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Transcript – A Conversation with Jenni Savigny & Stephen Corey: Digital Storytelling

by | 6 Oct, 2022 | Collaboratory Podcast, Resources, Transcripts

To ensure accessibility we are committed to providing transcripts of all our podcast episodes, including our short trailer for Season 1 – you can listen to the audio version here.

Episode 5: A Conversation with Jenni Savigny & Stephen Corey: Digital Storytelling

[00:00:00] Jenni Savigny: It takes a lot of courage to make a digital story and people are so often outside their comfort zone. I find it incredibly rewarding to see people’s personal journey over seven weeks that we are together, that they come from a very small voice to having a big voice, and that’s really rewarding. 

[00:00:31] Maya Haviland: That’s the voice of Jenni Savigny a community artist specializing in the particular form of digital storytelling.

I’m Maya Haviland and in this episode of Collaboratory Conversations, we’re going to hear from Jenni and her collaborator Steve Corey, as they share their experiences supporting non-professional storytellers to create personal digital stories as a form of community development and living social history. 

Our conversation is an edited version of a live recording made at the ACT Heritage Library in Canberra, Australia in 2021, on the occasion of an exhibition called “The Art of the Story Circle”, which celebrated 10 years of collaborative storytelling with communities through Jenni’s organization, Gen S Stories.

Gen S Stories has worked with a diverse range of people and communities telling stories about many topics, including mental illness, the experiences of migrants, trans and gender diverse people, surviving domestic violence and losing a home to forced demolition. Jenni believes that anyone can craft a story with the right environment and support, and that storytelling can give people the opportunity to have a voice and be heard who may not otherwise be given that chance.

In our conversation, Jenni and Steve will share with us how they create a safe environment and describe the support they give so that people can script and produce a personal digital story about something that’s important to them. But before we look at the process and structures to enable this kind of co-creativity to emerge, let’s hear what a digital story is and how it’s different to other forms of oral history.

[00:02:09] Jenni Savigny: A digital story is a really simple form of filmmaking that was developed in the sort of early-to-mid nineties in Los Angeles when some designers got together and realized that, uh, filmmaking software had got really simple, or I shouldn’t say really simple because it can still drive you nuts, can’t it Steve, and a lot of people had laptops, later comes digital phones, so technology is becoming a lot simpler and a lot more accessible. And they realized that if there was a filmmaking format that could be kept simple, then anybody could make a film and they developed a digital, the digital story genre, which is about a three-to-five-minute video about a personal story. And it’s always about a personal story. So, mostly people write a script, which is about 450 to 500 words. They record that script using their own voice. Barbie here has done a lot of voice recordings for us at Sound FM. And then through a process of story boarding, they start to put images that will go with that script, and that is the particularly a role that Steven has done a lot of. We mostly work with stills because that’s simple, and we work over six workshops of about four hours each, and in that time, people go from, “I couldn’t possibly do this” to, “wow. I’ve done this amazing thing.” Yeah, so if you’ve never seen a digital story, it’s really hard to explain until you actually see one.

[00:03:56] Maya Haviland: You can see some digital stories by following links in the show notes to the Gen S Stories website. 

[00:04:02] Jenni Savigny: They are very unique form of filmmaking because they’re so simple and they’re so authentic and they’re so raw, and the really essential thing to understand is that I don’t make the film. The process that we run means that for example, Steve and I would work together to assist you to make your own film.

So, you are your own film director, and editor, and it means that people’s integrity is respected because they make choices about what they wish to reveal and how they wish to reveal it, and I, we are not imposing our editorial voice upon them. 

[00:04:42] Maya Haviland: What else is unique about digital stories compared to other types of filmmaking or storytelling and how do people structure their stories when they’re starting to develop them? 

[00:04:52] Jenni Savigny: In a digital story, you seriously have about 450 to 500 words and some people have these enormous stories that they wanna squeeze into this little format and it’s very difficult. So, economy is absolutely critical. You have to drill down to absolute essences to write a good digital story, and that sort of dictates its own internal structure in lots and lots of ways. Some people think in a very linear way that they will tell a story that’s a perfect, you know, three act story. Lots of people, it just spills out in a jumble. 

