Dear 100 Hour Board,
I want to make a documentary about the 100 hour board, preferably something with either a funny or dramatic tone.
What should I do?
-Aspiring film director
Here is some material to possibly help you get started.
Life as a Writer
To begin with, I complied some interviews with different writers, who were selected because I actually have their numbers, and so can more easily interview them.
What's your favorite thing about being a writer?
Alta: All the new things I learn. It helps me be a more informed and educated person. Writing has made me confront some of my beliefs, and more clearly know my own ideals.
The Goose Girl: Being able to see behind the scenes of the Board.
Anathema: I love actually taking part in the magical/whimsical side of the Board--adding to lore, having a secret identity, answering random questions, and pretending that I'm just as intelligent and witty as I try to make my alias be.
Van Goff: This is a hard question since it's a generally really positive experience. I guess my favorite part is being able to give people advice and support and knowing that I'm helping other people.
Why did you decide to become a writer?
Alta: Since I first found out about the Board, I loved it. I remember reading a question where a writer said that the best thing to do to try and become a writer was to answer every single question that posted for a week. I did do that, and I loved it. So I guess I became a writer out of a narcissistic love of having my own answers published.
The Goose Girl: My older brother (El-ahrairah) was a writer. I first started reading the Board when I was seventeen, and loved it, so decided to become a writer.
Anathema: I got introduced to the Board by Alta shortly after she got taken on as a writer. I very quickly became hopelessly addicted, and resolved that one day I wanted to write for the Board myself.
Van Goff: I found it really entertaining and helpful for my personal situation. I decided that I wanted to be a part of it, and add my own voice.
What's the most frustrating thing about being a writer?
Alta: Not always being able to answer all the questions I want to, and then sometimes having questions that I do answer, but just don't have enough time or whatever to give as good of an answer as I wanted. It's really frustrating when I put a lot of effort into a question, and do my best, and then a reader complains about the answer, saying it wasn't good enough/the writers are too lazy or whatever.
The Goose Girl: Knowing that I need to work on a question. Once a question goes over hours, it just becomes more and more stressful to know that I need to answer it, but then the fact that it's so far over makes me less inclined to actually answer it.
Anathema: Not living up to my own expectations for answering some questions. I'll sometimes have this great vision for how I want a question to turn out (like for this one...), but then can't quite seem to pull of my vision. Also, considering writing for the Board is about the only exciting/non-academic thing I do, it can be frustrating to never be able to mention it when people ask about what I do in my free time.
Some Person: "So [Anathema], what kinds of things do you do? Are you involved in any clubs, or things?"
Me: "...uh...not really, I guess. I like to read. And write. Yep, that's about it."
Van Goff: Um...I don't really know. For the most part, it's really laid back. The thing I find most frustrating is not knowing if what I said actually actually helped anyone. Sometimes it feels more like a journal.
What's the funnest thing you have done because of the Board?
Alta: The Board parties.
The Goose Girl: The macaroni art I did for this question was pretty fun. Besides that, Board parties.
Anathema: Definitely answering this question about places I've explored on campus. It was actually asked at an emotional low for me. I had been feeling pretty terrible the previous week, and really just needed something to lift myself out of the funk. While I'm not sure how happy the reader was with my answer or originality, exploring campus was so much fun for me, and exactly what I needed to help make myself feel a bit happier again.
Van Goff: I loved meeting all the writers and seeing that they were all real people.
How often are you on the Board?
Alta: I normally check it a couple of times a day. However, I don't work on my answers every time, but just read through new questions, and approve answers.
The Goose Girl: I check the Board about once a day. I don't write that often, though.
Anathema: Oh my gosh, I'm on the Board so often, it's kind of embarrassing. Generally, there's never more than four consecutive hours (excluding time spent sleeping at night) that go by without me checking it. Most often, I check like once every one to two hours.
Van Goff: It's not all at once, though. I'll check in multiple times a day, read through questions, and work on answers a bit at a time.
How many readers do you know?
Alta: There's one reader that I really know who emailed me. He's on his mission now. I also met one of his friends, and am Facebook friends with her.
The Goose Girl: [Anathema]. I knew her before she became a writer, so it still kind of counts. Also, there was a coworker one time who asked if I knew about the Board.
Anathema: There's a guy in my ward who's already figured out my identity (in my defense, it was only because he figured out Alta first, and then got me for free cause we're sisters). Also, shout out to the reader who got me ice cream. Besides that, I introduced my best friend (Black Forest Cake) to the Board back when I was a reader, and as soon as I started writing, she recognized who I was.
