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The Art of Storytelling with Elton Hubner

What does it take to become a compelling storyteller? When someone allows you to tell their story, it takes a tremendous level of trust, so how do you ensure that when said story flows through you, it isn’t influenced by your thoughts or feelings?

Award-winning multimedia journalist Elton Hubner had to explore those questions when working on his next passion project, a short documentary of 62-year-old Sit-a-Luk Raymond Jones Peter, aka “Brother Rick.”

The documentary, featured at the Victoria Film Festival’s “Short Burst – Indigenous Voices,” explores the life of Brother Rick. This well-known Quw’utsun Cowichan First Nation member shares his knowledge with schools as a knowledge keeper, dancer, and musician.

The project is the second documentary by Eyes Multimedia, who first cut their teeth with documentary filmmaking with the feature-length “The Fit Generation.” The photo and video production company had worked with Brother Rick on a previous project, learning much about him and his story. Hubner wanted to share how Brother Rick bridges the gap between Indigenous and western cultures but had to ensure the story wasn’t influenced in any way.

“I came in without any agenda. I don’t share much of my opinion when producing these films. I don’t think it matters so much. I try to use my skills to share these stories as best as I can. In this film, we interviewed several people who actually work in some of these schools where Brother Rick goes and talks with the kids. They are able to add some more layers or depth.”

As a producer and storyteller, Elton says knowing when to step back is essential. During production, Brother Rick briefly explained his day school experiences, where he experienced tremendous terrors. Day schools were similar to residential schools designed to assimilate Indigenous children and erase Indigenous language and culture. As an investigative journalist, Hubner wanted to press and learn more. However, Brother Rick wanted that past to be part of his legacy and respectfully asked to change the subject. Elton says in these moments, you need to step back.

“Brother Rick has gone through a lot in his life and leaves that in the past. His message for all of us is to move forward. That’s the key message in the film.”

As the second passion project by Eyes Multimedia, there was a lot learned between the two projects. One of the most significant for Hubner was not doing a short the first time. “The Fit Generation,” which followed six stories instead of the one from “Brother Rick.”

“Anyone interested in creating videos or getting into filmmaking, I highly suggest you get into shorts. I did not do that. My first documentary was fifty minutes long, and I spent a year and a half to two years of editing in my free time. You could get it done in a few weeks if you’re getting paid for it and doing that full-time. That’s what people do in the studios. If you’re starting with a passion project, start with shorts, five, ten, and fifteen minutes.”

Learning a manageable workload wasn’t Hubner’s only lesson in that first passion project. His advice when approaching a project is to picture the final story before you start. In “The Fit Generation,” Hubner would follow the subjects around, capture everything, and believe it would all come together when he did this. This was an amateur mistake. For “Brother Rick,” the team broke down the story, how it should end, and the message before they touched a camera.

He notes practice leads to perfection, or at least close to it.

“You get way better the more you do something. So there were obviously other lessons I learned along the way that not only made this faster and easier but a more pleasant process.”

Some of those lessons included being organized, knowing how much you should film before filming, conducting an interview more smoothly, and being prepared for the worst-case scenario. Hubner also recommends being prepared in the technical aspect, like spare batteries, screws, or tripods, because you never know what will happen.

Hubner is hugely thankful for the opportunities living in Canada has provided over the past decade as a newcomer. His experiences and opportunities have allowed him to evolve professionally and individually, creating a business and starting a family. There’s a lot on the way for Eyes Multimedia, with plans to move to a larger facility, start podcasts, continue their work with clients, and eventually tackle another passion project.

– Ryan Funk, U Multicultural

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of U MulticulturalT

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