A masterclass in storytelling

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Our job as storytellers is to be a kind of digital alchemist. Clients come to us with rough ideas and briefs. Then after much studying, prodding and poking we finally craft a beautiful audiovisual experience.

Within our motion department, we work with rhythm and flow to help shape an experience that demands attention, however even the most exquisite of experience will fall flat if not held together by the most basic of ingredients …. solid storytelling.

So how can we continue to weave engaging narratives into the challenges given to us by our clients? Constantly curious, we set out to further expand our minds by attending this D&AD Masterclass on Storytelling.

*(image from D&AD website)

The class was directed by Graham Smith, former commissioning editor for Channel 4 and 5, as well as executive producer for BBC’s Comedy and Entertainment departments.

The following nuggets are what we found most invaluable from the day:

Content and digital advertising needs to be omnichannel, optimised and shaped for each channel.
Shorter spans of attention are giving birth to new forms of streaming like the upcoming Quibi platform where episodes are based on a 10-minute format, and ads are only 10 seconds long. Think about this and your audience when shaping your narratives.

You have to create a massive incident fast
Studies carried out by the likes of Netflix have shown that viewers will watch the first episode of a series without too much effort, they will endure a slow second episode, however, if the third episode does not include a dramatic event that draws in the viewer, then people begin to rapidly lose interest.

Make characters relatable, draw on family and power relationships
People want to feel that they know, understand and can predict patterns of behaviour of the characters they are watching. Help your audience believe that they know how a character will react to a situation, then break that pattern of behaviour. In doing so, you will shock your audience and make your characters more appealing.

Clarity is key
It’s OK to make things obvious. It’s much better that your audience completely understands a situation, rather than trying to keep it mysterious if it will risk your audience missing the point.

The rule of three
Our brain is hard-wired to remember and prefer a trio of characters or situations, this is because it is the smallest amount of information needed to create a recognisable pattern.

Strip it down to the basics
The 1-minute version of your script is what the story is about, reduce the side stories that don’t add substantial detail and always think about the climax before you add detail to the middle parts.

To paraphrase the old adage … kills your darlings and get to the point.


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