Van Goff: I know one reader. They emailed me. We're in the same support group, and I told them who I am.
How has being a writer affected other areas of your life?
Alta: Like I said before, it's made me more informed, and able to more clearly define my own beliefs. It negatively affects my grades when I work on Board questions instead of homework.
Anathema: It's given me a compulsion to find out random information and answer people's questions in real life. Like, someone in my TA lab will ask a question pertaining to a class I haven't actually taken, and I'll still try and answer them with the aid of Google. Deeper than that, writing has really made me feel more empowered to go out and do things, cause it turns out the real difference between not knowing the answer to something, and finding it out is often just initiative.
Van Goff: It has made me more reflective. It's made me think about what I find important. There are so many perspectives, both from the readers and writers.
Behind the Board
As it turns out, there isn't a whole lot that goes on outside the internet on the Board. This was actually something I hadn't quite been expecting: the sense of isolation. Most of what writing for the Board consists of is just sitting behind a computer screen, and hoping that somewhere out there, people are reading, and your responses are actually helping someone. However, there are still lots of pretty special things about the Board, and being a writer in general that may not be immediately obvious to outside observers. To try and give you a feel for this side of the Board, I've compiled a list of questions I find illuminating.
Board Question #27885 This is a less fun side, but it accurately shows that we pretty consistently get complaints from readers about then thinking we don't sufficiently answer some questions.
Board Question #79041 This is one of the most accurate questions I've ever read for describing what it's like to be a writer.
Board Question #71084 While it's not precisely up to date, I think this question still gives good insight for the spectrum of how involved our families are on the Board.
Board Question #81003 The Soulful Ginger put together an amazing list of significant historical questions here.
Board Question #49553 This details some of the technical changes in the Board from its inception up to 2009 (when the question was asked).
Board Question #71983 This question is enlightening for how involved the readers are on both sides of the Board.
Board Question #2692 Again, this is an older question, but I think it's still accurate for how writers feel about the Board.
Board Question #84480 I find this revealing in just how addictive we writers find writing to be.
I'm sure you're already aware of the wealth of documentary type information available on our history page, but I couldn't exclude it from this answer, because it really is such a good source.
However, I also thought this would be a good opportunity to come up with some more Board facts for you.
- There have been 199 recorded writers ever for the Board, including the current ones
- Concorde's answer on Harry Potter is the longest answer ever written to date (at least that I know of).
- The average number of months each writer has been writing for is 25 months. The greates number of months a writer has been writing for is The Curious Physics Minor, at ~130 months. Without his months, the average is around 20 months per writer (Note: these figures were calculated using some rounding and my mental arithmetic, so may not actually be the most accurate...)
Well, that's about all I have. If you'd ever like to conduct a real life interview with me (complete with paper bags, of course), feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You're going the film route, huh? Way to be. I minored in Media Arts and took all the doc classes I could; I really enjoyed my time in the Media Arts program. I felt a sense of camaraderie and felt welcome there. I just graduated this last April.
As far as actually doing a doc about the 100 Hour Board, it's a little tricky... we don't show our true identities much (okay, I don't make much effort to hide, but everyone else is better) and no one really knows who we are. Of course, this doesn't mean we aren't willing to talk, or that you couldn't film us in a way that preserves our anonymity. Something funny, dramatic or campy might lend itself well to this. Maybe something like this:
Narrator: Here we are with _____, a BYU student who goes by the alias Ardilla Feroz (just picking myself for narcissism convenience). Ardilla, how would you describe what you do?
Ardilla: Well, so people ask questions about pigeons, the Kardashians, and cabbage, though usually not all at once, and we answer those questions.
Narrator: Hmm. And how much time do you typically spend answering these questions?
Ardilla: Uh, it depends? Usually not much, but sometimes like 10 or 15 hours in a week.
Ardilla: I... don't actually know?
Narrator: Do you know any of the people who ask questions?
Narrator: How often do you, for example, take a break and visit friends?
Narrator: **coughs awkwardly** Or go outside?
You get the idea. Naturally, if you have a better idea—and you probably do—just do that instead. Make the kind of thing you would enjoy watching. And if you actually do want to make something, feel free to ask me more questions at ardilla.feroz(at)theboard.byu.edu. I love me some docs.
If you're looking to make an awesome documentary while still maintaining anonymity of the subject, I recommend you check out Exit Through the Gift Shop, a documentary/debatable mockumentary on Banksy and other anonymous street artists. Making a documentary about people incognito can work if you make it work. It's all about presentation.
Note: if you do watch it, it is rated R for language.