A few years ago, Nashville Public Television started the documentary series Next Door Neighbors, which follows the stories of various immigrant communities who now call Nashville their home. While producing the series, we realized that there were so many immigrants and refugees in Nashville with untold stories–too many for us to ever possibly tell. Afterall, Nashville has become an unexpected resettlement hotspot, and over 90 different languages are spoken in Metro Nashville Public Schools! So, we had an idea: what if we could equip and train immigrants to tell their own stories?
Several months, a handful of trainings, and a blog later, the Next Door Neighbors: Storytellers project does just that. We’ve distributed flip cams, laptops with the editing program iMovie on them, and additional production equipment to a handful of immigrant “storytellers” through the help of our three partner organizations– Catholic Charities, Progreso Community Center, and the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. These organization serve as “hubs” where storytellers can access and check-out the equipment, and receive our production trainings. You can read more about this in our about section.
My name is Soraya Salam and I manage the Storytellers project and conduct trainings, with a lot of help from others in our production department–mainly Will Pedigo, producer of Next Door Neighbors, when he’s not out busy making another amazing, award-winning episode [/shameless plug]. Our training motto is, simply, “learn by doing”–we try to speak as little as possible, and let the trainees go out, shoot with the cameras, and come back and edit their “practice” videos with our guidance. After the initial training, I keep in close contact with all of the storytellers to check on their progress, brainstorm story ideas, and answer any questions they may have during the production process.
I’m excited to launch this blog to showcase the beautiful work of our immigrant and refugee community. We have storytellers representing numerous countries–including Somalia, Bhutan, Mexico, Ethiopia, Kurdistan, the Phillipines, Iraq, Equador, Sudan–and the list keeps growing.
As one immigrant storyteller once put it, “We don’t have a lack of stories; we just lack the skills to tell them.”
Next Door Neighbors: Storytellers aims to fix that problem and give the immigrant and refugee community a voice.