Story

GIFT CERTIFICATES FOR THE HOLIDAYS

by on Dec.10, 2013, under Featured, Story

With my holiday GIFT CERTIFICATES, you can buy them for yourself for the New Year or give them away as gifts. For each level, you will receive credit that is greater than what you spend.

 

$75.00 GIFT CERTIFICATE

You spend $75.00 and you will receive a $100.00 credit.

 

$100.00 GIFT CERTIFICATE

You spend $100.00, you will receive credit for $150.00.

 

$150.00 GIFT CERTIFICATE

You spend $150.00, you will receive a $200.00 credit.

 

If you are going to gift them, please email me the name of the person receiving the gift at jennifer@jengrisanticonsultancy.com.

 

 

 

 

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PHILOMENA: A STORY STRUCTURED TO PERFECTION

by on Dec.09, 2013, under Featured, Story

 

I am a story/career consultant. I analyze story for a living. It is very rare that I come across one that is perfectly structured. I feel that the last film that fell into this realm for me was The King’s Speech. I am always on a quest to understand how story can be structured in a way that makes us feel the content, the message and the pursuit in the strongest way possible. I found this in the brilliant story of Philamena. Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope wrote it based on the book by Martin Sixsmith. This movie is what strong storytelling is all about.

 

This is a spoiler alert: Philomena is about a woman facing the shame of a choice that was made 50 years earlier. I will be going through the set up in Act I of the story so that you can see what led to it being crafted so perfectly.

It begins when Philomena hears in church, “You are the cause of your shame. You and your own indecency.” Then, they show flashbacks of a Young Philomena during the trigger moment, when she meets John. This moment would later lead to the choice. We see the symbolism of an apple with regards to the forbidden fruit.

When we meet Martin who is set up on page 3, he is at the doctor’s office. We learn that he lost his job and he is in search of a way to process the change. This creates empathy. His doctor suggests that he try running.

We see more flashbacks of Young Philomena with John. In the present, Philomena tells her daughter, Jane that today would have been Anthony’s 50th Birthday. Jane doesn’t know what she is talking about. She shows her a picture of when Anthony was a baby. This sets up the “why now” in regards to why we are entering the story when we are.

In the inciting incident from the flashback, we see Philomena when she is pregnant and talking with Mother Barbara. Mother Barbara asks her if she took her knickers down for him. She says, “He got an awful lot for a toffee apple.” She asks about Philomena’s mother. One of the other nuns says that she died ten years earlier. This builds on the empathy that we feel for Philomena. She was left motherless at a young age. So, when she gives birth to a child as an unwed mother, she has to make a choice of what to do that will be for the betterment of her child.

In the present, Philomena’s daughter, Jane, meets Martin at a party. She hears that he lost his job and that at one point he was a journalist. She tells him that she knows a story about a woman who had a baby when she was a teenager and kept it a secret. The nuns took the baby away from her and made her have it adopted and she’s kept it a secret for all of these years. Jane tells Martin that the story is about her mother. She asks him if he’d want to do a story on this.

This is the trigger that brings the two worlds of Philomena and Martin together. Both have gone through loss. Both are on a quest for meaning. I think it’s fascinating that shame is what drives Philomena; yet, through the story, the question of who should be feeling this is debated.

The trigger incident from the past was the choice that was made. The trigger incident in the present had to do with the sequence of when Philomena hears about “shame” in church and the fact that it is her adopted son, Anthony’s, 50th Birthday. The trigger incident is continued with the moment when Jane runs into Martin, a journalist, at a party right after he lost his job and asks him if he wants to cover this story.

The dilemma for Philomena is that if she doesn’t find out what happened to her son, she will never know the answer of whether she made the right choice or not. The dilemma for Martin is that he has no job and he is given the opportunity to write a story of human interest that could bring him more opportunity, which could also help in processing his own loss.

The pursuit has to do with getting the story for Martin. For Philomena, it is about finding out what happened to Anthony. The obstacles have to do with getting information from the nuns, uncovering a secret that they were keeping, discovering what really happened to young unwed mothers at the Abbey, finding people who knew Anthony and could share the truth.

The part of the story that mesmerized me was the idea of who really should be feeling shame from the choice that was made. I found the story to be so powerful. The movie was phenomenal. The script is simply brilliant.

