The herstories project began in summer of 2017. I had an interview with Melissa of YourTv Muskoka (formerly Cogeco) regarding a Women’s Strike! that I was co-organizing. Melissa connected with me after the interview to let me know that because YourTV is community television, anyone can submit a proposal for a TV show, and she suggested that I do so if I had an idea for one.
Of course, I always have ideas, so I printed off the application, which was very simple. I decided that an interview style show where I talk with two Muskoka women each episode would be awesome. To be honest, I’m not sure I thought it would go anywhere, and if it did, that it would be this huge ordeal that would take ages to get approval. I submitted the application and heard back very quickly that they wanted to meet.
When I went to the meeting, I thought we would be basically be expanding on the proposal, but I quickly realized we were going ahead with the show! The meeting was mainly logistical. I was informed the show (which didn’t have a name yet) would be filmed in Gravenhurst, and the producer would be Samantha.
When I met with Samantha, I had a list of potential names for the show, including Walking With Women, Women Speak, and herstories. I’d brainstormed with Sandra about the names beforehand, and she really liked herstories, as did I because it’s different and neat, and short. Samantha liked the name and the show was born!
I am not someone who really likes being public. I have always been a reserved, internal woman. I enjoy writing because it involves my brain more than my body. I have a complicated relationship with my physical form and indeed my ‘self’ as a conception at all. Knowing I would be seen, viewed, invoked complex emotions. To say it is outside my comfort zone is a gentling of the truth, that’s for sure.
So in August I left for my cross-Canada roadtrip, knowing that I would come back to the show. I was actually thinking about backing out because I wasn’t sure if the medium was what I wanted to get into. I thought I was meant to focus on my writing and let that be it. I didn’t want to spread myself too thin in a direction I wasn’t sure about to begin with. However, one evening I was in my tent late at night in Kouchibouguac National Park in New Brunswick and while I was journaling about this decision, I had a bit of an awakening. It wasn’t anything dramatic or long-winded. My journal reads thusly:
“You, and all people, have a power on this planet to impact, influence, and guide others. Do not take this as a small thing. Your influence is huge. If you are given a platform, you must take it.”
I realized that in my fight for women’s liberation, I need to get uncomfortable, I need to explore, and I need to take what was offered in order to share women’s stories with the world. Accessing as many means of dissemination as possible is vital to my life mission. It doesn’t matter that I am uncomfortable. No one ever died from discomfort.
And I’m a fast learner, not afraid to make mistakes, and happy to ask for help. If I fuck up, it’ll get fixed or it won’t. Interviewing is a skill that I’ll improve at. And I know women, countless women, who need to have their stories told. Of course I had to do it!
When I came back from my trip, we jumped right into the show. The first filming was at Nancy Osborne’s home. I work for Nancy now, coordinating her I Got This workshops and assisting her when she does her keynotes. At the time, I knew her through the Women’s Strike! so I knew she’d travelled the world and worked for the UN in war-torn countries. She has great insight and would be an awesome first guest! She agreed and we went to her home to film a ‘feature’ (which is when you film a segment on-location instead of in studio. It gets edited into the rest of the show later on).
Sandra was there that day learning the cameras with Samantha. I was so nervous! I had a little notepad with questions on it and I read them faithfully, one by one. I was very quiet and awkward. Even though I interact with women all the time at my work, in my life, and volunteering, in basically the same type of setting (I love to ask questions and I’m very curious, so if I’m not careful I can accidentally interview people without even thinking about it!), I was overwhelmed by the camera and the knowledge that it was Very Important to be professional and sound good, etc.
Nancy, of course, was awesome! And I, well, I learned. 🙂
The other guest for the show was Dawn Novak. Dawn is an anti-VAW activist. Her daughter Natalie was murdered by her boyfriend, and Dawn speaks about this heinous crime and the ways in which the police and other services failed, and how to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Dawn’s interview was great because I only asked 2 questions – she knew what she wanted to say and she said it.
It’s important not to go over time with the filming because it has to fit in the allotted time slot, which is 30 minutes. Each interview is approximately 13 minutes, and the rest of the time is taken up by the intro, the break, and the outro. There isn’t a lot of leeway and if I mess up the time, they need to cut it from somewhere else. In the beginning, that wasn’t too difficult, but the last episodes when ‘straight to central master’ which means the recording bypassed the Gravenhurst office and went to the head office as a complete unit, so no editing could be done. Obviously, the timing had to be exact!
In later episodes, we filmed two shows per session, which means four interviews. So in between shows, I have to change my outfit, because it’s a ‘different day’. Showbiz!
So for the episode, I say my intro spiel which is basically, “Hi, and welcome to herstories, a show where I interview two women from Muskoka to talk about their experiences, struggles, and triumphs. My first guest today is…” and I introduce the guest, and just ask her about what she does/loves/thinks. Sometimes I meet the women beforehand or have a phone call. This is especially true if I don’t know them well. I pretty much just ask women I know from various places in the community, or women who are doing really cool volunteer work.
I get referrals, but I also ask for women to email me—so far, no one has, so if you’re reading this and you’re in Muskoka with a story, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I think women think it’s bragging or odd to think you have something important to say, but it ISN’T! It’s so great to be able to share parts of your experience, and the most common feedback I get is from women who mention specific guests and how that story impacted them. Isn’t that wonderful? EMAIL ME!
During filming, I wear a mic and an earpiece, and Samantha will give me a 2 and 1 minute count, so I know when to wrap up. I have not perfected this whatsoever. I definitely don’t like interrupting women. When I wrap up the conversation, we either go to break (“thank you so much for sharing with us, guest.” Look at main camera. “We’re going to take a quick break, and when we come back, we’ll meet our next guest.”)
Then we quickly switch out the guests. I stay put so I don’t mess up my mic and ear piece, and we “come back from the break”, I intro the next guest, the interview commences, and we chat for about 12 minutes, until it’s time to wrap up, then I close the show. “Thank you so much for watching herstories! I hope you enjoyed the show. If you or someone you know would like to be on the show, please email me. Until next week, take care.”
We have ten episodes filmed, including a full 26-minute interview with a single guest for the finale. I am really excited about the progress of the show. Even the set has evolved. We went from a blue couch and white chair, and yellow backdrop, to two lovely green chairs, with a brick backdrop and nice blue lights under black fabric.
I am so excited about this experience because it’s really doing something different in Muskoka. And unlike my own youtube videos which I have to edit and post, with herstories I just show up and walk away! I mean, the lead-up is difficult. Booking women and meeting them, arranging who goes on with whom, etc, all takes a lot of time and energy. This is a volunteer position and while it’s very dear to me, I also spend a lot of time volunteering with things that are emotionally draining, and even on good days my self-care can feel only barely sufficient. There is a balance needed for everything, and that is especially true for this. If nothing else, I am so grateful for the learning experience and for being able to offer a platform that showcases women’s experiences when we need women’s wisdom more than ever.
Thanks for watching! Er, I mean reading. 😉