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16 October 2014

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Star Gazing

By Sarah Eyles
September 2006, Pencader
A digital story from Sarah's Stories

"One of my earliest memories is standing in my mother's bedroom, the room where I had entered this world some two or three years earlier. I remember that I was wondering "Where had I come from?" And then, closing my eyes I saw a myriad of brightly coloured stars stretching out into the Universe. And at that moment I felt sure that that was where I was before being born on Earth.

The stars in the sky always felt like home to me, and I could see them when I went out at night or when I closed my eyes. These stars were not just white lights, they were brightly coloured - reds, blues, yellows, greens and purples. After the age of about seven, sadly, I ceased to be able to see these colourful stars.

A few years ago I went star gazing in Israel. The Milky Way was above me in the desert sky. Through the telescope I could focus on one star at a time. Each star I gazed upon had its distinct nature. One star felt gentle and kind, another strong, another wise, yet another radiated well being and healing. I wondered to myself which star I had come from, and which one I might return to after my life on Earth.

Wherever I come from and wherever I'm going, whenever I gaze upon the stars I know that there is a God, and that my life is a gift from Creation."

Sarah's story

First published in Feminenza magazine

Sarah Eyles began by making her own Digital Story at a BBC Capture Wales workshop; she now helps other people to make their own. Here's her story...

My enthusiasm for digital storytelling began a couple of years ago. I picked up a leaflet, at the local BBC community centre in Carmarthen, which invited people to apply for a place on a workshop run by 'Capture Wales'. One rainy day, on an impulse, I picked up the phone and spoke to Gareth Morlais, who runs the project, and managed to get on a workshop in Aberystwyth.

While on the course I started to see the possibilities of this medium for people from various groups I was involved with, included Feminenza (a woman's group), Ruby Care (bereavement counselling), Sensory Arts and Sciences, The Ring of Turquoise (a story telling group) and others.

Digital stories are two minutes long (approximately 250 words) told in the first person, which are about important experiences from your life, or about your passions, your values or even your fears. The soundtrack of the story is accompanied by your own photos. It is a unique art form, and you become director, scriptwriter, cameraperson and producer of your own film. It is a lot of fun, and one is actually using IT for something creative! These stories can be absolutely stunning, and anyone can be taught how to make them, even if they have never previously manoeuvred a mouse. Everyone has a story to tell (or perhaps many). It is 'kitchen table' filmmaking, using one's own PC (a Mac or XP), which nowadays contain powerful film making facilities.

It's a great medium, and can be personally cathartic and liberating as well as entertaining, enlightening and thought provoking for audiences. There are all sorts of skills that it brings together: IT, storytelling, creativity, and it also build confidence and self-esteem.

For more information about digital stories see the website set up by the main creative influence of the BBC digital storytelling team, Daniel Meadows.

And what can one do with the film once it is made? In the case of the BBC produced films, they are put on the BBC digital storytelling website and some are shown on television or played on the radio. They can also be written to DVD's or CD's and given to people to view on their own PCs. If you have a projector they can be used for film shows. And once you have made one film, you then have the know-how to go on and make others. I really enjoyed making my film with the BBC.

I work in IT and have done a lot of teaching, so I thought that I'd try to pass some of these skills on to others. There were several people who, in the interest of science, were willing to be guinea pigs: a couple of Feminenza members; someone involved in bereavement counselling, a couple of storytellers and various other waifs and strays. I took people through the ideas within Digital Storytelling, we each wrote a story, and then a couple of members of the BBC Capture Wales team came and spent a day with us.

I then ran a presentation about Digital Storytelling in London for Feminenza members and ran a workshop over two weekends, with the help of a friend, Eva Skalla, who is a bit of a Mac and film-making enthusiast.

I proudly sent the first finished film, by Lucinda Chapman, to Daniel Meadows for feedback, and amazingly enough he thought it was pretty good, and only suggested one or two minor improvements.

The films I am helping people with (several of which are now complete) include: 'Trees and Me', 'Water', 'Celebration of Life', 'Forgiveness', 'The story of the donkey' and others. I have also completed another story myself ('Star Gazing') and I am currently working on three more.

I applied for a grant from Unltd towards more hardware and software, and was given £4,150, which is a tremendous boost to the project, enabling me to buy professional recording equipment, a projector, a good scanner, a more powerful camera, not to mention another laptop.

The BBC Digital Storytelling team kindly agreed to use some of the films we have produced on their website and possibly on TV, if the stories are 'compliant' - which includes copyright issues and other considerations.

I love the creativity of digital storytelling; the way it brings together a story, visual images and music. If I could choose my career again I would definitely be a film director, and here I am being one in my spare time! And I also have a part time career as a Producer! Helping others make films.

So what motivates me to help people make digital stories? There are many people that I know who are pioneering new templates for living, with regard to gender issues, bereavement counselling, sustainable development, and education, and I am keen for them to have an opportunity to use the media of digital storytelling to represent their ideas in an interesting, simple and accessible way.

I also want to help people to characterise what I call 'essence moments' - those important, magical happenings from their lives.

Many thanks to the BBC Capture Wales Team for the initial workshop and for inviting me to be an Associate of the project, and for all their help and encouragement. Look out for some of our digital stories on the BBC Capture Wales website, and on Feminenza , Ruby Care and elsewhere.

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