Heartworkers – reflections on transcribing

by Stefmanovic


HartwerkersFor the last couple of months I’ve been transcribing interviews for the Hartwerkers (‘Heartworkers’ in English) documentary series. I remember once, on a magical day after my bachelor research in Peru, that I screamed that I would never transcribe anything anymore. Transcribing is basically dictation from elementary school all over again, except that you can actually rewind it over and over and over. So why am I doing this again?

To put it rather crudely: to stay busy! Unemployment not only left me without money, it also left me with too much free time. Whilst I was very busy building a studio and watching hundreds of episodes of the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, I felt that I needed to do something a bit more ‘relevant’. Whilst transcribing isn’t the most glorious job in any kind of (research)project, it is (often) a crucial part. I really needed to work on a project which was not only directly inspiring, but also that my role within that project was one that mattered.

With Heartworkers I basically reunited with my old boss Mundo Resink (he doesn’t really like to be called a ‘boss’, and he especially doesn’t like being called ‘the Big Kahuna’) from the good old WOVOX days. He is still out there ‘fighting the good fight’, which in this case means showing people that they don’t need to do that job they hate so much and should basically try to chase their dreams.

So here I am again, transcribing, but no longer as fast as I used to be, which is frustrating and cool at the same time. Frustrating since despite being slower, I remain just as drained. Speed doesn’t seem to matter; slow and fast both leave me like a wreck. However, the cool aspect is that I am, how should I say it, getting more in touch with the stories being told? During my anthropology days I would transcribe, but maintained a certain distance to the personal side of things (which was very hard sometimes). The Heartworkers interviews have liberated me from that limitation.

But despite this being quite liberating, there is also something rather odd about it: I never met the people being interviewed. So I’m basically writing down some pretty intimate stories (only a very small percentage of the interview turns up in the final video) without ever having been face to face with the persons telling those stories. Which is rather odd. What’s more unnerving is that I am going to meet them tomorrow. It kind of feels like seeing an actress getting naked in a movie and then meeting her in real life; you’ll have a really hard time not trying to think of her in that…context. Now this doesn’t mean I’m imagining these people naked or anything, well…you get my drift!

The actual reason for writing this little story was to show you some of the results of my transcripting work. I’ve transcribed for four short films so far, but they’re all in Dutch. Luckily enough two of them have been given the wonderful threatment of subtitling, which means you non Dutch speakers can also enjoy them!


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