I was recently asked exactly how my background in archives and information technology assisted me with my documentary, The Little Girl with the Big Voice. I hadn’t really thought about it until that point because it was a passion project and I was so wrapped up in telling the story it didn’t seem to matter. In retrospect, my years in Records & Information Management really were instrumental in helping me collect, organize and clear all of the materials for this film.
The Little Girl with the Big Voice examines the struggles of women and children in the early 1930’s and 40’s through the eyes of Mary Small, a child prodigy, restless wife and dedicated mother whose resilience in the face of constant challenges made her a defining symbol of her generation.
Documentary filmmaking involves a lot of document management, project management and asset management and always has. Understanding how to organize large collections of materials, authenticate and reference them contextually proved very useful in creating the historical sequences seen in the film.
When it came time to putting together a clip log, the metadata and information I collected and associated with each piece of media made it easy for me to clear each image which is essential to secure a good insurance policy. In doing so, a lot of the principles I’ve learned as an Information Governance Professional came into play in terms of ensuring authenticity. As a result of properly documenting my sources from the get-go I ended up with a treasure chest of digital resources that I can now use over and over. My experiences with digital imaging also helped with rendering the scans and pictures I used and in resolving pixelation issues. The organization of documents and images into (hopefully) logical historical sequences based on various data points, is very much a business discipline.
I also wanted this film to be an example of how filmmakers can use the Fair Use Doctrine to uncover and tell some of the richest, most compelling stories of this era, which were until the advent of the internet, almost trapped in library catalogs and press break scrapbooks.
So I teamed up with Stanford University’s Documentary Film Program and learned how to present these images in context so that they passed muster. Doing so probably reduced the cost of the film’s licensing fees by as much as 90% or more and the research alone gave us a cache of items that we can hopefully use to tell another great story.