Any storyteller will tell you that spinning a good tale is about making wise choices about the details. Do you want the readers/viewers to see everything at once, or do you want them to see only one thing? If you choose that one detail, does it perfectly capture the story?
Filmmaker Joshua Z. Weinstein chose one aspect, and built a story around it, as he shot footage of young men in New York City who dance in subway cars. In his documentary for nytimes.com, he talked about how he got the idea for the video:
The first time I saw these young men perform, in a tightly packed New York City subway car, I imagined we were all flying. I later learned that their dances and aerial moves were named “the part-time stripper,” “walking on air” and “the Kid and Larry.” Their physicality, bravado and humor captivated me. While some riders considered them a nuisance, I felt they transformed the subway car into a remarkable sort of public theater.
Weinstein focused on close-up shots of the dancers, their arms and legs moving up, down and around the poles in the subway car. They he layered on their voices, creating a slow-motion urban ballet in which the performers’ “bravado and humor” serve as the soundtrack.
Watching the video made me miss riding in the subways, and the strange, sometimes creative people who inhabit them.
The Hollywood Reporter asked Google’s Eric Schmidt and former State Department adviser Jared Cohen “what’s the place of Hollywood content in a world where everyone is connected to the Internet?” Their response:
Schmidt: The American system produces the greatest storytellers. In a globalized market, it is the storytelling that wins. The scripts, the production value, the storytelling is how, was, is and always will be the solution to such problems.
Cohen: American studios will continue to have the comparative advantage, but with 5 billion new people [coming online], you have 5 billion new potential stories and creative people. Most of them are going to connect over smartphones. We’ve interacted with all these North Korean defectors who live in South Korea. They’re all making documentaries about their lives with their smartphones.
Schmidt: One way to look out for writers is to wait for people to send you scripts. Another one is to look at the user-generated content and use that as your farm team. Let’s see who is telling the best stories in this less-expensive, more-populous medium, and let’s give them a shot at the big leagues. The right way for the studios to think about this is trying your idea on YouTube, which is inexpensive, and if it works, spend a lot more money.
The notion of “farm teams” got me thinking: Can these budding storytellers be something more than just potential sources of content or future hires?
In the news business, we naturally tend to focus on both of those aspects. The first is the right now: Getting the exclusive right to redistribute a bit of video from a war zone, for example, proves to readers _ and customers _ our worth. The second is for our future survival: We need people who understand today’s news world. The pressure to find them is intense.
In an era in which news organizations need desperately to innovate and think of new ways to connect with readers, perhaps these “farm teams” can be more than just talent pools. What if we viewed them as worldwide research and development departments? If you want to get ideas, make a list of all the storytellers you admire, regardless of medium. They can even be from graphic design, advertising, architecture or art. They might tell stories through their work, or in their spare time.
Watch their work closely. Study them. Maybe their ideas can help inspire you to dream up your own.
Read the rest of the interview.
Photo credit: Kevin Utting, via Flickr.
AStory.In’s mission is to explore the nature of creativity and how we harness and express it through different media _ from spoken word to text _ to tell stories. The 50-word story is a social experiment to see imagination in action. My friends were kind enough to play along, spinning tales from an image. The book includes a total of nine photos, but many more stories. The book is organized to give you a chance to experience each of the images differently based on each unique story. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
Download the book here (It’s in PDF format. To save in iBooks, for instance, hold the previous link, click “Open” and then hit the “Open in iBooks” button).
I recently happened upon an amazing illustrator named Marc Johns. His simple, whimsical drawings will just stop you in your tracks, and maybe make you smile.
About the one above, he said: “All of this talk of ‘thinking outside the box’ must mean that whatever is inside the box must be pretty awful.” A simple story about the times in which we live.
Johns spoke with 10Answers.net, a blog featuring interviews with creatives of all types. Asked when he considered a piece to be finished, he answered:
I often feel that an idea sketched out in a notebook is pretty much done, and the challenge I have during final execution is to not over-refine it. When everything is balanced and it effectively tells the story I set out to tell, and nothing more, then it’s done. When I start thinking about adding extras, I have to put the drawing away.