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HOW DO WE SUCCESSFULLY CONNECT?

by on Aug.08, 2013, under Featured, Motivation, Story, Writing

 

The key to your success is connection. Well, the question that comes to mind is how do you connect? I mean, really connect? The key to connecting is in the telling of your personal story of triumph as well as loss. Many people focus on the triumph because they fear that the loss or failure makes them look weak. It is the opposite. The story of your loss is what makes you look strong. It is what connects you with your audience. Chances are that the emotions you felt in your loss are the same emotions that the person you’re speaking with may have experienced in a different situation. Your ability to fall and get back up speaks in a way that your story of success alone will never be able to compete with. I have worked in story for over 20 years now. I’ve had the chance to really absorb and observe what is the link that connects people to success. I’ve found that the true link to a successful outcome is the telling of your story.  When you reveal your truth from a place of confidence as well as vulnerability, you increase the chances of building a bond with your audience. When you do this, you connect. When you connect, there is no limit to your potential.

In fictionalized story, a common question is why does she or he want what they want? When we understand why your central character wants what they want, we connect with the emotion behind the pursuit. Why do they want to achieve the goal? What do they have to lose if they don’t achieve it? Think about this in your life. How is your personal dilemma fueling your professional pursuit? Are you utilizing your personal story to help motivate you toward your goal? Are you telling your story so that people can get on board in helping you reach your accomplishment? What if you did do this? If you reveal your story in a meeting in a way that supports why you want what you want, you have a much greater chance of hitting your destination.

Recently, I was in a consult with a woman about her career and some scripts that she has written. I heard about her scripts and the challenges that she is facing with getting them made. She does have a lot of heat on one and personally, I see the concept. However, what really connected me to her actually didn’t have a lot to do with her savvy story sense with her scripts but more with what she revealed to me about her life. Toward the end of the meeting, she opened up to me about a personal part of her story. It was very personal and it told me a lot about who she is. My heart felt immediately connected to her truth. With this feeling of connection, I suddenly saw her ability to tell story in an even stronger light. She showed me that she knew how to connect with her own truth and to reveal it without shame. In doing this, it told me that she knows how to tell story.

In another situation, I had someone reach out to me who had read my article in Tiny Buddha called “Moving From Ego To Spirit”. He was drawn to my message and my truth about my own fall. It made him want to buy my book, “Change Your Story, Change Your Life: A Path To Success” and to set up a meeting. When I met with him, he immediately told me his story of triumph and loss. His triumph was very big so I knew that his fall was a hard one. With the loss, he didn’t leave anything out. His world was truly turned upside down and reality as he knew it, shifted in a major way. I identified with his fall. This connected me to him. I loved the courage that he showed in revealing the consequence behind some of the choices that he made and his feelings of regret. He revealed his truth without fear. This made me know that his potential is unlimited. He has the emotional fuel to get back to a place of strength in business. It will all come down to the revelation and telling of his story. I know that if he connects with others like he connected with me, there is no limit to his potential.

If we tap into our truth that often surfaces from our loss and we are able to share it in our story in a way that connects our personal story with our professional goal, there is no limit to what we can achieve.  Where we plant seeds, things will grow. Our personal story is how we connect.  It is our gold. How we tell our story and what we reveal determines where we will go in life.  If you want to successfully connect, understand the strength of your story.

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TURNING A PERSONAL FALL INTO A PROFESSIONAL WIN

by on Feb.12, 2013, under Featured, Personal tips, Story, Writing

Your personal fall can be what drives you toward your professional win. As a story consultant, I like fiction that connects the central character’s personal wound to the professional outcome; their personal dilemma is tied to their professional dilemma, so that accomplishing the external goal signifies a win on both an internal and external level. For me, this is what drives story. When we understand why the central character wants the external goal and what is at stake if they don’t get it, we root for them to get what they want. If you learn how to apply this same concept to your life, you will be astounded by what kind of results you will see.

I’d like to give you an example of a recent film that I thought could have been even stronger if the personal dilemma of the character had been better connected to the professional outcome. In Zero Dark Thirty, written by Mark Boal, the dilemma is 9/11. The goal is to get Osama bin Laden. The lead character is Maya (Jessica Chastain), a CIA operative who is in pursuit of the whereabouts of Al Qaeda’s leader, Osama bin Laden. My question is why her? What is motivating her character to want to achieve this goal on an emotional level? How is her personal dilemma connected to the professional outcome? For me, this is something that could have made this great movie even stronger than it is.

