Multimedia on laptops, video on smart phones, apps for tablet computers — what’s next? The landscape for mass media is evolving year by year at an astonishing pace, and fresh possibilities for storytelling blossom steadily as the public embraces new technology.
Recognizing that, the National Spiritual Assembly’s Office of Communications teamed with U.S. Bahá’í Media Services to bring people from across the country into the first Media Boot Camp, a learning environment focused on telling stories to the world that convey Bahá’í perspectives and on building skill in the use of audio, video and images to tell them.
It ran Aug. 11–14 in conjunction with the Conference of the Association for Bahá’í Studies, held in the San Francisco area, and was aimed at telling stories casting light on the conference theme, “Transforming Habits of Thought.” For a report on the conference proceedings, click here. For a look at Media Boot Camp participants and plans for a similar boot camp at the Baha’i Conference on Social and Economic Development, click here.
The roster of about 20 participants included a few experienced mentors, others wishing to hone or expand on skills they brought, and still others who “had never touched a camera or digital audio recorder before but had a keen interest in learning how,” says Kari Carlson, a producer for Bahá’í Media Services and one of the mentors.
“Telling stories is an art, and doing so in a way that helps the everyday American feel connected to the teachings and perspectives of the Bahá’í Faith is no easy task,” Carlson notes. But the small group at the ABS Conference, she says, “achieved a remarkable feat in a very short amount of time.”
One participant, Khela Baskett of Belmont, California, says she signed up to learn about editing audio on a professional level. “I love listening to audiobooks and NPR in the car and on my iPod,” she says, and hopes to explore the idea of producing Bahá’í-themed audiobooks.
With her team at the Media Boot Camp, she spearheaded an audio story that takes a lighthearted look at an enduring purpose of the conference. It follows her search for a “Bahá’í scholar” at the conference — one interviewee deadpanned, “I think you need a beard to be a Bahá’í scholar” — and ends in a realization that to relate the teachings of the Faith to the issues of the world, Bahá’í scholarship is a responsibility we all share.
She says she learned not just about the technical side of audio production, but also about recognizing and developing a story that will engage a listener. “There are an endless number of stories to tell about the interesting activities going on in our communities,” she says. She now feels better equipped to help meet the need for “more Bahá’í content of this type to be posted online to inspire both Bahá’ís and those learning about the Faith.”
Other stories produced by teams formed at the boot camp (access them all on www.bahai.us/?p=33995) were:
- A video interview of a conference attendee who said he had formerly advocated for violent revolution — and had a change of heart when he recognized that fundamental change for humanity is latent in the Bahá’í teachings, and that active adherents are “the most revolutionary people on the planet.”
- A multimedia piece about a Bahá’í woman who struggles with an eating disorder brought on by obsession with our society’s culture of beauty, and how a “healthy relationship with God” encourages her toward a healthy relationship with herself.
- An audio story about a young conference attendee’s journey of spiritual search, including some of the people and music that helped her on the way.
- A multimedia presentation that allows a brief, delightful glimpse into the many little adjustments that keep a marriage healthy, especially when the partners are from different national and cultural backgrounds.
“These were complex topics explored with depth and in a way that almost any audience member could find engaging,” Carlson says. “Each had an authentic voice.”