The Last Hope: J’s Story

The Last Hope: J’s Story

I’ve often struggled to quantify human suffering. Growing up, my family could quiet my complaints with a simple, “People are starving in Africa, you’ve got it pretty good.” And in hindsight, I did have it pretty easy. But I remember clearly how difficult high school was and how minor incidents impacted me more than they did before or since. I was a raw nerve in high school, and the painful moments served to toughen me up for future challenges. I’m grateful for my suffering, even though it may have been minor.

So why did J’s story tug at my heartstrings as it did? What part of her e-mail spoke to me enough to commit to telling her story?

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Life and Death in Chicago Youth Theater

Life and Death in Chicago Youth Theater

In this short television news feature, I explored the importance of youth theater in Chicago in a video about The Yard–a student run ensemble putting on their first play, “The 4th Graders Present: An Unnamed Love Suicide.”

Joel Ewing, director of the production and Lead Theater teacher at Senn Arts Magnet High School, reflects upon the many components that formed The Yard and how theater can help young people develop their voices.

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The Whole Family Serves the Sentence

The Whole Family Serves the Sentence

When a parent, sibling or child goes to jail, the whole family serves the sentence with that person. 

–Andrea Strong, from “Prisoners’ Family Members Also ‘Serve Time’ When Relatives Go To Jail, Experts Say” Huffington Post 2/11/2013

The impact of having an incarcerated parent has been long explored in the United States as 2.7 million children face the struggle. But what about minors that have siblings in prison? What resources are provided them? In impoverished families, the sibling bond often surpasses the bond of the parent, yet resources are not made available for the brothers and sisters suffering a devastating loss. 

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Carrying the weight of a broken system

Carrying the weight of a broken system

How easy would it be for J to turn her struggles into excuses? To allow her behavior and her morals to slip? To slide from frustration into complacency? How simple it could be–to write off a broken system and turn her back on her goals.

Somehow, the spark remains in J’s eyes, the gleam. And after our first interview, it’s clear that it remains in her heart.

The group found out more pieces of the puzzle. More than anything, J’s problems stem from her older brother’s arrest a few years ago for attempted murder, the beginning of her family’s unravelling, an arrest that J firmly believes was unwarranted. She recalled going to court and realizing the evidence wasn’t present; the details didn’t add up. J doesn’t believe that her brother even left his apartment that night, let alone drove his van into an elderly gentleman.

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You’re a mean one, Mr. Trump

You’re a mean one, Mr. Trump

“I don’t think they have American citizenship and if you speak to some very, very good lawyers–you’re going to find out they do not have American citizenship.”

–Donald Trump on babies born in the United States to undocumented immigrant parents

Like everyone across the United States, I’ve been inundated with images of Donald Trump spouting hostile warnings to the American public–if you don’t elect me president and let me transform immigration policies, the Mexicans are going to take over this country. And if you’re anything like me, you’ve grown not only disgusted with his red hat and squinty eyes, but disturbed that the lowest common denominator in the United States is finding inspiration in his vitriolic ramblings.

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Nicholas Senn’s Coding Club: A Video

Nicholas Senn’s Coding Club: A Video

So much of my most recent video came easy to me, and I feel like I’m finally getting it. I was able to use J and L cuts in order to transition in and out of the interviews. I incorporated B-roll effectively. But most importantly, I told a story with my interviews. Each one transitioned into the next and played off the prior information.

Of course, the video wasn’t without fault. My B-roll was far too long in parts, and the audio was too low in the mix. I’m not sure if I should have scrapped the portions of Mr. Cihlar speaking to the class since he wasn’t mic-ed, but, if nothing else, I should have cut them shorter.

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Interview with Hanlin Guo

Interview with Hanlin Guo

The most challenging assignment thus far in my Digital Storytelling Masters program has been my interview with my classmate Hanlin Guo about her life-altering moment. Though I was able to do the real work that the professor required: have an interview with her, transcribe it, and pare it down to its essential core, I struggled with technical difficulties that made my final product suffer.

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My First iMovie

My First iMovie

Having gotten started editing video in Premiere Pro, I couldn’t believe how easy and intuitive iMovie was to work with. My students in Broadcast Journalism won’t have access to Premiere Pro, so, on a lazy Saturday, I set off to learn iMovie in order to support them. Piecing together the video clips with title screens was as simple as it gets. The program is designed with storytelling in mind, so the producer can edit without much expertise.

After a few technical disasters with Premiere Pro, including some quirks that don’t make much sense, even to my professor, iMovie was relief. But it’s limited in what the user can do. I can’t divide audio between two tracks, can’t get as precise a cut, and can’t do much of what I’m sure I’ll learn on Premiere Pro. But it’s easy and it makes for a fun, stress-free weekend project.

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