Collaboration and Consent: The Keys to Ethical Documentary Storytelling
Storytelling has been a part of human history for as long as we can remember. From cave paintings to oral traditions, we have used stories to share our experiences, our values, and our beliefs. And as our world has evolved, so too has the way we tell stories. Today, we have access to an incredible range of media, from movies and television shows to podcasts and social media platforms. And with that access comes an incredible amount of power.
As storytellers, we have the power to shape how people view the world and the individuals we portray. We can inspire empathy, challenge stereotypes, and shed light on important social issues. But we can also perpetuate harmful stereotypes, erase important perspectives, and exploit the stories of others for our own gain. That’s why it’s so important that we take on the ethical responsibility that comes with being a storyteller.
At Actuality Abroad, we believe that ethical storytelling starts with collaboration. When we tell the stories of others, we must do so in a way that respects their dignity, their autonomy, and their perspective. That means taking the time to get to know the people whose stories we are sharing, listening to their experiences, and ensuring that they feel comfortable and safe sharing their story with us.
Getting free and informed consent is an essential part of this process. This means that the individuals who appear in our media understand the full scope of our work, all the platforms in which they may appear, and all of the possible consequences that could result. It also means giving them the opportunity to ask questions, voice concerns, and set boundaries. By doing so, we can ensure that the stories we tell are ones that the individuals themselves are comfortable with and proud of.
But getting consent is just the first step. We also need to ensure that the individuals who appear in our media have control over how they are represented. That means giving them the final say on how they are portrayed in our stories, even if it means changing our original vision. It means respecting their boundaries and wishes, and recognizing that their story is not ours to tell, but rather one that we are privileged to share.
And it’s not just about the finished product. We need to commit to a long-term relationship with the people whose stories we are telling. This means staying in touch about the status of the stories and how they are being shared around the world. It means building trust and respect, and recognizing that the individuals whose stories we share are more than just a means to an end. And if there is ever financial gain to be had from the stories, we must make sure that they are benefiting from the profits. This is not only a matter of fairness, but it also ensures that we are not exploiting the stories of others for our own gain.
Being an ethical storyteller isn’t just a responsibility, it’s an opportunity. By collaborating with individuals and empowering them to share their own stories, we can create more authentic, compelling media that inspires and informs. We can help to create a more just and equitable world, one story at a time.
Storytelling is a powerful tool that can be used for good or for harm. As storytellers, we have the power and the responsibility to tell stories in a way that respects the dignity and autonomy of the individuals whose stories we share. By collaborating with these individuals, we can create media that is authentic, compelling, and inspiring. And by doing so, we can help to create a world where everyone’s stories are heard and valued.