When I work with people to write this script and it’s a one on one development process, what I usually do is sit with them and we’ll make a mind map together, and then the person can have an idea of where they’d like to start and where they’d like to end and sometimes stories start at the end and go around or they wanna start in the middle and go back. So, it’s really up to them, but we do talk about a little bit about story structure and having some sort of dramatic hook, like the question of “why do we want to watch this story” and “what happens to this person?” Or, or “how does it end? Like this person’s about to lose their house and what’s gonna happen to them?” So, we do talk about beginnings and about ends, but people write whatever they wanna write, and I might help them or suggest some shaping, but they write what they wanna write.

In addition to the script, another essential element of a digital story are photos and images. What’s important about images in this form and how do digital story images differ from those used in professionally told stories? 

Steve Corey is a photographer and a photographic educator who has worked on many digital storytelling projects with Jenni. 

[00:07:00] Stephen Corey: The pictures, first of all, help make each individual story unique. They use their own pictures. They take their own pictures. We encourage them to not use any pictures on the, the net where, where possible. So, that just helps add to the character of each of the stories. They’re very informative. We learn more about each of the individuals through their personal photos.

The images can also help drive the narrative. We don’t always have a lot of, uh, words in each of the stories. The narrative can be really picture based. So, we understand what’s happening through the pictures. If the images are more metaphorical, they’re just all about making the story their own. So again, it’s to do with that uniqueness of every one of these stories. 

And the people that participate, many of them haven’t taken many photos before. So, I help them to learn how to take a photo. I give them a little bit of a, a tutorial, so they’re learning some skills, and through that process, they create some really honest and genuine pictures. They’re not Hollywood productions, they’re not polished work, and I think that authenticity helps add to the story and make it a, a real and genuine piece of work. So yeah, they’re really big drivers of the story and, and they certainly wouldn’t be the same without them. They certainly wouldn’t be as unique. I think that’s why they’re a really important part. 

[00:08:20] Maya Haviland: Jenni mentioned before that she’s developed a process of six workshops that she uses with all the groups she works with.

So what are the steps to move from first ideas through to finish short films? 

[00:08:31] Jenni Savigny: Okay, so the first workshop is about setting up an agreement about how the group is going to operate safely and that’s really important part of the process because it’s very personal work and I really want people to feel safe and prepared to take risks.

And so, we make an agreement that is essentially about, well, it comes from the floor, but I’m concerned that confidentiality makes it into the mix because it’s really important that people can trust that what’s said in that room stays in the room. And we need to make some basic agreements about self care because often a lot of the people that we’ve worked with have traumatic or difficult stories and the story, the process of storytelling can be triggering or brings stuff up, and there’s a bit of a, an edge there about, I like to say to people that if you choose to tell a story about your latest tax return, it will be very safe story, but it’s going to be extremely boring. Um, I think possibly, uh, so we need to approach something that moves us, and we feel passionate about, but not too much.

And we need to take care of our audience as well. So in the same time, we need to be very mindful about the stories that we tell and how we tell them. So, for example, where people’s stories touch on suicide or domestic violence, we need to hold that story in a certain way so that audiences aren’t triggered.

And of course, a lot of the spaces that we work in, we usually say that we are aiming for a film classification of about PG and that’s sort of up there from the beginning. So, the safety agreement is really important and there, and people have lots of little quirky stuff. Like, “I like to be hugged” or “I don’t wanna be hugged” or “I need to sit near the door” or something like that. So, all of that stuff is up front. 

We deconstruct a digital story. So, we watch it and pull it to pieces. I run a writing workshop, which is really to help people get over the fear of the blank page, because I’ve discovered it’s you can’t just say, “write a script.” cause it’s awful. 