It’s a good reminder that something we’ve been working on may not be perfect, but it still can be done.
Read the rest of the interview here.
Just a wonderfully designed poster. The backstory, from Dan Provost:
One year ago, I was out running an errand with my wife and noticed that the runners in the New York Marathon were passing through our neighborhood in Long Island City. We stood and watched for a while. It was quite inspiring, and I decided at that moment that I would run in the marathon the next year, a goal as arbitrary as it was ludicrous …
The New York Marathon typically has about 45,000 runners, and yet it is difficult to gain a guaranteed entry spot if you are not an elite runner. One such way, however, is to run with a charity organization. After some research, I decided to join Fred’s Team, a charity that raises money for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Cancer is something that has affected my family in recent years, which is sadly not an uncommon story. I’m glad running this race and raising money for this charity has allowed me help towards the goal of eliminating cancer, even if only in a small way.
h/t: Swiss Miss.
Two little girls. A fountain. One has the look of delight. What’s their story? Maybe these:
She loved talking. It was more than hearing the sound of her voice constructing full sentences (she had just mastered that skill). She loved the slight whistle that ended her words. That too was newly acquired. But having so much to say was exhausting. And it made her thirsty. Hmm… – Amanda Kwan.
“Watch! When I pull my arm out of the water, you won’t be able to see it. If you walk in, all of you will be invisible. Mommy won’t be able to find us to clean our rooms,” Marisol said. “Or see us when she’s wrapping Christmas presents!” Graciela added. – Linda Ashton.
She said she doesn’t want to get wet, but she doesn’t know how great it is! Once she feels it on her hand, she’ll put her arm in. Then her feet. Then her legs. Then she’ll jump through it! What’s that her mom’s saying? No, no! Don’t listen to her! – Beagan Wilcox.
She tells her sister the water in this fountain is from Hogwarts. “Touch it. Drink it. It’s like…magic.” As her sister steps forward, she scoops up water in her little hand and douses her sister. Her sister leaps back, shocked by the cold, and asks “WHAT magic?” - Terry Tang.
Rhia, smiling, turned to her old friend, Jasmine, ‘Can you believe it!? It’s so clear, so cold. And so, alive. I told you it would work. Mr. Ponce was right. He was right! We get to do it all over again! 86 years old, no more.’ Jasmine replied: ‘Now what?’ – me
Photo credit: Michael Krigsman, via Flickr.
James Somers meditates on the power of writing _ constant writing _ on the way we see and interact with the world:
You should write because when you know that you’re going to write, it changes the way you live. I’m thinking about a book I read called Field Notes on Science & Nature, a collection of essays by scientists about their notes. It’s hard to imagine a more tedious concept — a book of essays about notes? — but in execution it was wonderful. What it teaches you, over and over again, is that the difference between you and a zoologist or you and a botanist is that the botanist, when she looks at a flower, has a question in mind. She’s trying to generate questions. For her the flower is the locus of many mental threads, some nascent, some spanning her career. Her field notebook is not some convenient way to store lifeless data to be presented in lifeless papers so that other scientists can replicate some dull experiment; it’s the site of a collision between a mind and a world.
That’s the promise: you will live more curiously if you write. You will become a scientist, if not of the natural world than of whatever world you care about. More of that world will pop alive. You will see more when you look at it.
This is a great reminder for journalists and others in the storytelling business about the importance of guarding, always, against becoming jaded, getting so familiar with your “world” that you can no longer see the change unfolding before you.
Fresh eyes. Fresh observations. Fresh stories.
Check out Somers’ post at his blog.
Photo credit: Flower’s.Lover, via Flickr.
Our feeling is that the most important thing on a set is that actors have enough confidence to try different things. If there’s stress or tension, they won’t go out on a limb because they won’t want to embarrass themselves if they don’t feel completely comfortable.
That’s Peter Farrelly. The director.
What he says can apply to any storyteller. Confidence. It’s a big word.
There will be stress and tension in most anything we do. That’s how we learn.
Photo credit: Andy Spearing, via Flickr.