In the new TV series, The Americans, written by Joe Weisberg, the personal dilemma/wound is strongly connected to the professional outcome. We learn early on in the pilot episode that Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) is a KGB agent in pursuit of an ex-KGB Colonel who is a whistle blower on undercover agents. When Elizabeth and her husband Phillip (Matthew Rhys) apprehend him, they miss the ship that was their chance to complete the mission and hand him back to Russia. This is the professional dilemma. The goal that stems from this is to figure out what to do with the Colonel in order to complete their mission. Elizabeth wants to kill him. Through a flash back, we discover the personal wound driving her to achieve the professional goal: When Elizabeth was training as an agent in Russia, the Colonel took advantage of his position and raped her. This is an excellent script and pilot episode. This story really moves because we know why the central character is in pursuit of the professional goal and what the personal stakes are if it is not achieved.

In your life, I want you to think about how you can do this to add fuel to the fire of your professional goal. Have your life turns caused you to move away from your goal because of the scars they’ve left behind? Learn how you can connect this wound and use it to motivate you toward a new professional goal. By using what you lost to propel you further, there is no end to what you can accomplish.

In my own life, I lost a job after 15 years with two sister companies. It was a big fall for me that was very unexpected. After learning how to take inventory of what happened, I learned how to use this loss to move forward instead of falling victim to my fall. I knew what my strength was as a studio executive, my notes on story. I used this strength and designed a business around it. Since my personal story was a large part of what led to my new professional goal (i.e., teaching story on a global level to stop isolation and create community), I learned how to link the loss I went through to this professional outcome. This year, five years after opening my own company, I taught in London with The TV Writers Summit and I am about to go to Australia to teach the TV Writers Studio. I achieved my professional goal by linking my personal wound/dilemma and using it to propel me forward instead of hold me back.

In my upcoming book, Change Your Story, Change Your Life: A Path To Your Success, I teach, based on the concept of life imitating art, how we can learn from fiction, and how we can apply it to our own lives so that when we go through a turning point and experience a fall, we can get back up and use the fall to achieve a professional goal that can enrich our lives more than we ever imagined. We can become the active hero in our own story.

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POSITIONING YOUR STORY FOR SUCCESS: THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CREATING EMPATHY

by on Dec.11, 2012, under Story

A story begins when the world of a central character is thrown out of alignment. This triggers a call to action. The central character takes action in pursuit of the goal that will bring his/her world back into alignment. Without a story, we the audience could not connect to the central character nor to the storyteller. Which brings me to an important point: there is a specific structure to a well-told or well-crafted story. It begins with creating empathy for the central character. In fiction as well in life, can you skip this essential ingredient and have a story be as compelling without it? A writer once asked me this question. He was referring to the way we tell our true stories in order to give people a sense of who we are. He asked if he could tell his story by focusing on his strengths instead of his weaknesses.

As most of you know, I am a story/career consultant for writers. As if in support of his question, he brought up stories that I’ve shared at my seminars related to my two pivotal life moments: the end of a long relationship in a short marriage and the end of a career as a studio executive after fifteen years. To his question I answered this: in your pain lives your truth. When you allow your audience to see the wound that drives you, then you connect to your truth. Others may not directly relate with the specifics of your story but they do respond to the idea of pain and having to do the work to move past it. This makes them root for your success because they know what it’s like to be there.

I recently attended a seminar where the speaker announced, “Now, people say that when you share your story, you should open up about your weaknesses. I don’t believe this. I believe that you should share your unique abilities with the audience.” He went on to share all of the things that make him great. In my opinion, he lost the audience. Personally speaking, he lost me. I left the event half way through the first day and I did not return. The reason was because I did not identify with the speaker. He came from a place that did not allow me to truly see him. By doing this, he taught me a lot about the significance of positioning our stories. Luckily, there was a gift in the experience.

In fiction, a story starts by giving us a sense of what the “old world” looked like before the trigger incident turned the central character’s world upside down. When we know where a character was, we have a better understanding of what has to be done to bring their life back into alignment. This makes us feel empathy for their plight. It also makes us as an audience root for their success. By having a picture of what life was like before, we have a fuller view of the transformation that needs to happen on the path to bringing life back into alignment. This set up is crucial to the success of a well-told story.

