Working Hands Project

Education Photography & Video Science
Working Hands Project

I make video productions for a living and I love it. There are times, though, that I’d rather be puttering around in the basement, making or fixing something on my workbench. In 2011, I decided to combine these two passions by creating a media initiative called Working Hands. I gave myself the mandate to “tell stories wherever hands, tools, and materials converge.”


I decided to start my research with a visit to the Skills Canada National Competition in Québec City in 2011. I came away from that event with a real appreciation of the skill these young tradespeople showed in their various disciplines. I thought there might be a documentary idea that would center on choosing a skilled trade as a career, how we push our children to go to university instead, and the great loss that has been caused by taking industrial arts out of schools.


Then I discovered the science angle. I talked to Dr. Kelly Lambert, a behavioral neuroscientist who explained to me the link between using hands in a complex manner and reducing levels of depression. I visited a Montessori preschool and saw how children learn through the five senses. I explored the great strides being made in hand transplantation and prosthetic research. I saw how 3D printers can be used to make parts for an artificial hand. I read about brain development, manual skills, and the evolution of primitive stone tool-making.


I learned that the hands occupy a very large portion of the brain’s real estate. Exploring the connection between the hand and the brain, could that be a documentary?

In 2012 I went to Montreal’s first Mini Maker Faire and had no idea what to expect. Fortunately I brought my camera and edited the footage into a short documentary.

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RichAmtrak3I was intrigued and wanted to learn more. A few months later I hopped on the train to visit the World Maker Faire New York 2012. I even had a short chat with Maker Media founder Dale Dougherty. It was a pretty impressive event. On the way back I wondered whether a story about the maker movement could be what I was looking for.

Unfortunately none of the ideas has received any funding as of yet but I am still working at it. Please pay a visit to my website You will find a number of relevant links, video pitches, and about 30 posts to my blog. Reading the posts from oldest to newest will give you a good sense of how the ideas have evolved. I welcome your feedback.

montreal-mini-maker-faire_sNext weekend I’ll be at the Montreal Mini Maker Faire 2014. I will be writing another blog post and will probably do a video capsule. I would love your ideas on how to approach the coverage. What stories do you want to hear? Should I ask a single question like I did the last time? Do you want me to go behind the scenes? Let me know in the comments.

So makers, my advice and my hope for you is to keep on making. With all the research I have done so far for the Working Hands media project, I have indisputable proof that making is good for you!

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I am a Montreal based cameraman, documentary maker, I have designed camera support gear and I am a keen DIYer.

View more articles by Richard Burman


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