The power of narrative

Children at First Lubuto Library

While working on Perceptive Media, I came across many examples of narrative and the power of storytelling. Something which I’ve been trying to demonstrate in my presentations pointing at how little subtle things can have huge effects. Recently I saw this which reminded me I haven’t posted anything about it recently

Telling stories is not just the oldest form of entertainment, it’s the highest form of consciousness. The need for narrative is embedded deep in our brains. Increasingly, success in the information age demands that we harness the hidden power of stories…

…in four decades in the movie business, I’ve come to see that stories are not only for the big screen, Shakespearean plays, and John Grisham novels. I’ve come to see that they are far more than entertainment. They are the most effective form of human communication, more powerful than any other way of packaging information. And telling purposeful stories is certainly the most efficient means of persuasion in everyday life, the most effective way of translating ideas into action, whether you’re green-lighting a $90 million film project, motivating employees to meet an important deadline, or getting your kids through a crisis.

When I was training to be a designer, it was drummed in to our brains that you need to have a story to explain the product, service, etc… Without that story or narrative your on a loosing road. Not only that but you want to give them the least distractions as possible.

Stories, unlike straight-up information, can change our lives because they directly involve us, bringing us into the inner world of the protagonist. As I tell the students in one of my UCLA graduate courses, Navigating a Narrative World, without stories not only would we not likely have survived as a species, we couldn’t understand ourselves. They provoke our memory and give us the framework for much of our understanding. They also reflect the way the brain works. While we think of stories as fluff, accessories to information, something extraneous to real work, they turn out to be the cornerstone of consciousness.

Enough said… but if you do get the chance to read all 3 long pages, it will be worth it…

What Cinema can learn from TV?

Adopt the internet

A few blog posts ago I was talking about Cinema and the audience using their phones in the cinema to share the experience and hinted at some other things Cinema can learn from TV.

Me and Hugh were arguing in FYG, Television has gotten the cluetrain like the film industry hasn’t yet. (it has a long way to go, to be at one with the internet but alas…). Live TV is the new fashion and teamed up with Twitter its giving TV a way to do explicit feedback like never before. I’ve attended so many talks where twitter integration is taken as the norm, actually what was weird was hearing our European public broadcasters talking about using Facebook instead of Twitter hashtags.

So generally…

Live TV + Twitter = Good experience

I wonder if Cinema and the film industry can learn something from this?

Cinema + Twitter = ? experience

I already expressed an dislike of people using there phones in the cinema due to the light but if you could tweet without ruing the darkness of a cinema, now that would be interesting… Of course the ability for people to be able to take pictures of the screen is a massive problem but tweeting about scenes could maybe increase the engagement (specially tweeting alongside premieres). Maybe theres a way to replay a hashtag in real-time along with a film?

This could work if films adopted something like along film releases rather than using twitter per-say. Being in control of the microblogging means spoilers can be moderated and that replay feature can work. However your never really going stop people using Twitter oppose to using your own backchannel system? If it did work, imagine what you could do with the DVD, Bluray, digital download releases. Replay the best/insightful comments, add the directors comments, tweets from the actors, staff, etc… Who knows?

Maybe the whole aping TV is a distraction and there is something which it can do which is more interesting and more native to films? I had thought about using sensors within the cinema, perceptive media style? But its strikes me Hollywood is never going to allow customisation of films. Just like TV doesn’t want to see the same. Maybe sending the stats to the Internet and visualising them could be somewhat interesting? But hardly ground breaking… Sure a few people are thinking about this and will make a killing…