Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Telling Great Stories - Advice From the Master: Ira Glass

As a filmmaker and brand strategist, it's my passion to tell stories. It's my desire to make them as succinct, compelling and entertaining as possible. I listen to This American Life on a routine basis and respect Ira's talent to tell stories. Lucky for us he's put together a series on how to be a successful story teller. They're inspirational. Here's each film and a summary of the key points Ira discusses.

Ira Glass on Storytelling # 1

Know the 2 basic building blocks:
1. the anecdote - the story ( a sequence of events) in its purest form
2. moment of reflection - this is the "bigger something" we are driving at. raise questions (the bait) and answer them
- a good story will flip back and forth between action and commenting on it. have the perseverance to use an interesting anecdote followed by an interesting moment of reflection that will support it; when interwoven, the two will create something bigger than sum of their parts

Ira Glass on Storytelling # 2

- more than half of his week is spent finding a great story
- abandon crap: about 1/2 of all the stories he finds are killed because they just don't work
- law of entropy: all the time you spend trying to put a story on tape, it's trying to be boring, digressive, unstructured and pointless; you have make every second interesting
- failure is a big part of success; it will lead to you getting lucky

Ira Glass on Storytelling # 3

- we have good taste and we're passionate, but what we make when we first start is crap. everyone goes through this phase; sometimes years of it; you've got to persevere
- do tons of work to close the gap and make your work as good as your ambition

Ira Glass on Storytelling # 4

- the more you are your own self, the better off you are. stories are more compelling when you just talk like a human being
- find a good balance. like a good conversationalist, talk about yourself and let others talk because you're interested in people and the world
- a good story is about the person you're documenting, but the story teller is also there to inject character and their own personality
- the story teller should be a clear personality. creating interaction and seeing other people through your eyes creates drama

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Spreading the Wealth

Let's make the assumption that people are not lazy, a way they sometimes like to portray themselves. "I did nothing this weekend, and it was great." We like learning things and we want to contribute, build and be productive; that's why online video workshops like Citizen Engineer have such great potential. They are amazing tools to teach people complex procedures that are interesting, useful and able to be replicated.

I just learned how to turn a pay phone into a home phone and how make a SIMM card reader. At first this seemed completely useless to me, but as I continued to watch I realized the implications. The way we educate ourselves is fundamentally changing. This is just one example of how a very thorough instructor can bring an interested party up to speed on a relatively complex subject very quickly. This open source approach to sharing knowledge is exciting because it will enable us to make advancements much faster than before. If I really need to know electrical engineering so I can hack my SIMM card or recycle a pay phone I just bought on eBay; well this video empowers me to do it. Often times, creative solutions are derived from people approaching projects with fresh perspectives, another advantage of sharing information.

It seems we're still at the beginning of the do it yourself culture and I think we'll continue to see people developing their talents more pursuing their interests at a deeper, more involved level.

Check out an episode of Citizen Engineer:

Citizen_Engineer from citizen engineer on Vimeo.