A Story Manifesto
Posted 13 May 2010 - 10:37 AM
This is a presentation I recently gave about "Story". The ideas are definitely "in process" and represent my thinking today which very well may change tomorrow. As always, I'm looking to sharpen my ideas, so if anyone thinks I am full of it, let me know.
Posted 13 May 2010 - 01:57 PM
Everyone else - watch this. There are a lot of good points to focus on and Nate leaves the door open for further, tangential, conversation.
Posted 13 May 2010 - 03:42 PM
Thanks. This was given at the weekly chapel service at the National Service Center for InterVarsity. The audience was a collection of support start and organizational leaders - not really filmmakers (other than people in the communications dept.)
It was received very well (especially by some of the younger staff.) I think it probably gave words to what people feel or intuit.
Posted 18 May 2010 - 10:50 AM
“Story is the telling (or can be the telling) of conflict that leads to transformation.” This is an intriguing idea. “Story is” seems much more exclusive and definite, whereas “story can be” is more of a choice in methods and content. I want to make sure I don’t go down the wrong path in this conversation, this is leaning toward the type of story you [Nate] would like to tell, correct? I actually think I heard you say this at one point, which would render the “story” question moot. Anyway, this isn’t “story” as a blanket definition, right?
I just watched Michael Haneke’s Funny Games and I would argue, quite emphatically, that this is a story without transformation; however, there is a ton of conflict. Do you think that a story must resolve itself?
I guess I am alluding to the idea that this definition seems to be a more conventional and largely accepted definition or approach to “story”. It is also, probably more adaptable to communicating specific thoughts, morals, values, etc., from the author’s perspective, as well as largely relatable and easily ingested from the audience perspective.
So, I am wondering, for the sake of discussion, if we should limit this conversation to the above definition or talk about the bigger idea of “story.” Maybe this doesn’t even matter and we should be more specific or we should think about this from the aspect of Christian storytelling or storytelling to Christians or church audiences.
I thought about a lot of things while watching this presentation (documentary and fiction storytelling, Christian storytellers, Christians audiences, ethics of Christians in documentary filmmaking). I will us jot down a couple ideas and post in a bit.
Thanks again Nate for starting this conversation and thought process in my own head.
Posted 19 June 2010 - 10:06 AM
I love the way you consider the title and tie it into the story. I think this is an important notion, one that could extend into specific font choices. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Frederick Wiseman, in small group gatherings, last year and he really gives considerable thought to this issue of title and font connection with the story that is to follow.
I think it would be interesting to dig into the idea of "great story". Do you think this is a bit subjective? One qualifier that that I often get sucked into is that this could be "story" as served by the greater accepted mass culture or, in other words, a structure that is acceptable for the market place. So, in order to get a Christian message of transformation and continued conflict heard, do we need to cater to the larger idea of story. I do approach this with a bit of a social scientist mindset - hopefully not to introduce any difficulty to the conversation. Some of this begs the question of audience. I would be interested in discussing in hearing how one considers the audience. Should a story always be crafted for a specific audience?
You say that, "Stories should tell the truth, not preach an agenda." Can we leave room for stories to create questions and conversation? Truth can be rater elusive.
The idea of patronage is deserving of more intentional conversation. This was part of the discussion about 7- 8 years ago coming from the emergence of the up/rooted platform for gathering. MLeary and I had this conversation as well as a few others. Unfortunately, this does begin to create ethical questions, responsibilities, and potentially answering to a board. Art seems to be one of the most difficult things to get most congregations to rally around, unless there is some specific Evangelical message or local church promotion.
Posted 22 June 2010 - 11:20 AM
I often wonder about the issue of audience. It certainly has affected the decisions I have made in terms of delivery. So with a web audience I am much more likely to have a flashy beginning. In fact, the piece that I just finished changed dramatically because we felt it wasn't working for the web. It slowly built and revealed that these were indeed gang members and some were convicted killers. But I felt you can't do that with the web where people will just browse onto the next piece. That said, this might be a different definition of audience that is more about venue.
Most changes that I make to my documentaries to accommodate the audience are in fact client driven. So a client says we need our audience to understand that these people are more Christian than this communicates (or something like that.) I guess that's what happens when you create pieces that are supposed to communicate vision instead of reporting / story telling. This is the danger I find in much of the movement towards using documentary in non-profit / church communication. Most of the time our organizational vision doesn't line up with what actually happens so usually we change what happens (or leave out important details.)
In my personal work like Wrestling For Jesus, I find I think very little about the audience. Only in as much as I wonder if the story makes sense.
Posted 22 June 2010 - 02:42 PM
So, basically, in this conversation when we talk about transformation we are talking about some sort of change and not necessarily a major change or a change to the main characters.
I think dividing the question of audience into two groups clients and personal feels like a good way to think about this subject. And the way you explain it makes perfect sense to do so. It is important to deliver a product to the client that they feel captures and communicates what they intended.
Internet delivery and audience is a whole other ball of wax.