And then we get to the, I think the core of the digital storytelling process, which is the story circle. And we sit in a circle and each person has five minutes to speak and be listened to a first version of what they might want to make their digital story a about. And that’s a really special moment. It’s often quite, um, there’s a sort of hush, there’s a sort of opening, there’s a sharing. It’s often quite emotional and people often really bond through that first storytelling circle, and they’ve shared something and they’ve been listened to, and they’ve been listened to by people who get it. 

[00:11:45] Maya Haviland: Does that happen in the first workshop? 

[00:11:47] Jenni Savigny: Yeah. Yep. 

[00:11:49] Maya Haviland: Do people find that scary. Do you think? 

[00:11:51] Jenni Savigny: Uh, no, because they, I’m sure they do, but they know it’s coming.

There’s a principle of adult education, which is you have to tell people three times in three different ways. So, they’ve sort of had it beforehand. It’s given to them in writing. I have a timeline of what the guts of each workshop’s going to be. And then they know from the beginning that the story circle’s coming up so they know it’s coming, and they can leave, but they don’t.

So, I usually work one on one with people, for script development in between workshops one and two. And that works really well because people’s first drafts are often just that, they’re first drafts. And it, I find that if I sit with people over a cup of coffee, uh, sometimes I’ve even been to the Murrumbidgee River for script development. Like any, it doesn’t matter. It really helps people to get their very best story out and it’s amazing what people will put on the page and still hold on their, in their heads. And when you talk it through and they’ll say, “oh yeah, like I forgot to say that.” And so it just gets reworked and that usually works really well.

And in the second workshop, we have another story circle where people read out their final scripts and that can be really special as well. And then we move into story boarding and in the third workshop, we record the voiceovers, and that’s when people are asked to commit to their script, because once we’ve recorded the voice over, they sort of have to get over my dead body to rerecord it

[00:13:39] Maya Haviland: So, for logistical and practical reasons… 

[00:13:41] Jenni Savigny: For logistical financial and practical reasons, they get lots of warning and then we move into a lot of photography and working with, you know, the question of this problem, that when we open up our family photo albums, we don’t have albums anymore, but files, we’ve taken so many photos of happy times and those times that we’ve talking about anger and sadness and grief, we don’t have any images. And, and I say, go and see Steve. He will help you come him up with an image for, for sadness or anger or grief or something like that. 

And the last two workshops we are working in video editing software. So, people will assemble a rough cut of their movie. So, yeah, and we work with a videographer at that point as well. 

[00:14:32] Maya Haviland: So, once the stories have been created, there is an important step of sharing them with a wider audience. Jenni. 

[00:14:39] Jenni Savigny: We usually have a launch six to eight weeks after we finish the workshops. And the launches are usually just wonderful events where people come with their family and their friends and the bigger community, and they see themselves on the big screen and it’s, they always have, you know, butterflies, but they’re just so excited. It’s so rewarding. It’s a really important part of the process to celebrate the work like that and to share it with a bigger community. And probably one of the terrible things that happens to me is that by the time it gets to the launch, I’ve edited this work. Like I might have heard the voiceover a hundred, 200 times, and it’s completely devoid of any emotion because that’s all been gone and everyone else is crying and I’m just like, “I’m not crying. I should be crying.”

Anyway, one of the most amazing launches that really sticks in my mind was with a Gender Agenda in 2013. And they did this project, this one here being true to ourselves and it was launched at the, um, National Film And Sound Archives. And it was, uh, in the days before, COVID when we could fill up cinemas and have a hundred percent capacity. And there was just such excitement because this was, you know, it’s not that long ago, but it is a long time ago for trans people that they were out in public, other trans families had trans members and they were sort of like, “wow”, like, you know, “but you look just like me and you’ve got trans in your family and we are the same.” and so there was just a lovely sense of community and people just so excited to be out and safe and applauded. That was a really big thing for them. And just to be that, I don’t know, it’s like a, a sort of movie star that was sort of Sally Anne’s comment, that she felt like a movie star for a night, which had not been her life at all. And a little taste of what the world could be like for people who are so marginalized, so marginalized and so, so persecuted, and they just had a taste of like, but we are applauded, like, this is great. It was lovely. 

