Photos courtesy of Mia Storia.
Winslow Armstead films a life story for one of Mia Storia’s projects.
In May 1997, Winslow Armstead and Auston Bennett were completing their senior year at Hoover High School. Little did they know that 15 years later they would be working together on Mia Storia, a self-started project that seeks to tell the stories of everyday people through videography.
After both attaining degrees from The University of Alabama, Armstead and Bennett settled into business jobs back home in Birmingham. The two kept in touch, mainly as business contacts. In 2011, a chance conversation led to a 72-hour brainstorm session that created the basics of what is now Mia Storia.
“We were training for a run and talking about ways we could change the world,” Armstead said. “It was the same kind of eye-in-the-sky conversation lots of people have. One day Auston said, ‘Let’s take 72 hours and come back with some ideas. Let’s see if we actually can change the world.’
“We had lists of ideas. We may have talked about one or two before, but after this one came out, we didn’t talk about the rest of them.”
Mia Storia documents the stories (Armstead and Bennett refer to them as “storias”) that are given to the interview subjects for them and their families to cherish forever.
“We wanted people to recognize and benefit from the product and feel like they had an heirloom instead of just a film,” Armstead said.
About a year after the idea’s conception, Armstead and Bennett were beginning work on the project’s first product. The video, an interview of one of Bennett’s family members, was a success and also a learning experience.
“The first film that we did was on my grandfather as a trial run,” Bennett said. “We outsourced the whole deal, which was the original business plan. It did not go the way we wanted it to. That’s when we realized that we had to have our own equipment and editors.”
Now, nearly two years after the idea’s conception, Armstead and Bennett have turned Mia Storia into a unique and thriving company. For two business-based people, promoting Mia Storia came naturally. The challenge was in producing the films, a department in which the two had limited experience.
“It was the filming and editing that we had zero experience with,” Bennett said. “I’m generally the one that works with the customers from start to finish. Winslow is passionate about the video and editing side of things. He had messed around with photography, so he had that passion from the beginning. He literally had no idea that he would be standing behind the camera.”
Thus far, storias produced include those of war veterans, realtors and missionaries among others. One of the more notable people Mia Storia has interviewed and filmed was Bernadine Layton, one of the survivors of the 16th Street Church Bombing in 1963.
“We got the chance to sit down with her and interview her,” Bennett said. “She was the last person to talk to the girls that died. That just blows my mind to hear her talk about all that she’s been through and how it shapes her today. That’s a big piece of history, and we got to do it.”
The stories themselves aren’t the only unique part of Mia Storia. It also boasts unique packaging, both in the company’s brand and the physical DVD package.
“We tried to design the most attractive DVD case ever,” Armstead said. “We found a carpenter to carve the cases out by hand. They’re hand painted and have pouches made of wool. That was the first thing we figured out.”
As Mia Storia continues to grow, both Armstead and Bennett are looking forward to seeing where the company takes them.
“We’re all about getting better all the time and finding new ways to get connected to the person,” Armstead said. “We’ve got lofty, lofty plans. We’re not worried about anything but making the next storia and changing the next family’s life.”
For more visit miastoria.com.