In the 2011 film Warrior, we learn the story of two estranged brothers torn apart earlier in their lives. The brother who stayed with his mother was with her until her death. The brother who stayed with the father felt robbed of this moment. We clearly understand the wound that is driving each man. We feel empathy for both sides. While competing in a mixed martial arts tournament where the stakes are incredibly high, the underdog brother must confront the moment that tore him apart from his brother and do what needs to be done to close the rift. This story works in an incredible way because of how the writers – Gavin O’Connor and Anthony Tambakis – take the time to create empathy for both characters so that we understand the stakes that are driving them. This way, we root for their success.

I use this movie to illustrate the significance of creating empathy for central character(s) at the start of a story. When you do this in fiction as well as in life, you create a connection with your audience. One last comment about the writer who asked me the question about leaving out this ingredient from his story: when he learned to share two specific life moments that fuel his pursuit to succeed, his world opened up in ways that he never imagined.

When you are sharing your story, give your audience a sense of what your life looked like before your call to action and what you did as a result of it. When you skip this step, you take away the opportunity for them to connect with you and know you. By giving your audience a sense that you know what it means to fall and to get back up, you allow them a chance to know who you are and what drives you. By doing this, you allow them to identify with what you went through. When you do this, both in fiction and in life, your audience (i.e., those around you) will root for your success.

 

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TOOLS TO MAKE YOUR AUDIENCE CONNECT WITH YOUR STORY

by on Nov.19, 2012, under Story, Writing

As a Story/Career Consultant I am constantly designing frameworks and tools to help people understand how to tell their story in a way that results in their audience feeling their message. There is no better feeling than when a story resonates in a way that strikes an emotional chord and makes you understand and feel the message at a core level. After working in the entertainment business for 20 years, I am still fascinated with why some stories work and others do not. By story, I am referring to any story being told on TV, in film, theater, and in real life. I have come to believe that the way we tell our story or stories equates to our success on so many levels, both in our professional and personal lives.

When you learn how to utilize tools that will enhance your story, you increase your chances of connecting with your audience. The key to telling a strong story is allowing us into your vision. Here is one of the frameworks I’ve designed to help you achieve maximum results with the stories you tell.

  1. What are you trying to say? Is your message universal?
  2. Do you build a powerful starting dilemma and will the dilemma in your story resonate with your audience?
  3. Do you establish the “Why now?” for entering your story when you do?
  4. What thematic question are you debating?
  5. What is the central character in pursuit of? What does he/she want? Why does he/she want it? Why do we empathize with him/her?
  6. What is getting in the way of the pursuit? What is at stake if he/she does not achieve the goal?
  7. Is the goal achieved?
  8. Did your central character grow and move from ego to spirit in the process?

One of the most common errors made in storytelling in general is a lack of clarity in what is being said. What is your central character in pursuit of? Do we understand the message? Are you taking your audience in a direction that will allow them to connect with your intention and apply it to their own lives?

Does the starting dilemma provoke an emotional response from your audience? Have they faced a similar dilemma or can they see themselves facing the dilemma? Are the two sides of the dilemma equally as difficult to choose from? Does the choice made by your character make us (the audience) root for the outcome?

Do you establish the “Why now?” for entering your story when you do? This is often triggered by an event that happens. This brings your audience into the heat of the moment establishing why we are entering your story when we are.

What is the thematic question you are debating? This can involve taking a stance on one side of an issue in order to get a point across. Your story should support the point you are trying to make. This links to what you are trying to say.

Here is one of the most important questions I ask my clients and others I work with: what does your central character want? My next question: why do they want it? The reason so many people have difficulty conveying what their central character wants is because they don’t know what they want in their own life. This is why I encourage my clients and my audience to do the emotional work. When you do the emotional work in life, you help clarify what you want and why you want it. When you clarify what you want, it helps you define what your character wants in the stories you tell.

