Storytelling

Storytelling Comes Alive Through "The Artist"

While the new world of Hollywood is filled with special effects, violence and sometimes limited storylines, multiple Academy Award nominee The Artist is a perfect example of how to engage an audience the old fashioned way.

Filmed in black and white and with no dialogue, The Artist proves that with a good story you don't need complicated technology and complex plotlines to create a winner.

Originally I was skeptical at the prospect of seeing a silent film. I'm a fan of Chaplin, but wasn't sure whether "old world" techniques would appeal to a modern day audience. My skepticism quickly faded during the first 15 minutes of the film. Set in Hollywood in the 1920's, The Artist is the story of silent film star George Valentin and his concerns that the arrival of the "talkies" would ruin his career. There's also a subplot surrounding young dancer Peppy Miller and how their worlds eventually end up colliding.

In a nutshell, The Artist proves that what's old can be new again.

So what makes The Artist an example of timely, effective and engaging storytelling?

  1. The story delves into a universal theme that's as relevant in 1920's Hollywood as it is today - fears held by the older generation that their relevence and skills will be outpaced as technology continues to evolve and younger players take over
  2. There's a huge emotional connection to the audience. Although the movie is silent, the audience is transported into the story through cinematography, the looks and actions of the actors and the music. Classic storytelling. At some points in the movie, there wasn't a dry eye in the house
  3. The movie made you laugh. Thanks in part to canine star "Uggie", the movie was highly comedic. Comedy vs. tragedy - universal themes in storytelling that have the effect of playing with the audience in an effort to entertain and inspire
  4. The movie was filmed in black and white. This added a magical and mysterious element to the story that transcended any other method of modern day filmmaking

The Artist received 10 Academy Award nominations next to Martin Scorsese's highly acclaimed Hugo (11 noms). While worldwide audiences will have to wait until the Academy Awards show on February 26, in my mind The Artist is already a winner and shining example of how lack of dialogue combined with music, incredible acting, universal storytelling and award winning cinematography can win both critial acclaim as well as the hearts and minds of global audiences.

Do you think The Artist is a great example of engaging storytelling? Why? If not, why not?

Uggie

 


The Story of Christmas Is A Culinary Journey Through Time

Christmas is my favourite time of year. It's a time to reconnect with loved ones..to take stock of the past and fill your mind with hopes and wishes for the year ahead.

Underneath all the consumerism and hectic scheduling is an undercurrent of magic and imagination that reminds me of simpler times. Times when our only true responsibility was to be a kid. We only had to believe, and it would come true. As we grew into adulthood, the magic and sense of wonder started to wear off to make way for life and its increasing array of responsibilities, triumphs and disappointments.

Yet Christmas is the one time of year that allows us to reconnect with this long lost sense of wonder and hope. As I bake yet another cookie recipe, my mind goes back to the time when my Mom and grandmother would pass me the spoon to lick the bowl. I would always show up at just the right time to indulge in sampling. To this day, I delight in raw cookie dough, only now I enjoy its flavour throughout the year in a tub of gourmet ice cream.

The baking experience is essential to the Christmas story. It reminds me of time shared as a family, of loved ones long gone - and those who are still around to carry on the tradition. It's a feeling of family and community that cannot be duplicated at any other time of the year. Even though family is to be found all over the world, the sights, sounds and smells of the Christmas season still live in my heart each year as I contemplate yet another sugary dish.

Wandering through the Christmas Market in Toronto's Distillery District last week immersed me in a sea of memories that allowed me to reconnect with long lost times. Being of German heritage, I grew up on stollen, Marzipan - and a variety of sumptuous German, Austrian and Swiss chocolates. My Omi's baking included the ever famous rum balls - almost always filled with more rum than chocolate.

One of my fondest Christmas memories was the arrival of my grandmother's Christmas parcel from Germany. It was a culinary delight filled with treasures from all over Europe. And in every package was a new addition to my beloved Steiff toys...a brand I take pride in to this day.

I could take just about everything used to symbolize Christmas and map out a story of my life. And that's the neat thing about stories. The best ones contain an emotional component that allows us to reconnect with experiences long lost within ourselves.

