Documenting Uncertain Times


Students in Midpen Media’s new Document It! workshop experimented with the media resources they had on hand to document their experiences during the coronavirus pandemic. Instructors Emily Parent and Pedro Arenas taught the participants (ranging from preteen to adult) interview skills, production basics, and video and audio editing. Together the class participants helped each other troubleshoot production challenges and supported each other’s stories as they emerged.

When the class began to hone in on the messages of their individual documentary videos, students felt a sense of relief. The video projects gave them an outlet and meaning for their days as they shelter in place. “I’ve really enjoyed creating and facilitating a space for students to connect and feel safe navigating creative expression during uncertain times,” said Emily.

Learning how to film a documentary via smartphone and conduct interviews over Zoom comes with a set of challenges that workshop students worked to overcome. Emily confirmed that there’s a need to be flexible and creative when attempting to control light and sound quality using smartphone apps and features to capture video. Figuring out the best way to interview someone who is in another location also presented student filmmakers with challenges. During class sessions, students shared advice and strategized about how to complete their documentary projects with the tools available to them.

The stories students told span changes in home life, issues underserved communities face, new hobbies, personal struggles, and the overall historical impact of the coronavirus.. The workshop provided a very supportive space as students dug into those emotionally raw topics. Emily added, “The filmmakers of all levels of experience reassured one another that the stories being told are valuable and important.”

Document It! workshop will be back for another session Tuesday, June 30th. Anyone with a story to tell is encouraged to participate and film a documentary of their own. Click here for workshop details.