Storyteller Secrets

How Stories Grab Visibility

It was estimated that 12 million viewers watched Super Bowl LIII from home; if you add the restaurants, bars, and clubs who also tuned-in the total number of viewers was closer to 112.7 million people (according to the Nielsen report).  The commercial spot cost $175,000 dollars per second, or $5.25 Million dollars for 30 seconds.  What did these companies get for their money?  Visibility, Attention, and Connections.

First, Visibility.  There are 28 million businesses online and more being developed every day, but they are also competing with daily news, entertainment sites, social media and more.  If your site is camouflaged with the wrong message than you are invisible.

Second, Attention. The one thing all businesses have in common is to attract people to their site.  The average clocked time when viewing a site for the first time is 3-8 seconds.  If you can’t capture the viewer in this time segment you’ve lost a sale.

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Madonna of Chancellor Rolin 1434:                           Wikimedia Creative Commons

 

 

Third, Connections.  All the commercials in Super Bowl LIII made connections not only with the game but also the winner-The Patriots.  This type of connection is important, and has been done since ancient times.  In both the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods, rich patrons paid big money to commission well known artists to paint their likeness into a religious painting.  For example, the patron, Chancellor Rolin, is seen kneeling before the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus.  Putting him in the same picture with the Virgin and Child was a 14th Century branding spot.  It elevated his prestige among the people, his place in the nobility, and his place in Heaven.

Most businesses online could not even imagine having the funds to produce a 30-second Super Bowl commercial spot; however, everyone has a story to tell.  A story that makes the emotional connection can produce an action; if you have the right story to tell.  The key is to connect the emotions of the viewer to the product or service as a solution.

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Wikipedia: Creative Commons

Back in the 1980’s, there was a PSA on addressing the subject of drug addiction.  In 15 seconds the viewer would see an egg fried on a hot skillet.  The narrator had only 14 words: “Okay, last time. This is drugs.  This is your brain on drugs.  Any Questions?”   A quick storyline like this has three immediate points:  Attention, Arousal, and Action.  The commercial has had several parodies over the years, but the message is still clear.

I have written about the chemical changes that occur in the human brain when a story is told. It doesn’t matter whether the story is told by a person or an animation; the results are the same if emotions are triggered.  (See: The Perfect Story)

In March, I will be hosting a free Webinar to teach how to develop digital storytelling.  I will not be selling any books, CD’s, or material.  There will be time for questions.  If you are interested send a request for more information and to reserve your place.  Hope you will be able to join us online.

Peter.Rome@Mail.com

 

Stories inside a Story, Storyteller Secrets, UPDATE

Stories that Entertain & Educate

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As a storyteller, I enjoy reading and hearing stories from other authors.  Daniel Lieske’s “The Journey Begins” is one of those authors who is both a storyteller and illustrator.  Great combination.  If you click on the image above you will be transported to an enjoyable journey through his imagination and story development.

pvjx8cnrnnktcuxfppmkThis past weekend, I saw Spike Lee’s production of “BLACKkKLANSMAN.”  Based on a true story about an African-American police officer who is able to infiltrate the local Colorado KKK with the help of a white Jewish officer.  The events took place almost 40 years ago, in a time I well remembered.  The film’s ending centers on the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.  It ends with footage of the white supremacist, David Duke and  statements made by President Trump.  The connection is made and I wonder if more of these stories aren’t going to pop up as we move into the next Presidential election.  What do you think?

flowerBack in 1961, my elementary school friend, Darryl Yee, was hired into an all Asian cast movie called, “The Flower Drum Song.”  The movie centered on the cultural issues between Chinese parents born in China and their children born in the United States.  The movie setting was San Francisco.  Now, 57 years later, the newest all Asian cast movie, “Crazy Rich Asian,” has also had success on the big screen.  The theme is similar with a similar theme of Chinese born in the United States vs those born in China.  Traditions and cultural changes.    But this is a similar theme for any ethnicity coming from the East, West, or South.  The real issues in these stories are based on tradition in how another culture works.  thediplomat-mv5bmtyxndmyotaxn15bml5banbnxkftztgwmdg1odyzntm._v1_-386x572

  For example, both leading women, in both movies, wear red and have Chinese fans as part of their identification.  Is this a stereotype,  tradition, or identification of a culture?  The real concern in both of these movies focused on whether the next generation had lost their mother tongue and traditions in favor of adopting their new culture fully.  In both movies, there is a cannibalizing of both the old and new culture to create a new one.  While an older generation will say it has been watered down, the new generation feels it has taken the best from both worlds.

Stories have the power the change peoples thoughts, prejudices and stereotypes.  They have the power to raise up a righteous causes or  dictators.  Stories have influenced our culture, our understanding, and even how we make our decisions.  Stories can be as small as a 30 second commercial to a 3-hour blockbuster.  Stories are always thought as a form of entertainment, but good stories educate too!  What stories have had influence in your life?

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.

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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.

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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-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?