Mission of the Month: Capturing History: The making of a documentary

Who are you, really? Have your skills and interests been passed down from your parents or grandparents? Where did the habits and customs of today’s American society come from?

There is more to one’s history—the history of family and community—than your DNA and the names of your ancestors. What you do and how you do it is an important part of your family history. Take the time to find out how you became who you are today. Interview your family members about one aspect of life or culture that interests you. If talking to family isn’t convenient, use this as an opportunity to learn how your neighborhood became what it is today!

This Mission is your opportunity to conduct historical research, develop interview skills, and produce a video documentary!

Step 1: Select a topic
What are your interests? What would you like to know more about? Who has a history that you could research?

Step 2: Decide who you need to interview
People have expertise in different subjects and different levels of willingness to share their experiences. Develop a sampling strategy to get the best pool of interviewees.

Step 3: Backgrounding yourself
Before you interview, spend some time learning about your topic in its historical context.

Step 4: Preparation
Organize your interview, check your equipment, and get ready to roll!

Step 5: Rolling
Conduct your interviews and record them.

Step 6: Production
Take your footage and arrange it into a documentary on your topic. If needed, include some footage of yourself introducing the topic or some cool graphics for transitions.

Step 7: World premier!
Share your documentaries with your youth program, family, and neighbors.

Author(s), Presenter(s): 
Trudy Dunham and Jay Staker
Year published or updated: 
2008