What is getting in the way of your central character’s pursuit of the goal? One of the most important parts of any story is having strong obstacles that escalate and clear stakes that also escalate as a result of the obstacles faced. When we understand what is at stake, we root for the success of the central character in achieving his/her goal. The external stakes arc is often one of the key things that could be strengthened in the stories we tell

Does your central character achieve the goal? What is revealed in the achievement? How did your central character move from ego to spirit in the process? Moving from ego to spirit is a large part of what I teach. In the beginning, we often want to achieve a goal for ego-related reasons; the attainment signifies validation. After hitting a number of obstacles and escalating obstacles, we are often humbled. When we are humbled, we begin to awaken to how we are approaching the goal. When we move from ego to spirit, we learn that the achievement of the goal isn’t just about us: it can affect the greater good. When we do this, we evolve. Stories illustrate the journey of our evolution.

I’m happy to have shared with you some of the tools I use to help people understand how to tell their story in a way that will have a maximum affect on their audience. If you tell your story from a place of depth, the authenticity of your message will resonate with your audience and beyond.

 

 

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REKINDLING, SPARKING AND LIGHTING THE FLAME WITHIN THROUGH STORY

by on Dec.12, 2011, under Story

For the holidays, I love the idea of sparking, lighting and rekindling our spirits through feelings of connection with those around us. How do we take the time to connect when life is so busy and moving so quickly? For many of us, the holiday season is a blur because of all that we have to get done. We move through our obligations, get together with friends and family, attend parties, and go through the motions but it isn’t until something catches us off guard – such as a person understanding our story or taking the time to listen – that we truly feel connected. When we take the time to be present in the moment and feel what is going on around us, we create the opportunity to really feel the season. Rekindling, sparking and lighting the flame within are actions that we can all take to inspire one another. Giving and adding to someone’s spirit is a way of keeping our own flame lit from within. It is amazing how good we feel when we know that we’ve made a difference in another person’s life. We connect through shared experiences. How do we do this? By understanding our own story and the myriad of emotions that come with it so that when we see others going through the same kind of experience, we can relate, empathize and help them out of the darkness by using our own story and knowledge to light the way.

I was inspired to write this blog entry after reading this quote by Albert Schweitzer: “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” This concept inspired the thought that we each have the ability to light a flame in others through our energy, words and actions. When we think about those who have entered our lives and lit the way, we give gratitude for what they empowered in our own lives. It might have been a teacher that encouraged us, a boss who believed in our possibility, a random person who took the time to reinforce our strengths, or a parent who inspired our work ethic and helped us to see our true value. It might have been a story of another person’s trials and tribulations that led to our own desire to use their story as a way to inspire our own, When we think of the moments in our lives when someone else ignited our spirit, it helps us see how we can do the same for another.

Story is definitely a huge part of this. When we think about our own story and the stories of others, we draw from this space to create. When we see or hear about others doing kind things and getting positive results, it makes us want to do the same. Story is the one thing that unites us because we all have one. Through utilizing the actions of rekindling, sparking and lighting, we not only enhance our own story, we can help others to do the same. Actions are what lead to positive results. I remember hearing about the concept of being someone’s miracle via a video. I loved this idea. The viral video had millions of hits. When I wondered how you attract this, I realized that it all comes down to the message in the story you are telling and the actions that motivated the outcome.

When I think about the power of story, I think about those who have rekindled, sparked and lit something inside of me through the stories they tell in film, television and novels. My publisher, Michael Wiese Productions, recently asked me to contribute to a complimentary book they were putting together as a way to bring the vision of their authors to their target audience. They asked each participating author to write ten reasons why it’s a great time to be a filmmaker. The first thing that came to mind when I thought about this was the ability to touch peoples’ spirits. I recognize when story touches my spirit, a part of me comes alive and feels like anything is possible. The e-book, “Top 10 Reasons Why It’s A Great Time To Be a Filmmaker”, now available online, brings together a variety of perspectives on the beauty of storytelling and why now is a great time to be a filmmaker. I believe that the way we connect and attach is through the stories we tell. I give gratitude to all the storytellers who have ignited, sparked or rekindled our spirits through the actions they’ve taken to pass their stories forward.

