"I'm doing a short documentary on seniors' perspectives, trying to get seniors to talk about their experiences on camera. any advice?"(BTW, Lissle is one of the Davis Forum - Spring 2008 - scholars, whom I had the privilege of meeting at the USF in February this year. She found her way to Victor's blog post about a Blogging talk that Chun See and I co-conducted for senior citizens, in 2006. Victor alerted me to that comment, by leaving -- you guessed it! -- a comment in a related post of mine, LOL. So I thought I'd post a response here instead).
Here are THREE main points I'd consider, if I were to embark on a similar project:
#1 - Approach senior citizens who already trust you
I'd start with seniors citizens whom I know personally, or recommended by my friends. That way, I'd already have that implicit trust. It will also be easier to explain what I intend to do with this project, and what it involves.
(I mentioned about establishing trust in my USF talk; see Part 3).
Incidentally, I managed to videotape an interview with my father a few weeks ago. About his basket ball career in his younger days. I was surprised that he readily agreed to being on video. He'd only asked me one question -- why I wanted to do the video. I said I might enter it for a video project but it was more out of an interest about his life when he played basketball for Singapore. He was happy with that explanation.
#2 - Tell them why their story is worth telling the world
I'm generalising here, but my sense is that most senior citizens (of this generation) are even more private about their thoughts and experiences. Something that the younger generation may not fully appreciate.
But I think if they are convinced of why their story (not yours) is worth sharing with the world, then they'd be more willing to be interviewed.
How you go about convincing them, I guess it's an art :)
It would also help if there's a theme or topic to your documentary. Something to help them decide if there's a story worth telling.
#3 - Create a sample video
Create that demo video. I'd use it to show other senior citizens whom I intend to approach. If this is done well, I'm sure it will reinforce #1 and #2.
They might even help connect you to other senior citizens.
There are more than these three points to consider, depending on the understanding and comfort level of individuals you approach. For instance, whether you'll be publishing your documentary on the Internet, and if so, do they understand the implications of sharing content on that medium. Also, in any research project, there's that ethical aspects that researchers have to adhere to.
But unless it's formal research that you intend to do, I'd say keep things simple as a start. I believe if you do #1, #2, and #3 as a first step, that will help you refine the subsequent process and determine how complex or formal you wish your project to be.
OK Lis, I hope this helps. Feel free to email me at email@example.com, or post your questions here.
Good luck, and do let me know how your documentary turns out.