[00:17:00] Stephen Corey: Yeah. It’s a lot of hard work and a lot of emotion when you get to the end and you have your exhibition, then you, you are opening, it’s a real release. You feel that, that everybody’s just happy. Usually at the end of the process, we show the films to the group, they’re very unfinished. So, the last session will have a screening and that’s really a lot of emotion there. It can be really, yeah. A lot of tears and so on, but the screening here, there’s still tears, but it’s, uh, a different atmosphere. It’s a celebration. So, it’s quite a nice end to it all and a really important part, I think, just adds value to the whole process. Oh, you did this great story, and then we just put it on a digital hard drive somewhere and no one sees it, then that’s a bit of an anti-climax. So, they deserve a celebration yeah, for their honesty and openness. So yeah.

[00:17:49] Maya Haviland: Jenni believes that anyone can create a story with a safe environment and appropriate support. One of the important steps in the process that illustrates this safe space is the story circle where people share the first iteration of their story with the group. In what could be a potentially retraumatizing event, if not run well, how does Jenni set up this environment and provide the care and support that’s needed for people to authentically and safely tell their own stories? 

[00:18:23] Jenni Savigny: So, the most important thing is that it’s well set up. So, you’ve done the work to create the safe space and people know that it’s coming. The circle is really important. I always do it at the end of the day and after a break, so people have time to go to the toilet

and get a glass of water. There are some boundaries, like there are some, how do you say, there’s a structure to it? So, I’m pretty upfront about explaining how it’s gonna work. I use the timer on my phone, so people get a strict five minutes and then the timer will go off. So, it’s shared very equally. We have some feedback questions, like very tight feedback questions that are allowed, so that it’s only positive, pretty much, so that people can say “what I loved was…”, or “what I wanted more of was…”, or “this is what really engaged me”, and I make it very clear that this is not the time for anyone to give advice or engage in their own storytelling.

And I have this sort of thing that I borrowed from someone, which is, if you are feeling vulnerable at the start before you open your mouth, you are to put your hands over your head like a tent, and we will know that you are feeling vulnerable and that’s much better than saying, “my story’s terrible” or “my story’s not as good as the last one”, but I structure it pretty tightly.

And in between each person talking, we always take three breaths. Just to reset, ’cause it’s really hard when you’ve just heard this really emotional story and it’s like, “okay next”, and then you’re off on the next one. So, I always ask people just to close their eyes and check in and take three breaths and we seem to go okay.

Yeah. And if people cry, ’cause people do cry, I trust that they’re going to finish and it’s usually okay. I just trust that they’ll recover, and they’ll get through and they’ll finish their story. Or they’ll just tell me that they’ve had enough and that’s all I know, really, but Steve might wanna add something.

[00:20:54] Stephen Corey: No, no, I just, you just run again, really tight ship around it and it’s all about respecting each other’s story and giving everybody the chance to have enough time to, to tell their story. And it works every time, I think. Every time. Some people might just need a little reminder, it’s not the time to tell your story, ’cause I think telling stories obviously triggers some people to, to want to tell their own. But yeah, Jenni has very tight control over that. So, that’s done just really respectfully. 

[00:21:23] Jenni Savigny: And, and the other thing I have to do is, or it’s my job is to listen really, really carefully to what people are saying. So, I really, really listen and I’m always listening for the thread of a, what’s a really good story. So, at the end I have something really positive to say to them and I can always find something really positive to say, there’s always something. Yeah. Even people with the most jumbled sort of disconnected story, there’ll be some little gem in there that you can find, but sometimes I have to work very hard. 

[00:22:08] Maya Haviland: In this story circle environment, what’s the role of the group and other participants in how people do or don’t feel comfortable sharing their story? 

[00:22:17] Jenni Savigny: It does happen that people get to the story circle, and they’re sort of three hours into the first workshop and they’ve sussed out the group and what everyone else is doing and where they’re at and groups work in funny ways. And it’s a really important part of having the group there because I think they, they give each other confidence. And just by being there, like people have more, they feel safer to sort of share. And I’ve seen that quite often that people will have come in the morning with a fixed idea of, oh, I’m gonna tell the story about my, you know, tax return last year. That’ll be fine. And then they get there, and they realize, actually, that’s not the story I wanna tell, the real story I wanna tell is this, but it’s a little bit risky for them. They don’t need a whole lot from me except a safe space and someone, and a sort of tight structure. 

Plus, I think the thing that I’ve missed out in this description is saying that before this story circle, I’ve run a writing workshop and the writing workshop is where they can either mind map or free write something. So, it’s already started at that point. And what also happens, and this is why the group is so important, it’s, it always amuses me who likes to go first and get it over and done with, and who’s just gonna hold back and it’s like, I must go last. But if the first person has engaged emotionally with a story, it has this huge domino effect that it will allow everybody else to engage emotionally. Like I’m going to open up a bit more or stretch myself or be a bit braver in what I say. So, I think in that, in the case, and that look, this surrender project is not hugely different to any other. They have this common emotion that they can all tap into really easily. And there’s not much that’s required to let it express itself. It wants to express itself. So, it’s just sitting there. It just takes the space and the safety and the circle to bring it out. 

There was one particularly memorable moment where a woman pulled me aside at morning tea and told me, “the story I really wanna tell is about living Chinese in Indonesia and what that’s like, but I’m really a bit worried about, you know, I’m in a room with some other Indonesian women and I’m worried about what they’re going to- the repercussions of this” and all I can say in that circumstance is, “it’s your choice. While you are here in this space, I will stick up for you and I can do my utmost to make this space safe for you and I will support you whatever you wanna do, but outside of this space, I’m not gonna be there. You have to make that assessment for yourself.” and she went ahead, and she made the most amazing story. It was really powerful. And the other women who were there really embraced her. So, it was just beautiful. 

[00:25:32] Maya Haviland: So, what else can help build trust in processes where people don’t have established relationships in place beforehand? 

[00:25:39] Stephen Corey: I think Jenni’s very good at making it clear. These are the parameters, and you can do anything within that, but don’t even ask to go outside, cuz it’s not gonna work because- 

[00:25:48] Jenni Savigny: I’m the bad copper. He’s the good copper. That works.

[00:25:54] Stephen Corey: But I think it’s that professional sort of approach. When as soon as people get there, they realize that this is a professionally run workshop, it’s not like, “what do we do now?” Runs a very tight ship. Everything’s by the minute don’t be late. And I think because they get that sense that it is really tight ship run by somebody in a professional way that helps them trust the process as well. That, that’s why they keep showing up. Cause they get the sense that we know what we are doing. We put on a good face. 

[00:26:28] Jenni Savigny: I think I always start a project with the commitment that people are gonna finish. I’m gonna bend over myself backwards to get people to the end and sometimes you have to bend quite a bit. And I remember there was one man who hadn’t, it had been a long time in his life since he’d finished anything, and he required a lot of help, but he finished and he was ecstatic, just ecstatic that he’d actually finished something and it was hard for him, but he did finish and he was just so proud. Yeah. 

[00:27:01] Maya Haviland: As we heard earlier, photos also form an important part of each digital story. So how does Stephen work to support people to use their own images in digital storytelling, and what reflections does he have on the art of telling stories with images rather than teaching the technical skills of photography? 

[00:27:18] Stephen Corey: Always encourage people to put themselves in there in some capacity, if they don’t wanna show their face, that, you know, we can get around that and show hands and possessions and objects, they own and backs of head to whatever.

Just some, some part of them to tell the audience, this is a real person with these real events that happened in their life and their feelings are real. And we just try and remain true to the whole process and don’t take over and let them be real images. But yeah, we use a lot of metaphors. To make the work, to protect them really. Yeah. I think just trying to help them understand that the metaphoric image is still just as powerful as a literal representation of something and just keeping them within that, confined to that PG areas important, and they can still be honest and true to their story without having to be too graphic.

