Recently, I’ve been watching a lot more movies. it’s not because I have an abundance of free time on my hands. It’s actually because I’m trying to become a better marketing storyteller and I think movies will help me get there.
Over the past year or so one of the most abused terms has to be the word “storytelling.” Everyone seems to think that they are storytellers. This may not be true, as explained in this simple, profanity-laced rant by Stefan Sagmeister.
As a concept, storytelling is a great idea, particularly for content marketers. It’s a creative way to connect with your audience and put a human spin on products and services. If you’ve found a story that works for you, well, good for you.
Like any creative endeavor, storytelling takes practice. Even stories get better with multiple tellings, since you learn what works, what doesn’t, and how much information you need to lead up to the big finale in your tale.
Stephen King, arguably one of the most consistently creative writers of our time, reminded aspiring writers that they must also read.
I’ve taken the advice and modified it slightly. I want to be a better visual storyteller, so I’ve been watching more movies. I mean, I still read a lot, but I am committing myself to watching more stories.
The goal is to watch at least one movie per week. It’s a goal that keeps me grounded in visual storytelling, entertained, and relaxed.
When I was first trying to learn how to make independent films, my director kept reminding me that I had to think visually. As a writer, I wanted to tell the story with dialogue and exposition, which meant that I didn’t really understand the medium. We sat down, watched a ton of movies, and he would explain the camera movements and what it meant for the story.
These days, I try to apply those learnings, modify them for the web, and tell visual stories that resonate. It’s an approach that has helped me create better comic book stories as well.
The more movies I watch, the more aware I am of the plot points, the conflicts, and the resolutions that drive a good story. If I’m rewatching something that I’ve already seen, I usually notice something different or more nuanced that I missed the first time.
In a lot of ways, you can learn just as much about storytelling from bad movies as you can from good ones. Sometimes it takes a really bad movie (there are plenty on NetFlix) to remind you that good movies are harder to make.
Nobody sets out to make a bad movie, but it happens all the time. The same goes for marketing stories.
Entertained and Relaxed
Work is stressful. In many ways, we bring this stress on ourselves because we want to deliver the best possible work. You have to push yourself or you won’t improve. Of course, this comes with increased stress levels.
By setting a goal of watching one movie per week, I am forcing myself to relax. To enjoy the story, I must let go of certain work pressures and let the story take me away. There’s no cheating either. I don’t have two screens going while I watch a movie. I’m off my computer, focused on the movie (more or less) the way it was intended to be seen.
The unexpected benefit is lower stress. I don’t always get to watch an entire movie in one sitting, but when I complete the film, I’ve been temporarily whisked away by the visual story controlled by the filmmakers. It’s liberating to relax and enjoy.
The Net Benefit
Is watching a movie per week helping my career? I’d like to think so. It’s a bit of work-life balance that has the net benefit of making more aware of visual storytelling techniques.
Great stories touch you on a deep level and can impact your thinking and your actions. That’s what we want to do as marketers, and that’s something we can learn from watching movies.
One movie a week. Give it a shot.
Other Posts to Check Out:
- Conflict Is Story
- Content Marketing Summit at LinkedIn – July 30, 2015 (Mountain View, CA) Workshop Title: “The power of S-T-O-R-Y
- Seven & a Half Tips to Jump Start Your Visual Content Strategy
- Infographics and Visual Storytelling