“There were smiles and chuckles and even tears as he rode on this emotional rollercoaster of his life being played back through two speakers.”
Nijalon Dunn is a second year resident with The Austin Stone Story Team. Nijalon is a talented photographer (check out his Instagram feed), and he is skilled when it comes to finding the heart of the story in an interview. Nijalon took a few minutes to talk to us about one of his favorite spoken stories.
ST: Nijalon, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. Now, this particular spoken story is special isn’t it?
ND: Yes, this was the first project I worked on when I joined Story Team. I’ll throw this out there for current or future story team directors, know your artist and know their story, these two things can make an impact on the outcome of the story. For an example, our director knew I grew up in a single parent home, so I know the struggle and hardships that come with not having a man around, so telling this story was more real for me. I’m not saying it wouldn’t have been great if one of my teammates who grew up with both parents had done it, but there were things I knew to dig and pull out.
ST: Any tips you learned that you would pass on to other aspiring storytellers about interviewing?
ND: 1. Take notes while in the interview, jot down things that stick out to you this will be helpful when it’s time to cut the story. Also, read the person, if they begin to talk about a specific subject and pause and the tears start rolling or they just can’t stop grinning, try to dig in on that you may get some good stuff!
2. Know about the story before the person shows up. As a storyteller doing an interview, it is your job to construct the story, you have to ask questions that encourage them to give the answers you’re looking for. There is a difference between recording a story and telling one.
3. During an interview, don’t be afraid of silence. Let them sit in the moment. In some cases they are reflecting on a very surreal moment that they may have not healed from, this is therapeutic for them. Respect the story, and cherish the person.
ST: What was your reaction when you heard the final cut of the story for the first time?
ND: My first time listening to it after our director fine-tuned it was actually with the subject and his wife. I remember glancing over at them listening to it and watching the emotional responses that I was hoping would happen, actually happen. There were smiles and chuckles and even tears as he rode on this emotional rollercoaster of his life being played back through two speakers. So my reaction was just to nod my head and grin because one of the things I wanted to happen, ended up happening. When people listen to these stories of what God has done I want them to ride a rollercoaster and there are things that you have to do with the story to make them do that, that’s why I say leave silence in there, give the listener a chance to feel and react.
ST: How did working on this story affect your life and show you the value of honesty in storytelling?
ND: Something I’ve learned while working on this story is we all have a story to tell and we should tell, we never know how our story can change someone else’s life. I value honest storytelling and being able to go to a place where very few have been. This story affected my life because in a way I’ve dealt with the same thing and this story helped lead me to give and ask for forgiveness after finishing this story I was like “Well, I guess I should call my dad.” When I didn’t really know what to say, I was able to reflect on this story and contextualize my response to my dad.