So, I think a lot of the time we’re just finding images that really represent their feeling for that particular slide in that particular moment. And once they get the hang of it, they become really good at it. You know, “for this image, I want a picture of, you know, the lake or something like that to represent how I was feeling at that time.” and combined with the words, the image making, I think, becomes quite easy towards the end. They get really good at it really quickly about finding the appropriate images or taking the appropriate images. We don’t focus a lot on the technicalities. We just make sure that they’re shooting a big enough file and the images just take the picture of where there’s enough light. So, we don’t steal that off them and, you know, I don’t bring in all my flash gear and try and take over. There’s a part of me that wants to do that. 

[00:28:57] Maya Haviland: There’s an interesting edge in doing creative work with community or any non-professionals between the importance of good production values, and people really getting to make it themselves.

How did Jenni and Steve dance this line so that people can make something authentic, but also coherent and technically effective enough that they get the value of their story reflected back and also get something from the process of making as well? 

[00:29:23] Stephen Corey: Yeah, we have the parameters. If it’s wandering too loose, then certainly we tighten things up a bit technically when we need to, but yeah.

[00:29:30] Jenni Savigny: I think we want to make people look good and there is a little dance to be done there. There’s a bit of tension because we don’t want to put people up on the big screen and it looks terrible. So, there is a bit of a holding or a helping hand that happens to, you know, make sure an image is in focus or something really basic like that.

Yeah. It is really interesting that I get a, a buzz, I suppose, out of the number of times that, so we’ve worked in partnership with photo access for all of this 10 years, and they have a set of cameras. I mean, very simple point and shoot cameras that they lend to people. And there are people it’s hard for me to believe, but there are people who’ve never had a camera and they’ve never taken a photograph.

And I remember one of the photographs that, she’d never had a camera, never taken a photograph and she took a photo into a mirror using a flash. Do you remember that one? It just was like, no photographer would ever do that, and it was a great photo! Wasn’t it? 

[00:30:34] Stephen Corey: Yeah. 

[00:30:34] Jenni Savigny: It was just sort of like, wow. I like, it’s just such a no-no but there it was great. Yeah. 

[00:30:41] Maya Haviland: As with most co-created work that goes on to have a life beyond personal or private use, making digital stories requires navigating informed consent. How does Jenni deal with this in practice? And have there been people who chose to take back their consent down the track? 

[00:30:58] Jenni Savigny: So, when people sign up for a digital story, they’re asked to sign what we call a participant’s agreement and, uh, it’s a license, so they will retain the copyright in the story. So, for example, I would grant you a li-, a license for Woden community service to screen it at Screen My Story at a launch and put it on their website for five years. And if we don’t hear from you, it’ll stay there for as long as we want. I try to, at the beginning of this process, fully inform people about what they’re doing and where it’s going and respect people’s right to choose. It’s not for everybody. And I can think of maybe three or four people that have asked not to have their, they don’t want their stories there anymore. By the time they get to the workshop, they’re pretty well informed, they know what they’re doing, and we would work with people during the workshop to say, this is going on the internet. Are you sure you wanna have that picture of you skinny dipping at, you know, in Lake Burley, Griffin? Like maybe not. It doesn’t usually come up during the workshops. 

[00:32:11] Stephen Corey: Yeah. They’re not made overnight, so there’s lots of time for reflection and, you know, it’s made over several weeks and long sessions through the days, plenty of time to hash things out and work out what they really want. 

[00:32:22] Jenni Savigny: Yeah. 

[00:32:23] Stephen Corey: And what they don’t want. So, yeah. 

[00:32:25] Jenni Savigny: So, in the process of putting this exhibition together, I’ve, um, massaged a lot of individuals to deposit their stories with the heritage library. So, I think in total there are 112 stories, and I think we’re up to about 66, 67 stories that have been, now been deposited with a heritage library for posterity, which is wonderful.

