Storymaking vs. Storytelling

One of the reasons I live in LA is because the people who tell our culture’s stories live here. They’re the screenwriters, actors, producers and directors who transform ideas into films, TV shows and commercials. I’ve taken a number of entertainment studies courses at UCLA Extension’s Entertainment Studies program to educate myself about the language of media, in the form of filmmaking, motion graphics and digital video.

As people in business start to recognize the importance of “story” in communications, what better place to to learn about it than the place where people have been telling stories with media for a century? In that spirit, I heard about a screenwriting workshop conducted by Jim Bonnet, and decided to attend the 2-day session. I knew I was going to connect with Jim’s work because the name of his website is “Storymaking.”

It’s always struck me that story”making” is the right model for our time rather than story”telling”. Storytelling implies that I’m a passive recipient of your story, which is the model for most film and TV: I sit and receive your pre-determined message that already has a beginning, middle and end, and I don’t have any involvement in its outcome. That’s fine if I want to sit and be entertained — to laugh, but not think.

On the other hand, it’s not good for anybody’s business if people are passive and not thinking. So our challenge is to use the new power of media we have on our desktops and projectors to innovate new ways of engaging people, and open up fresh ideas and relationship. Will we use our new power of media to put on a performance, or to facilitate understanding? If we want to accomplish the latter, we need to figure out storymaking with media. And that means figuring out ways your audience can participate with you in the making of story.

Tip: A story is the way we make sense out of complicated things, so we can figure out what to do next. Jim described it as a “problem-solving technique”, which explains why a story always has to have a problem at its beginning, which the actors in the story try to solve. Open up your PowerPoint presentation and ask – what is the core problem here, from my audience’s perspective? Click on that key slide, and move it to the front. That’s the beginning of your story. Because we deal with problems and with change every day, we’re always looking for solutions, and stories can be symbols that point out ways to deal with them. Think of your PowerPoint as a tool to help make a story that’s relevant to your audience, and that engages them along the way so everyone can have a happy ending together. Until the next story, that is…

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3 Responses to “Storymaking vs. Storytelling”

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