So here's to Christmas. And a wish for all my readers that 2011 gives you the chance to script the best story of your life. Thanks for reading!

Stollen  
 


American Idol Proves Anything Sells - As Long As It's A Good Story!

I enjoy watching American Idol to see both the best - and worst of American talent. The show is a smoothly crafted PR machine - and marketers dream. To merely be on the show guarantees viewership of an audience greater than that participating in most American elections!

The story is simple. Show talent - and sell talent - by inviting the audience to become part of the process. But once in a while the show's producers throw us for a loop - as they did in the case of allowing 63 year old civil rights veteran "General" Larry Platt perform his internet sensation hit..."Pants on the Ground."

PantsonthegroundWhen I first saw the clip I cringed at the insanity of allowing this guy to perform on the show. That is, until I read his story. Apparently Platt is a civil rights veteran and has photos of himself alongside such greats as Martin Luther King Jr. He has awards from city and state officials for his social justice work. The song's title is meant to be a jab at young people today who insist on wearing baggy pants. The implication being that they've either forgotten about the past - or know about it and don't take the time to respect the work that was done to protect civil rights.

Platt's song quickly became an internet sensation garnering yet more publicity for both himself - as well as for the show. In a world where instant fame is just a click away, Platt's story is living proof that you can still act like a nutbar...yet still win us over if you have a good story to back it up.

What did you think of Platt's appearance on the show? What about the judge's reaction to the performance? Why is it that the song is such an internet sensation?



Proctor and Gamble Adds 'Bounce' to Storytelling

Family_product_febreze

Proctor and Gamble has come up with a new twist on storytelling for their line of fresh scented dryer sheets. Bounce sheets come in a variety of colours, and help freshen your clothes and reduce static in the dryer.

Turns out that Bounce can be used for more than just laundry. In a new television, interactive and print campaign, consumers are invited to share their stories about the product by submitting them to the brand's website. The title is intriguing and begs for interaction by asking consumers: "Do you bounce beyond the dryer?" The copy contains the line: "Behind every good idea lies an even better story."

Stories must be based on true personal experiences, and other Bounce users are invited to rate the stories based on a "Clever Level." One lucky author will be chosen every week to win one month of free maid service.

The campaign is interesting and innovative on several levels:

1) It draws on the experiences and stories of people who actually use the product (adds credibility by making the campaign more believable and "real")

2) It combines print, interactive and television ads making the brand more memorable

3) There's a payoff for people who choose to share their stories prefaced by a "call to action"

4) People are engaged to participate in the "Bounce Community" through a storytelling component that draws on their competitive spirit (the stories are rated)

5) The final media ads (also involving intriguing stories) are also featured on the website should consumers wish to view them

6) It helps increase sales by introducing other uses for the product

This type of storytelling used in advertising is nothing new, but it's the way that Proctor and Gamble does it that draws the viewer into the experience of the brand. Who knew that one could get all that from a small, scented Bounce sheet!

What other brands encourage participation through storytelling? Are you surprised that more companies don't take advantage of this technique?


Your Life Story in Six Words or Less

LIFE STORY...six words or less

In November 2006, editor Larry Smith posted a challenge on his website smithmag.net, asking people to write their life story in six words or less. Smith received 15,000 replies within the first two months, the best of which have been published in the New York Times Bestseller "Not Quite What I Was Planning."

The Toronto Star decided to pick up where Smith left off, and threw the challenge out to Star readers. Here are some of the most memorable entries:

1) Started out strong, what went wrong? (Robert Smith, Boston)

2) Evidently, I was homeschooled by nuts. (Christopher Murphy, Toronto)

3) Overeducated janitor: My ambition lacks ignition. (Chelsea Maloney, Dunnville)

4) Financially good - everything else a bust. (Emanuel Samuel, North York)

5) I have not accomplished much - yet. (Daniel Rudmin, Vancouver)

6) I was good to my dog. (Frank Green, Paisley)

7) I have lived in total obscurity. (Sonia Holder, Hamilton)

Here's a shot at my own: "Didn't listen to my parents. Oops..."

Someone once said that everyone has a story to tell. What's yours? Can you tell it in six words or less?