the history of the former Vosper Thorneycroft shipyard in Southampton. The main outputs were a book and exhibition. I was asked to produce a short DVD that was shown as part of the exhibition. My source material did not include any video interviews – all the interviews (and a poem) were recorded in audio. I did have access to Vosper Thorneycroft’s archive of photos and old film footage. The only original video recording I had was of my Dad singing a song he sang as an apprentice at Thorny’s in the 1920s. As interview sound quality was variable and in order to give ‘atmosphere’ I went along to Vosper’s works in Portsmouth and recorded the background sound of the factory floor which I laid under most of the recordings.

Sole Trader

I have been recently making films relating to the place where I live, Wolverton in Milton Keynes. Raymond Essam runs a shoe shop there and entering it is like taking a step back in time.

The story of PAG productions

Many years ago Living Archive in Milton Keynes was donated a number of old films about Newport Pagnell in 9.5 and 16mm formats. Amongst them were films of a pram race, a wheelbarrow race and a soap box derby, each with the opening credit, ‘A PAG Production’. A bit of detective work revealed that PAG stood for Payne, Adams and Groom, the 3 men who’d organised these events and that of these Ron Groom was the sole surviving member.

A Racing Pigeon Man

I trained a group of volunteers from Project Pigeon in Birmingham to record video interviews, both formally, on tripod, and on the move. We did the training in the morning and in the afternoon went off to record local pigeon fancier Ernie Crozier. None of the group had done this kind of thing before. I show this short film as an example of just what can be achieved by inexperienced people using a simple camera like the Panasonic HDC-TCM900, together with a good microphone.

Wot No Books?

In 2011 the inhabitants of Stony Stratford were threatened with the closure of their library and they ran a campaign to save it that attracted international attention. In 2013 I was approached by a group of the Friends of Stony Stratford Library (FOSSL) and asked if I’d make a documentary about the campaign. I refused to do it alone, but said I would help them. I sat down with them to talk through the process. They decided how they were going to to tell their story and who they wanted to interview. They did the interviews and I filmed them. I sent them the rushes and they did detailed logging notes. They got together an edit list and I put that together for our joint viewing. We made some decisions about cuts but it was still, in my opinion, too long. At this point I took over and cut it down further, added ‘attention grabbers’ at the front, then finished it off with titles, music and cutaways. It’s an approach that I’ve used since with other groups and I feel it gives them much more control and ownership of their story.