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Adding Character To Your Story

by on Oct.10, 2011, under Story

A strong character can make all the difference in the world in a good story. Crafting a complex character that your audience connects with on a deeper level is the goal for every writer. How do you add depth to your character and your story? What makes the viewer feel the plight of your character? How do you create empathy? Is having a flawed character enough? What makes the audience root for the outcome? I’ve explored these questions at length in my own experience as a Story/Career Consultant. I’ve also come across some great books that shed a lot of valuable light on the subject, such as: My Story Can Beat Up Your Story by Jeffrey Alan Schechter and Writing the Pilot by William Rabkin. We can also learn so much about character by simply examining some our most memorable TV characters: Tony Soprano (“Sopranos”), Vic Mackey (“The Shield”), Don Draper (“Mad Men”), Dexter Morgan (“Dexter”), Walter White (“Breaking Bad”), Alicia Florrick (“The Good Wife”), and Nicholas Brody (“Homeland”).

I believe that there are many ways to deepen your central character. One way is to place your character in a powerful dilemma at the beginning of your story. By being put between a rock and a hard place, character is revealed by the choice that is made. You also want to make sure that we empathize with your central character from the beginning. If we empathize, we root for them to achieve the goal. A way to create empathy is to show your character a bit off balance as a result of a recent loss or news that throws his/her world out of joint. By turning their world upside down and presenting a powerful dilemma, you give them a new direction to go. The answer to the dilemma is the journey of your story and the goal is putting their life back in balance through external, internal and spiritual desires and actions. Another question I advise writers to consider is: What is the wound that drives your central character and the flaw that gets in the way? Many writers can write strong flawed characters; however, as an audience, if we don’t know the wound that drives the flaw, we won’t connect with your character on as deep a level as we could. When you show your character evolve from the beginning to the end of your story and you see the growth, you add depth. To show how a character evolves from the beginning to the end of the story, you can show your character responding from the ego for the first three-quarters of your story; then, for the final quarter of your story, have them respond from their spirit in connection to the goal.

In Writing the Pilot, William Rabkin writes, “The most important thing about Vic Mackey was that he believed he was a good guy. Sure, he made deals with criminals but that was to keep worse criminals off the street. As for killing the other cop, that was required for his own self-defense, but even then he knew it was wrong and it tortured him for the entire run of the series.” Rabkin goes on “…Vic Mackey acted like a bad guy in order to be a good guy. And that was the theme as well: How much evil can you do in the pursuit of noble goals before you stop being one of the good guys?” Rabkin says that the heart of what defines a character is his goal and the choices that he makes in trying to obtain it. This book is excellent. It really is a brilliant discussion on what works on certain shows and why it works well as opposed to what didn’t work and why it didn’t work.

In My Story Can Beat Up Your Story, Jeffrey Alan Schechter offers a great way to add complexity to your villain. He writes, “Your villain is a dark reflection of your hero’s wants, needs and desires. Put another way, the villain is doing what the hero would do if he or she wasn’t constrained by morality, purpose and righteousness.” Schechter suggests using four questions when working through your story: Who is your hero? What is your hero trying to accomplish? Who is trying to stop your hero? What happens if your hero fails? This book also encourages you to examine the thematic question that is being explored in your story. Schechter writes, “The thematic argument of the film will have been stated either explicitly or implicitly, either through action or visual. The hero is established in his or her ordinary world as the “greatest” or “most” extreme version of something. The hero has limited awareness of which aspect of his or her being is “broken.” The brokenness is often associated with a ghost from the hero’s past, a major and unresolved crisis that the hero has ignored or inadequately dealt with which is coming to a head RIGHT NOW!” This is one of the stronger screenwriting books I have read

In closing, think about deeper ways to reveal character. Show us how your character sees the world versus how the world sees your character. Craft a thematic question that your character answers. By creating empathy, establishing the wound that drives your character and the flaw that gets in the way, building a powerful dilemma, and setting strong emotional stakes, you will add a layer to your story that will entice your audience to want to see the outcome.

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Emotion Versus Structure: What Is More Important?

by on Sep.12, 2011, under Personal tips, Story, Writing

I am fascinated by this idea of structure versus emotion and which is considered to be a stronger choice when it comes to writing or presenting. Is it more important to “structure” your story or presentation in a way that gives your audience a clear concise view of what it is you’re trying to say? Or, is it more productive to focus on what you say and how it’s going to make your audience feel? The obvious answer is to try to perfect both; however, I am beginning to wonder if emotion trumps structure when it comes to delivering a strong message.

