Books Read in 2007
I'm trying a new video format. Video of the day is now at the bottom under Photo of the Day. Please let me know if this does not work for you.
HAVE MICROPHONE, WILL INTERVIEW
18 September 2007
Waaay back in about 1979 or so, I got involved in the project to write the Lamplighters 25 year history. I have mentioned before that my principal responsibility was transcribing the countless interviews that co-authors Alison Lewis and Carolyn McGovern were conducting, a project I just loved, because I had been a Lamplighters fan for so long. Occasionally I went along on the interviews. Toward the end of the project, I actually agreed to conduct a few of the interviews myself alone, which was very brave of me, considering how tongue tied I get in such situations.
When we did the second book, I did most of the interviews myself. I was now interviewing friends, not "actors" I'd only seen on the stage. My friends and I were reminiscing and so it wasn't like an interview at all.
I discovered that I really was able to get interviews on tape that I liked. I had no real "technique." I rarely went with prepared questions. I would just stick the recorder on a table and then start chatting, hoping to distract the subject from the machine and get them talking about themselves. It was almost always a success.
When I got the job of critic, it came with periodic requests for me to write spotlight articles, which involved my interviewing people, usually at the university. The first few I did struck fear and terror into my heart because I was interviewing famous people in their field about things that I really had no knowledge about in the first place.
I remember interviewing a choreographer when my knowledge of dance could be engraved on the head of a pin, with enough room left over for the Lord's Prayer. But while he was on the phone and I was waiting for him, I found a book of photographs in his office that I also owned and I started talking to him about that book and it evolved into his telling me all I needed to know for my article (my knowledge of dance still could be engraved on the head of a pin with room left over, but I was able to pull together an article out of what I got on the tape).
The one thing I discovered is that people like to talk about themselves and if you give them an opening ("tell me all about yourself," was my grandfather's usual greeting to me), they'll take it and run with it. Then my part, as the interviewer, is merely to react to the information they are giving me and that generally brings out new information.
Only once can I remember this not working. A very precise, very no-nonsense woman who expected me to have prepared questions and who gave monosyllabic responses and then sat back waiting for the next prepared question, which I did not have. Fortunately she was directing a show that was interesting and I talked with interesting actors at rehearsal so I was able to salvage what could have been a disaster.
Years ago, I did an interview of Walt's mother when we were all at her condo at Lake Tahoe. I used the same technique of setting the tape recorder out and just ignoring it. She has led a fascinating life and I was able to get an awful lot of it on tape, much of which even her kids didn't know about until then. I typed that interview up, had it bound, and gave it to everybody at Christmas that year, so they all had copies of Grandma's life, in her own words.
When we were last in Santa Barbara, I decided to try doing a videotaped interview of her. It's easy to avoid having her be uncomfortable by any recording device because she is blind now. I wanted to get her memories of some of the trips she has taken. She traveled all over the world and has wonderful scrapbooks filled with photos and memorabilia she can no longer see.
We used a world map that she has, with pins in all the places she visited. Walt would make a comment about the map and I would try to ask her questions. I was able to get some memories on video, but as I went back today to edit what I ended up getting, it's a shame that I didn't do this project earlier (of course earlier there was no video blogging, but we did have video cameras).
The interview was really like pulling teeth, with my saying anything I could to get a word or two out of her. I did a LOT of editing of it. It's about a 30 minute interview and I when I took out all the extraneous stuff, I ended up with two 5-7 minute videos. But when you question her now about many of her exciting experiences, she can't remember at all and how very sad.
But the good thing is that, whether she remembers it or not, she did do it. She rode camels and elephants, she took the Orient Express. She went around the tip of So. America and through the Panama Canal. She traveled to places in China that had never seen white people before. There are photos of her travels, and diaries of her travels, but I waited just a little too long to get her videotaped memories.
I'm posting them anyway, but I wish I had done this even five years ago.
NOTE FOR ALISON LEWIS: If you're still reading this journal. I lost all of my e-mail addresses when my computer crashed. I would very much like to have yours again. Have LL info to pass along.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
I just love this photo of Lizzie watching out the front window.
VIDEO OF THE DAY
This is entry #2730