Narrative biographical interviews
In all of our projects – regardless if it’s a long-term project like MEMOIRE or a fixed-term, narrowly conceived, topical one like 1968 in Mannheim – narrative biographical interviews will be the beating heart of our productions; open talks with contemporary witnesses will be the prism through which we look upon history and which open the spectrum of personal life stories that we want to present. In contrast to other forms of interviews, narrative interviews are conducted in the most unrestricted fashion possible. Ideally, the interviewees are given as much space as possible to develop their personal sense of things and tell their stories in their own words. As a consequence, interviews of this kind may take quite long to conduct. Frequently they last between 1 and 4 hours, sometimes even longer. Contrary to interviews that ask a fixed set of questions, a narrative interview is structured by different stages of the talk. At the beginning, there’s an entry question that is supposed to help the interviewee get started, encourage them, or find a thread for their narration, respectively. By carefully asking or giving cautious suggestions as to whether the interviewee might want to continue in a certain direction, or elaborate on some aspect of the story, they are supposed to be motivated to develop their take on the topic in as much detail as possible. When this stage is completed – e.g. because the narrator can’t think of anything more to say, or maybe because they need a break – then it’s time, possibly, to move on to the next stage. This next stage, put in academic terms, is called “the conversation’s inner context”; to talk about it and reflect on it together can serve as the subject of the conversation moving on. If, for instance, there were passages during the first stage in which the narration turned particularly dynamic or, inversely, the narrator hesitated, because the sequence of events had become unclear to them, this poses an opportunity to consider, if there might be any significance to this, one way or the other. In order to be able to go back to these passages, in any case, the interviewer is to take notes during the first stage.
Lastly, a third stage can be initiated by shifting attention towards the conversation’s “external context”. For instance, not all of us attribute the same significance to everything covered in the news or on television. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to talk about why some things never really mattered while others came to be very important. If, for example, the interviewer noticed that a particular major historical event never got mentioned during the story, then, again, this might be a chance to reflect together just what significance or meaning this detail may have.
The Research Process
Beside focusing on oral history, as described above, it will be characteristic of all our productions to add such historical material and sources to the individual stories that go beyond subjective perspectives. Depending on the respective project such material may include historical press products, images, prints or other written documents as well as autographs or historical everyday objects. To acquire such material, which will also be annotated, extensive research and investigation of archives and collections is due first. And so this part of our work also includes clarifying all legal issues concerning copy right, personality and exploitation rights and finally licensing.
We exclusively produce digital documentary features, which means we do not work with physical collections. At the same time we store and archive data which we produce and collect ourselves. Essentially, this encompasses film interviews with contemporary witnesses in addition to digital copies of archive material and objects. As a consequence, we must take care of conserving these data for long periods of time and keeping them accessible for users. An important part of our work, thus, consists of sustainably securing our data collections in agreement with regulations concerning data security and making sure our collections remain open to access long-term. For this purpose, we cooperate with various experts in the respective fields who provide us with support regarding programming, data security and regulation issues.
A long-term project, like our flagship MEMOIRE alone, requires not only intense conceptual and archival work, but also the setup and maintenance of an institutional network. Spanning the entire country, we’re seeking to encourage cooperation between social services and design colleges in order to assemble teams of interviewers, train and enable them to conduct professional interviews, and to produce high quality films. Supervising the cooperative networks includes support and assistance in preparation of the regional film shoots. Additionally, even a locally focused project like 1968 in Mannheim can only be realized through cooperating with supra-regional partners such as archives and associations so that each project requires specific strategies and concepts the realization, implementation, and organization of which ultimately rests with us, too.
Lastly, each of our projects must be planned and budgeted individually. So fund-raising every time includes drawing up project-specific cost projections and budget plans and choosing appropriate strategies to be able to successfully campaign for funds and/or sponsorships. A non-profit enterprise, we are – naturally – prohibited from selling products of services for profit – all of our productions will be free of charge and openly accessible. In turn, foundations and trusts active in the field of culture act as our main sources of financing. However, private donations and investments will continue to be just as important a factor in our work. If you’re interested in donating to MEMOIRE PROJECTS, you’ll find our banking information in the imprint section. If you’re interested in investment opportunities, or if you have any questions about our enterprise, please contact us via e-mail: