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Stories inside a Story

Cannibalized Stories

RampageWhen I go to see a movie, I play a small game.  The game is called, “Find the hidden stories within the story.”  It’s simple, all you have to do to play the game is find a story from the past that seems to have been slipped into the present story—kind of a mosaic of stories cannibalized to make a new-old one.  Rampage is one of those stories.

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It highlights the fears of the 1950’s when atomic energy was more feared than appreciated.  Most Sci-Fi movies in the 50’s had monsters or giant bugs that were created from atomic isotopes.  “Beginning of the end” (1957), centered on giant grasshoppers that eventually attack Chicago.  Where the 1954, “Them,” had giant ants that attacked the sewer system of Los Angeles.

The list of giant insect horror movies seemed to follow the same pattern.

forbidden-planet-robby-the-robot-1956_a-G-9343170-8363144Rampage (2018) has giant animals but in the 21st Century they weren’t created by atomic isotopes, we have evolved into genetic research and experimentation.  We can now make any creature our ID, a word that comes from the 1956 movie, “Forbidden Planet.”  It stood for the subconscious.  Since today’s genetics scientists don’t have a conscience in what they are playing with, there is no limit to the number of creatures and stories that can be created.

mighty1Rampage also has elements from another era—the 1940’s.  In 1949, a film called, “Mighty Joe Young,” which was a take-off of the 1933, “King Kong.”  Mighty Joe Young is about a young woman who befriends a giant ape in Africa.  Rampage, on the other hand, has a primatologist who befriends an albino ape he saved while in Africa.

WarofWorlds

But it doesn’t stop there.  Like the H.G. Wells story, “War of the Worlds,” nothing seems to be able to stop the giant creatures as they descend on Chicago.  I find it interesting that the three cities most adopted to get attacked by creatures or aliens seems to be Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York.  How would the story change if aliens or giant creatures attacked Madison, Wisconsin, Greenville, South Carolina, or San Jose, California?

Isn’t it amazing that all the military power that can take down a country can’t take down a giant animal or insect?  And, like most of stories, the military always has an atomic weapon, I guess a trump card from the 1950’s to wipe out the creature(s) and the whole city.  But wait, we won’t have to do that.  Why?  Because there is always one individual who has been studying the creature and knows the weak spot.  Shakes of Smoke, the Dragon in, “The Lord of the Rings.”  There is always one plate, one Achilles hill, that can take down the enemy.

And our protagonist, who can be a young boy to a young girl, a student, or a librarian intern, always has studied the problem more than the experts and will be responsible for delivering the final blow.  It’s all part of the pattern of The Hero’s Journey—You got to love it!

Storyteller Secrets

Hidden Stories

58b876ae0795aI came across an old newspaper from the 1920’s and was surveying the want ads when I spotted a business looking for a computer to help out in their accounting department.  A computer in the 1920s? A computer then was a human who had excellent math skills.  In fact, in the movie, “Hidden Figures,” the women working for NASA in calculating data were also called, “computers.”  Imagine, the original IBM 360 cost $5 billion dollars and had a processor that could perform 34,500 instructions per second.  Now compare that to today’s laptops that can cost a few thousand dollars and process two billion instructions per second?!

 

Farmer Sowing by HandBack in the 1700’s, a farmer sewing his fields had to take a handful of seeds from his pouch and then as hard as he could he would cast them out into his field as he walked —hence the word broad casting.  The word changed in the 1920’s, as radio towers began to cast out their radio waves to a broad area.  Today, broadcasting is used when you use your cell phone with an app like Google Live, Periscope, Streamup, YouNow, LivesStream and other App software.  Except your broadcast is no longer local but literally globally.

Periscope-broadcast

Building-a-Proper-Wood-Fire-in-Your-Home-FireplaceBack in the 1600’s, the backlog was quite literally “the largest log, located toward the back of the fire.”  It was a way to keep the fire burning.  A few centuries later the meaning came to be known for “something stored up for later use.”  Today, backlog has the meaning, “that things are being held up,” but it has started to evolve into a TODO app to help organize schedules, times, and orders.  So, maybe it’s still a way to keep the fire from burning out.

MV5BNzQzOTk3OTAtNDQ0Zi00ZTVkLWI0MTEtMDllZjNkYzNjNTc4L2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjU0OTQ0OTY@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_In the 1300’s, a matrix was a “pregnant animal” or “breeding female.”  The word later became known as the womb or enclosure.  This seems to be the strongest sense at play in the 1999 film, “The Matrix: humans trapped inside the ‘womb’ of the Matrix. . .their bodies forced to pump bio-electricity to generate its power.

 

 

 

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Thousands of years ago, Hindu mythology talked about their gods descending their world into ours and changed their spirit bodies into material forms called avatars.  Interesting enough James Cameron’s Avatar came from a game in the 1980’s called Habitat.  This was the first large-scale online role-playing game in history.  People interacted with others in this virtual world through their avatars.  Interesting enough the movie, ‘Ready Player One,’ almost seems to be a playoff of the 1980 Habitat.

An Egyptian boy writing. Scribe, hieroglyphs, symbols denoting meaning. Carving in stone or painting. System of sign language. Ancient Egypt.TB1X_x4RVXXXXX6aXXXXXXXXXXX

 

 

 

 

 

In the 1300’s, before paper, tablets were made of clay, wax-covered wood, or a soft surface to write on.  One generally used a stylus to etch words into the clay or soft surface.  Interesting enough we still use a stylus to draw or write with on an electronic surface of light.  How does this differ from medicine tablet?  That’s another story.

I hope you found this reading interesting, it’s always fun to find hidden treasures that bring enlightenment and discovery.   Because, in the end, it’s still about the story.

Storyteller Secrets

Digital Storytelling-P3

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The rules for digital stories have changed.  Story themes that go viral have created a new set of rules.  But the first rule that still applies--is your story compelling?  The six elements that work together to make this happen are: the message, content, visual images, color, action and timing.

Timing is more than the length of the story, it also represents viewer’s attention.  This is one reason I keep my daily blogs down to 500 words, that is about 2-minutes of reading  time out loud.  My blog competes with thousands of other blogs for not just your attention–but your time.

Digital stories have more elements to combine than regular storytelling, so the timing is very important in both presentation and delivery.  I cannot emphasize enough that a digital story should be created and developed on a storyboard—yesterday’s lesson.  A storyboard helps to craft and develop how the six elements bring continuity and appeal to attract visitors to your site.

Remember, that it is the message not the story you are really trying to deliver.  If this is a strategic story then the message has a call to action for a response step.  It all begins with your script.  Scripts are generally written in font 12 and double spaced.  Depending on the script, one page formatted in this matter could be equal to one-minute or more.

An actor can be a narrator’s voice, an actual person, an animated character, or even an object.  The story will have a certain pace to emphasize points towards your message.  Back in the 1980’s, John Moschitta, made several commercials for different companies.  He was known as the fastest speaker on record.  Here is an example of a 1980, 30-second commercial he made.

The fast pace kept the viewer’s attention because it motivated the listener to pay attention to the words.  Had John spoke at a normal speed this probably would have been a one-minute commercial.  The hook was John’s pace and lack of pauses, it forced the listener’s attention and was quite successful.

When to release your story is another timing issue.  If your digital story is for brand marketing or sales then Thursday’s and Sundays are the best days to reach customers surfing on the Net.  If your story pertains to a current event then releasing the story as soon as possible will be important.  Adding twitter hash marks will help . During the day, the best times for release are between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on the West Coast.  These times will vary across the world depending on highest commuter traffic.

Rehearsal is probably the last important key to timing.  I enjoy the character Data, an android character, on the Star Trek Next Generation series.  In this clip, Data is trying out his joke to Guinan (played by Woopie Goldberg).  What this clip will illustrate is that you can have quality material, but if timing is off, you lose reliability.  In humor that’s the punch line.  In Digital Storytelling that’s your message.

Storyteller Secrets

Digital Storytelling-P2

Walt_Disney_storyboardsBetween 1931 and 1968, Walt Disney won 32 Academy Awards and still holds the record for most individual Academy Awards won.  Walt was known for pushing the envelope in storytelling and making animation an entertainment for both children and adults.

The storyboards that were created by Disney artists were more than just good artwork, they served another special purpose.  Walt used his storyboards to tell his story to his artists.  He used voices and body gestures to act out the whole story as it appeared on the storyboard.

sketching-painting-digital-animation-softwares-classes-in-delhi1You might be thinking, okay that sounds good, but I’m not making a movie or animation.  True, but you are telling a story and  digital storytelling  opens up a multitude of digital multimedia choices.  But it all starts with the storyboard.

 

spielberg-storyboardsA storyboard is a pre-production map showing your story beginning, middle and ending.  Steven Spielberg is known as being a great storyteller.  All you have to do is see any of his movies from E.T. to Jurassic Park.  Spielberg even has his storyboards out on location so that he can prepare and direct his shots.

As I stated in yesterday’s blog, a storyboard is like a cartoon strip showing a quick shot of a scene, its action, dialog, and what music or sound effects are going on.

Here is a simple student’s storyboard.  You can follow the story as you work through each frame from 1 – 14.

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 Putting these image together creates the story in action.  Like below.

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You can draw your own storyboard or pick up a template like the one above online.

To learn how a storyboard works study this 30-second commercial.

This 30-second commercial has only four scenes.  Sometimes it helps to turn off the sound and just watch the visual action.  What’s the message?

The message is water is essential for your health.  The majority of the commercial is on a young male who appears to quenching his thirst after a workout.  The commercial ends with a bottle of water.  This commercial does not sponsor any particular water company.

A storyboard is absolutely necessary if you want to make a good digital story.  A storyboard helps in the post-production stage; making sure the images have continuity; deciding which music selection best works;  if any sound effect needs to be added; choosing the best text font to communicate the story’s theme; and making sure your message is clear.

Every image must be able to tell the story without the help of words or sound.  Remember a good story is passed on while a poor story is passed by.  What changes would you make in the above water commercial?  Which image needs to be changed to drive the point that power drinks and sodas are not helping the body to quench its thirst?

Tomorrow and the next few days, we will discuss Timing in regards to how long each scene should be, and the supporting actors like color, music, and sound effects choices.  If you have any questions send me an email.

Storyteller Secrets

Digital Storytelling-P1

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For thousands of years, storytellers passed down their stories orally.  Around 8,000 years ago, the first story was recorded on a clay tablet called a cuneiform.  That story was called, “The Epic of Gilgamesh.”  Oral tradition was the preferred method of telling stories until the 15th Century when the printing press was invented.   Today, the magic of digital technology has created a whole new reality in storytelling–digital storytelling.

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Digital Storytelling can combine: pictures, video, multimedia, audio, hypertext, 2D & 3D animation, music, sound effects, text, and narrations into an interactive and engaging format that can motivate and increase learning across the board.  In addition, the four learning styles: auditory, visual, reading, and kinesthetic are in full force in the majority of good digital stories.

So, what is Digital Storytelling?  Jerome Gratigny did a fine job of telling exactly what it is.

But at its core is still the message.  The rest of the digital storytelling elements are metaphors that keep supporting the message.  Therefore, the music must become a metaphor for the message, the colors, animation, images, dialog, whatever you are using becomes a metaphor  for the message.

Now, because of the wide array of digital elements available the old method of ‘writing it up’ needs to evolve.  It is best to use a storyboard.  So, what is a storyboard?

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A comic strip is a good example of a storyboard.  This is a four-panel storyboard from beginning to end reading left to right.  Every time I mention storyboard a hand goes up followed by, “I can’t draw!”  In truth, you don’t have to know how to draw.  You must just understand a storyboard is no more than a map showing where you start and finish.  We will go over in more detail tomorrow about how to put a storyboard together.

The next element is timing.  How long should your story be?  That depends on your message.  The commercials in Super bowl 2018 will cost over $5 million dollars for a 30-second ad.  Take a look at these 2017 Super Bowl ads, which cost only $166,667 dollars per second.  Can you identify the message?

When telling a story all you need is a little creativity and imagination.  When putting a digital story together you must think outside the box.  Don’t just think of still images anymore.  Think of images that actually move.

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There are thousands of ways to add digital media.  It is not about how much, but more what you need in order to move the story and the message forward.  The big difference between the 1951 and 2008 remake of, “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” was the 1951 had a message; whereas, the 2008 decided to concentrate on CGI and SFX.  That is why the 2008 remake movie bombed.  People go to the movies to be entertained with a story and to come out with a message.

A computer hooked up the Internet is a magic wand for you to deliver your message.  But it can also be Pandora’s box.   Tomorrow, we will explore the story-board.

NaaM

 

Storyteller Secrets

Strategic Storytelling-Branding 3

When Branding, it is important that you deliver one simple message.  That message must be clear and carry emotion.  As any stand-up comedian will testify to, humor is a hard topic to develop.  As a comic, you are constantly trying to figure out what will make the audience laugh.  Audience mood, subject matter, timing, and occasion are all elements in preparing humor.

