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Sixties Documentary Proposal: Project Details

Academic Goals:

  • To craft an original video documentary
  • To practice oral history as a method of historical scholarship

You will be divided into teams and will craft an original video documentary (instead of a research paper). For this story you will choose one issue or theme from the sixties that most interests you. By juxtaposing interviews from at least two Nashvilleans who lived through the sixties, you will be situating their experiences within the events of that important decade in our recent history. These people are primary sources of information about the historical time you are studying. People you might consider include: Civil Rights Activists, clergy, Women’s Movement activists, Vietnam veterans, their spouses & anti-war activists, musicians, historians, writers, athletes, etc. There are certainly other possibilities. Not only are you videotaping participants for your documentary, but you are also creating an archive of material for future scholars to study.

The documentary project will teach you about “oral history” as a method of scholarship. What research do I need to do ahead of time? How do I interview well—with respect, curiosity, and intelligence? How do I analyze the interview afterward? What story emerges from my interview footage? What follow-up with my interviewee is desired and necessary?

Final Product:

  • Research binder with transcriptions revised script
  • Video documentary


Research binder – You will turn in this 3-ring binder at the end of the semester and you will be accumulating pages in it until then. This binder is academic and practical. It contains the academic work your team has completed and organizes your video project so that when you begin to edit you can have all your research materials in one place.

6-Minute Documentary – This video is the final project and is turned in with the 3-ring binder. It demonstrates the skills you have acquired, and is a supplement to your college application. The documentaries will be screened in Pfeffer after the final edit. Film must include: 2 interviews (at least), at least 10 photographs, an appropriate soundtrack (original scores are great if you are a musician), an appropriate quote from our reading that helps provide context for your issue, and it must be under 5 minutes.


Interview Guide:

Before the videotaped interview, you need to collect background information. This not only shows you are serious about what you are doing and ask intelligent questions, but also enables you to break the ice with the interviewee. Moreover, it will help you prioritize and analyze the interview later. Clearly state the purpose of the interview from your first conversation with the potential interviewee, so that they have time to gather their memories and perhaps some old photos or other memorabilia. Souvenirs enable you to interact with the interviewee, they trigger memories, and photos may help you with other areas of your documentary. Be sure to let the interviewee know that these would also be helpful to you.

The best interview allows for the flow of material in a natural manner, allowing the interviewee to reminisce. While you want to spark conversation, establish a rapport, and encourage anecdotes, you never want to lose sight of your goal. The questions you come up with in class will help you structure your interview. You should not, however, follow it verbatim. In the interview itself, you need to listen carefully for rich material and articulate good, strong follow-up questions that encourage the interviewee to go deeper and elaborate on subjects that interest you. Remember that your focus will probably not alter dramatically, but it may adjust some as you get to know your interviewee, and you will need to make those adjustments in you line of questioning. You need to decide as you are interviewing, that you want to pursue a particular angle that interests you both. If the interviewee goes off on tangents, you must politely and carefully reign it back to your subject. Don’t be afraid of silence (you can always edit it later)—allow your interviewee to think and answer before you give him or her another question.

Think carefully about how you present yourself to the interviewee. You are an ambassador of MBA. We expect you to be a gentleman and a scholar at all times. How do you think your interviewee feels about you? How do you fee about them?

Remember that these factors will influence your rapport during the interview.

Questions to Consider:

1. What is our story about? What is the focus? What is the one idea?

2. What is the point of view of the filmmakers? If we don’t know, then the audience certainly won’t. Figuring out the story is our job, not theirs.

3. Who is the main character?

4. What is the setting? (time and place) What is the action?

5. Is our documentary scholarly and truthful first?

6. Is our documentary entertaining and nice to look at (second)?

7. Have we been clear in communicating our story?

8. How can we break new scholarly and creative ground?