Recording life stories for people with Alzheimer's part 1
byon 11-11-2011 at 04:22 PM (215 Views)
I read this paper at http://www.lifebio.com/WhitePapers/B...emory_Care.pdf
It discusses the benefits of life review or recalling and retelling one's life story for people with early signs of Alzheimer's. One way of doing this is on video. I wrote a blog about how to record someone's life story on video. It's not specifically for Alzheimer's sufferers but it might be of some use.
This is an introduction to how to shoot a life story film yourself. Filming someoneís life story takes time and patience, so leave at least a whole day to prepare, set up the shot and interview. The process however is often very rewarding for the interviewer and interviewee, thatís why I like doing it so much. At the end of the day people often say that it was very cathartic to tell their whole life as a story, and that it made them understand more about who they were as a person. If youíre about to embark on this project good luck, and make sure you keep the footage safe, as even though youíll learn a lot for now, your footage will become invaluable in the future.
Lighting and choosing your location
Youíre either going to have to use someone to stand in for setting up the interview or the interviewee themselves. If this is your first time filming something properly, it might take a bit of time with trial and error, so make your stand in or interviewee aware about what youíre doing, so they donít get too bored, and try and include them in the process where possible to keep them engaged.
So letís get started. Make sure your location has enough light, and preferably some windows so that natural light can get into the room. If you film with just ceiling lights on and no other light sources, youíll get ugly shadows on your intervieweeís face, so bare this in mind. Below is a diagram illustrating the traditional 3 point lighting setup that almost every interview on television is done with.
Now to recreate this you donít necessarily need lights, but they do make things easier. You just need to make sure there is enough light on the face of your interviewee, a bit of light behind them and some light coming in from the side so the face doesnít look flat. If we take a look at the image below it was achieved purely with natural light from windows.
There are windows behind the camera, to the left of the camera and behind the subject, which recreates the three point lighting setup without needing lights, it also gives a more natural light colour or temperature. I suggest if you can use either all natural light, or all synthetic light as they donít mix well, and if you do mix try and use a floor lamp rather than a ceiling spot light so the light direction doesnít cast too many ugly shadows. If you have a sheet of polystyrene you can also reflect light instead of having a light source to recreate the three point lighting set up.
Also if you donít want a plain background make sure there is some space behind your subject to create a depth of field that adds interest to your scene. If you take time over the seating position of your interviewee and the light around them, you can get a really professional looking result. That moves us on to framing.
How you frame your shot when you film a life story is a personal choice, however there are a few things to think about when doing so. Firstly, youíre going to have to use a tripod, so set that up in front of where your subject is sitting. Secondly you have to ask yourself whether you want to be changing shot during the interview, i.e. Moving the camera around on the tripod, zooming in and out etc.
If you donít I suggest making your shot as wide as possible (a wide shot is the opposite of a closeup). The reason is body language tells a lot about how a person is feeling, and when someone is telling a story, if youíve done your job properly as the interviewer, they should be reliving the moment theyíre telling in their head. This means that theyíll be displaying a lot of body language to give you an indication of how that moment was in their life, it may be a clenched fist, a shaking leg, a gesture with their hands, but missing these things isnít ideal for documenting a life story.
Eye level is also important when framing a shot, try to place the camera lens level, with the eye line of the subject as this will help with the look of the shot. To make the eye level work, make sure the interviewer is seated as close to the left of the camera as possible without their head getting in the shot. This will mean that your subjectís eyes wont be looking too far away from the lens, but not directly into the lens during the interview. You can choose the subject to be in the centre of the frame, or a bit to the right. Overall your framing should not cut off the subjectís head, but shouldnít leave a large amount of space between the top of the frame and the head, try and get the eye level in line with the camera lens and donít forget to play around to see what looks nice. Take a look at the still above as a guide to wide framing.
Again like the framing, everybody does this differently, I was once told you should turn up late to an interview to get the person annoyed, as an annoyed person isnít so calculated in their responses and you can get more out of them. If this sounds like a good idea to you by all means try it. I think that there is no right or wrong way to do this, but as a documentary film maker I believe if youíre going to do it, you might as well do it properly, dig a bit, if you know the person youíre interviewing try and find answers to the questions you didnít know the answers to. One technique I use is at the start of the interview to tell the subject that the film is for archive, and not for viewing now, it will be seen by his or her great grandchildren, so any wisdom or nitty gritty stories would be much appreciated. Youíd be surprised how much more someone is willing to tell their great grandchildren.
When you film a life story, I also find it useful to work strictly in chronological order, have a set of questions written where the answers would be in chronological order, arranged into sections of their life. Those sections can be used as tea breaks in the middle of filming the interviewee gets tired. I also find it useful to get the interviewee to set the scene of each section of their life, asking them to describe their home and other important places in as much detail as they can, get them to close their eyes and mentally walk through their front door and describe what the place looks like. From that point there will be glimpses in their mind of people and events that happened in that place, and from there you can start to draw those events and the people who were part of those events out of their memory, and from that point you can start to build an idea of them and who they are. Remember you are the interviewer, so interview, everybody has a brief story of their life that they have constructed, and can rattle off in 20 minutes. Don't forget the objective of this is to get the interviewee to think about their life while they're telling their story. If something doesnít quite add up in their story, ask them about it, if they donít want to tell you they wont, and then you can move on, they may come back to it later.
I think the most important bit of advice I can give you, and I canít stress this enough, is that you must give a non-judgmental atmosphere during the interview. As the interviewer, nothing must shock you or make you give even a twinkle of a disapproving face, you have to be open to everything. For example I recently filmed a set of life stories of bank robbers and Ďstick up kidsí who are now all in their mid 50s. If I had given them an inkling that I disapproved of anything they had done, the interviews would have been shut down to the bare minimum of detail, which isnít the point, itís the details that are interesting. So ask yourself honestly are you in the right position to be asking the questions? Is the interviewee going to be able to be open with you? If not, maybe you should consider getting someone else to do it.
Finally, whenever anybody tells a story they tailor it to the listener, so be a good attentive listener, and also in the breaks talk about the parts of their life story that you found fascinating, you canít tell a good story if nobody listening is interested.