On the other hand, you would think human emotion would be more straight forward.  However, humor also has, like in law, a statute of limitations.  A good example is William Shakespeare’s, “Merchant of Venice.”  In the court scene, Shylock, a Jew, will lose his fortune and must convert to Christianity.  Today, when this scene is played out, there is sadness; however, 500 years ago, the audience was belly laughing at this scene.

There are still some forms of humor that maintain, like slapstick, a more physical humor that has been played out for centuries.  Humor based on a play of words can be dated as the meaning of the words or expression change in time.  Whereas, a single tear, still has the emotional response expected.

Generational family topics can be moving like the following video.  No words needed to be spoken and you understand what the company is branding.

This is another military topic where generations having shared similar ordeals and threats meet in an unlikely location.  This video also shows that sex and race are not a criteria for anyone who has served in the armed services.

Did you note that both videos use a single piano to set the emotional tone?   Music can set the tone and mood for the response expected.  Music is a powerful emotional element to add to any video.  Music must be chosen on how you want the audience to react and experience, not what you like.

 

In the Food City video, when the young man starts to walk up to the house his face is bright and happy as he looks around, then he sees the older soldier dressed up in his full-dress uniform.  The young man’s face slowly changes to a more respectful serious look, dropping his bag, as he moves slowly towards the older solder.  The witness to all of this is one woman who turns to see the two solders meet.  The embrace of the soldiers is the signal for all to encircle the two soldiers and it ends.

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In the American Airlines, a young black female dressed in camouflage fatigues is asked to board first.  The room is crowded, but there are older men who take special attention to this young soldier as she walks forward.  She walks between a row of people but spots one older man who has stood at attention  presenting her a salute.  She humbly acknowledges it with a shy smile and a nod.  The narrator’s words are unnecessary,  the message is clear.

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The piano is a string instrument.  How would an acoustic guitar change the mood in these videos?

Strategic Story

Strategic Storytelling-Branding 2

After yesterday’s Story-branding, I decided to look for videos that could be critiqued and even possibly improved if they were changed to a story.  It didn’t take long for me to find one.  Before I say anymore, look at this Real Estate video.

 

 

The video was published on July 20, 2017.  The message for this video was to announce a First-Time Home-buyers Seminar that was scheduled for August 16, 2017.  The message took 10-seconds.  So, first let’s go over what’s wrong with this video.

First, it should have already been taken down after Aug. 16th.   This is out dated information.

Humor is a great attention grabber IF it makes a point–this one didn’t.  This group is hosting a First-Time Home-buyers Seminar.  What will be discussed?  What do I need to know in order to buy my first home?  What will I get out of this seminar when I leave?  Of course, none of these questions were asked.  What I observed were five well-dressed RE agents doing out-of-date 1980 dancing in the lobby of their office.  Here is an alternative for a one-minute story presentation.

INT.  KITCHEN   {Wife hands a letter to her husband}

HUSBAND

                                                  What’s this?

WIFE

Our rent is being increased again

HUSBAND

[ANGRY AND FRUSTRATED]

{Reads the letter and then crumbles it up and throws it into the trash}

This is never going to stop.  If we owned a home, like our parents, we would be better off.  But I just don’t think we can afford it.

WIFE

I’m not sure if we could even qualify.  They go by credit scores and how much money you got in the bank.

HUSBAND

I’ve gone online, but there just too much information and education to figure it all out.  I just wish we knew someone we could talk to.

INT.  [CAMERA PANS TO RIGHT] TO RE AGENT BEHIND THE COUPLE.  CAMERA ZOOMS IN SLOWLY ON AGENT AS HE SPEAKS.

AGENT

Let us help you answer these and other questions you might have at our free First Time Home-buyers Seminar.  Come with your concerns and questions and you’ll leave not only with answers, but who knows, maybe with an idea where you might just buy your first home.  Let us be your guide and take you through the steps.  We’re here for you.

A window to click to reserve your free seats could have helped in getting customer information.  This group overlooked several opportunities to collect intel and future leads.

Now, let’s end with this advertisement for Ubiquity World Network.  Remember Hitchcock on the visuals setting the tone, communicating the message, and transferring the emotions.  You will find all three in this one-minute clip.  I especially enjoyed the transitions between scenes.  This is not hard to do, it just takes time to plan it out.  The story has a beginning with the architect designer, how the company differs from cable companies, and ends with a united family using the Net.

 

AfterEffects software can do both these transitions and animations.  Worth thinking about.