And it means that those stories are now part of history, and they are properly recorded. And those I’m just so happy that those voices are part of our history, and it’s not all about, sorry, white men playing cricket. So, uh, in this process of collecting or helping people to deposit with the library, I’ve attempted to talk to 112 people. And there are a few people who’ve said, “I don’t want my story in the public domain anymore for various reasons”. And that’s completely and utterly respected and it’s a huge thing. And I think it, as the internet gets bigger, I have this sense that it’s getting bigger, and I have a sense that privacy is eroded and respect for privacy is eroded, it becomes a really big thing to have your personal story on the internet forever. 

[00:33:47] Maya Haviland: We’ve heard what digital storytelling can look like who’s involved and some of the processes of developing a digital story in a group setting. But why did Jenni choose to use this form to work with people and communities in Canberra? What are some of the impacts that she and Steve have seen of using digital stories in this way?

[00:34:06] Jenni Savigny: I’d been working in storytelling as a form of advocacy for about 10 years with mental illness education, ACT. So they work a lot with people telling their story of mental illness in schools, for example, as a way of reducing stigma and enhancing mental health literacy. And I just found it really powerful. And I’d done sort of many variations, but I was really fascinated by stories and the power of stories and giving people a voice and giving people who we don’t hear from a lot in mainstream media, a voice. And I really liked this combination of the voiceover, so the script, the words, plus the images that go with it, and people sort of been given skills to take photographs or the opportunity to share their photo albums in a way that they want to. And I’ve always been very attracted to digital storytelling because it’s like an integrity that is respected when you get to choose what you show, or what you say, or how you construct it, and I’ve always just thought that sits really well with my ethics, I suppose.

[00:35:35] Stephen Corey: Mm, when I was first recruited, I was a bit sort of skeptical about how powerful this storytelling device would be. I just thought a slideshow with words is that what we are doing here is this doesn’t sound very powerful, but yeah, I was really amazed by, well, at the end of every storytelling, I always managed to get something in my eye it seems because, uh, just really effective. And I think it’s just that honesty because it’s not a Hollywood production. It’s really authentic and genuine and I think that’s why it works, but that, that simplicity of it, I think that’s why it works. Just very genuine, not pretending to be anything else, just really true to itself.

[00:36:17] Jenni Savigny: I spent my first 18 years in Tasmania, and I always talk about it as the Tasmanian bubble and doing this work is like the antithesis of the Tasmanian bubble. It’s just so diverse and so rich and so open and I just love being able to work in a way that celebrates that diversity and embraces it. 

[00:36:41] Maya Haviland: It’s fantastic that now these stories of really diverse parts of our Canberra community are told in such intimate ways and have become part of the fabric of what we think of as history. It’s quite a big shift to have these kinds of first-person voices co-created by the storytellers being held in a state heritage collection.

[00:37:02] Jenni Savigny: It’s something that I said at the launch, that when I did this project in 2013, with A Gender Agenda, transgender people were saying to me, “we are invisible, talk us into existence”, and I always remember that, and they’re much less invisible now, but it’s true of so much of the people’s stories that I’ve worked with as a they’re on this invisibility spectrum, and it’s so important that they become visible and are heard and they’re part of history and part of who we are.

[00:37:38] Maya Haviland: That brings us to a close of this episode of Collaboratory. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with others and you can drop us line on social media or at You can find links and contacts for Jenni’s organization, Gen S Stories in the show notes. 

This episode of Collaboratory was written and edited by Maya Haviland and Nicole Deen. Series producer Maya Haviland. Audio engineering by Nick McCorriston and music made, especially for us by Seprock. Additional research and production support by Nicole O’Dowd.

Collaboratory is produced on the lands of the Ngunawal, Ngambri, and Ngunnawal people. We pay our respects and ongoing gratitude to the custodian’s past, present, and future of the lands on which we work and of the knowledges from which we learn. 

Collaboratory is a production of the Scaffolding Cultural Co-creativity Project, hosted by the Centre for Heritage and Museum Studies in the College of Arts and Social Sciences at the Australian National University. Funding is generously provided by the Australian National University Translational Fellowship Scheme.