Andrew Hida: The Dividing Line

Andrew Hida’s multimedia story “The Dividing Line” delves into the life experience of a traumatic brain injury victim. It is definitely worth watching.

Hida clearly spent a lot of time with the subject and his family members in this intense setting, gaining access to the participants, their relationships and feelings, and their inner-most confidences.

Hida’s style includes revealing close-ups of details and gestures that visually communicate the emotional elements of this story. For example, Hida includes a detail shot of his protagonist drinking from a coffee mug – and by focusing in on the trembling cup illustrates with imagery the extent of this man’s injury. The injury impacts every gesture and action he takes. That little section of footage demonstrates how powerfully visual clues can communicate emotional information to enrich a storyline.

Hida offers good backstory – e.g., shots and discussion of Michael’s interest in punk rock and how his injury changed his life. I found it especially poignant to see Michael at a drumset – again another visual demonstration of the long-term impact this accident.

Hida sets up a quiet audio transition (“…I’m not the same…”) between Michael’s narrative about liking girls and living a life of rock and roll to information that he’d been charged with sexual assualt.

This story is very interesting – not soppy, doesn’t dodge some nasty facts associated with this man’s life. It shows how real people deal with real problems.

Dreams of American Healthcare – Jessey Dearing

Dreams of American Healthcare - Jessey Dearing

Jessy Dearing’s “Dreams of American Healthcare” Covers the debate that continues after passage of the Obama health care reform act. Good coverage of various perspectives, using audio, stills and video. And this by an undergraduate student at UNC Chapel Hill.

September 11th in Multimedia

In remembrance of the 9/11/01 tragedy, here are a few resources reflecting that experience in imagery and sound.

Sonic Memorial Project

The Sonic Memorial Project is an online archive of audio recordings commemorating the World Trade Center, organized by NPR’s Lost and Found Sound. More than 50 independent radio and new media producers have contributed more than 1,000 audio pieces to this ongoing project. You can hear some sample story recordings at

The September 11 Digital Archive

The September 11 Digital Archive preserves the history of 9/11 digitally, with email, stories, digital images and audio recordings.

The New York Historical Society: Remembering 9/11

NYHS’s Remembering 9/11 exhibit offers some online videos of people recalling this event. Additional video remembrances are located at Voices of 9.11 Here Is New York.

“Habanero” by Justin Baez

Here’s a well-told story that pulls us along with some creative and entertaining visual cues and underlying questions.


In his book “Directing the Story”, Francis Glebas makes a big point about dramatization through questions. “We direct the audience’s attention to ask narrative questions by providing stories in which they wish to know what will happen next,” Glebas says. Sparking questions like “Will the main character get the girl?” “Will he reach his goal?” “Why isn’t she telling the cops about that part of her evening?” get the audience involved and caring about the outcome. Good films tell stories about characters who we, the audience, care about. Those characters live through challenging experiences that we can experience vicariously, and because we care about the characters we want to know what will happen. We have a vested interest in the outcome because we care about the character.

Who is Glebas? He is a filmmaker and storyboard artist for Walt Disney Studios. He’s also taught and consulted on storytelling and storyboarding. Glebas knows something about crafting good stories.

In this short “Habanero,” Baez introduces his main character in a barroom setting, talking with his buddies. The barroom set-up provides enough backstory to bring the characters to life. We learn that the main character is a married guy who, when he was unemployed for a spell, wanted to help take the load off of his working wife by cooking some chile for her. She gives him precise instructions and – right at that point – I started to formulate some questions that pulled me into the story. What is this guy going to do to the recipe? What is going to go wrong?

The film progresses and I realize my initial questions and line of thought were off-base. Without giving too much away, I find myself replacing my original set of questions with alternatives — and now I’m really hooked. I definitely want to see this guy work out of the situation he’s in. I just don’t know where this is going to lead. What a great place to be as a storyteller: you’ve hooked your audience with an interesting character, someone the audience can relate to and care about, and you’ve placed your character in a challenging situation that he’s got to work his way out of. Keep the character’s actions true to his personality, and like Baez you can lead us wherever you want to go.

Great Story for About a Buck

If you haven’t yet heard the song “Stan” by Eminem, the rapper, you should spend the buck-twenty-nine and add it to your collection. Now I’m NOT a big rap fan, and usually only listen to the stuff under protest when my teenage kids put it on. But I have to say this song really impressed me. It’s just a great story. Verse by verse, Eminem introduces and then builds up the character of an obsessed fan, creating rising tension along the way with careful details (“I put a tattoo of you across my chest” and “I cut myself”) and increased vocal pitch and intensity, until the story line is resolved in the final verse. This is fantastic storytelling, plain and simple.

And, if you’re a dad like me, the upside is that you may impress your kids who find a rap song on your iPhone.

What Makes This Story Successful?

The simplicity of this short video is astounding. Visually, only a small portion of each character is within the frame – we see no faces. The set is minimal. The filming is jumpy, and the image quality is poor. Most action is outside the frame. We really have only dialogue and a few visual clues to piece this together. It’s short (31 seconds). But after 31 seconds, we all know the characters and what has happened to the characters, and we all have an emotional response to that story.

This piece shows the power of omission. As is often said about still photography, the hardest thing about lighting is NOT lighting. To make something more interesting, don’t light all of it. The off-screen action here intrigues our imagination, provoking us as viewers to assemble the story in our own mind.