Our Storytelling Process

It is said that documentaries are, in some sense, scripted reality. However, in a documentary where the subjects not only control the cameras themselves (without a production team anywhere in sight), but also write and record their own narrations, then the stories on screen are more authentic and truthful.
Director Jeremy Teicher discusses how these films were made:

The goal of this project is to enable storytelling--not to train a new group of professional filmmakers. At the same time, it was important to innovate this film beyond the basic "give cameras, then collect resulting footage" method. This Is Us utilizes a carefully developed process specifically designed to empower others to poignantly express messages of their choosing. We do not simply collect footage from cameras that we hand out, only to edit it into a story later--we work closely with people we give our cameras to, enabling them to craft their own stories so that they not only do the filming but are also prepared to write and narrate.

Therefore, my fundamental approach was: "how can we balance between giving the students the most creative control possible while still producing high-quality and focused stories, moving forward at an acceptable pace, and working within our budget?" 

The answer was to carefully form an organized system whereby the students would: 1) be highly focused and prepared before they even begin recording; 2) continually receive one-on-one feedback throughout the filming process; 3) efficiently record their narrations; and 4) continue to meet one-on-one with me during editing. 

Using these fundamental goals as guidelines, I worked with local teachers to develop a process that enabled the students to write, film, and narrate their stories in a matter of weeks. The process focuses heavily on class discussion at first, then moves into a daily routine of continual one-on-one feedback with the students as they refine their narrations and capture footage. Close discussion and feedback with students continues through the editing process as I put together rough cuts. The work culminates in a final screening party for the students and community.

Inspired to learn more? Haven't there been other projects where locals use cameras? What makes this different? See the Frequently Asked Questions page