Among the movies that I’ve seen and really enjoyed this year are Crazy, Stupid Love, Midnight in Paris, The Help and The Debt. I’ve noticed that the structure could have been stronger in all four films but it’s the emotion that comes to the forefront and that makes me forgive any structural imperfections. Seeing that this year’s box office favors this type of film made me think about the idea of emotion versus structure and the way that I teach story. I am a story analyst, so structure has always been the biggest way I determine whether a story works or not. I am a follower of Joseph Campbell and Aristotle. Furthermore, my career as a former studio executive has made structure the base of my foundation. On the other hand, I am also a middle child and I appreciate when people rebel against structure and choose to be spontaneous – as long as the emotion is there.

In Crazy, Stupid Love, I enjoyed witnessing all the stupid things people of all ages do in the name of love. So, the fact that the B and C story often came to the top didn’t bother me so much because it was all in effort to elevate the A story. In Midnight in Paris, I loved the pure wish fulfillment of being able to explore a time period and socialize with literary heroes so much, that it didn’t bother me that our central character’s dilemma wasn’t defined in a clear enough way at the beginning to make us understand the trigger for him to go into this world. Not to mention, that there was no explanation of how it happened other than him getting into a coach at midnight, which was very fairy tale like. Interestingly, the emotions that these stories made me feel did overpower my desire to see a more perfect structure in them. In The Help, I wasn’t sure who the protagonist was: Skeeter or Abelene. It was Skeeter who had the early goal in the story, but it was Abelene whom we empathized with. Truthfully, it didn’t matter so much as I sat watching the film with my mom and my sister, enjoying the feeling of empowerment from the story. In The Debt, I loved the idea of a choice made thirty years earlier and the regret and guilt that plagues Helen Mirren’s character as a result of that choice. This experience was so universal to me and really made me empathize with the character. Due to the structure of the flashbacks, I wasn’t totally clear on the motivation behind going after the doctor until half way through the movie but it was a minimal bother because of the strength of the story.

The analyst part of me feels that had the structure been stronger in these four films, the audience would have connected with them even more. However, the more intuitive and emotional side of me loves these films just the way that they are because they left a mark on me emotionally.

When it comes to presenting, I often find myself in the opposite place. I tend to rebel against some of the rules of how to present with regards to “ums” and “ands” or learning to take deep breaths in between thoughts. I also tend to put more on my slide presentations than I should because I want my classes to get all of the information. I know that these go against structure but I find that my main goal is to make my audience FEEL what I am saying. I know that if my audience feels my intent, it will create more “aha” moments and they will get more out of the experience. This is what the rebel in me thinks, however, I know if I could learn to master both paths, it would make an overall stronger experience for my audience.

Bottom line, learn how to master structure while elevating the emotion in the stories you tell and the topics that you present. Having a balance of both will increase your chances of a more successful outcome. Embrace the rebel in you and learn how to be spontaneous within structure. Recognize the value of emotion and utilize your own universal life experiences in the stories that you tell. This will help your audience to see you in your story.

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The Future Of Story, Media and Marketing

by on Aug.09, 2011, under Featured, Story

Where are we headed in terms of how we market and how we tell story in the ever-changing media landscape? Story and the way we tell it is fluid and constantly moving forward, changing forms and evolving as the world does the same. Marketing is growing in miraculous ways because of the Internet and social networking. The viral effect is making a difference in all of our lives. Media is also continuously diversifying with the emergence of new platforms. Story, media and marketing are leading to success for entrepreneurs on multiple levels. Being conscious of the changes in these arenas can lead to your success in any business.  It’s all about knowledge and empowerment and being open to all the new ways to grow.

Recently, I attended the University Film & Video Association Conference in Boston.  This year’s theme was The Future of Media Education. I went there as an author along with fourteen other authors from Michael Wiese Productions (MWP). Boston was amazing. The energy of the event was hugely inspirational. There were panels discussing the future of media on all platforms including webinars, YouTube, web series, personal branding, and the list goes on. Hearing many of the topics that were covered was very exciting. There was a buzz in the air that was intoxicating because it was all about being ten steps ahead of the game in terms of knowledge. I was a guest speaker on the panel discussing The Future Development of Story, along with eight other authors from MWP. The talk was so intimate and informative because of all of the different perspectives that were covered. This panel gave me a quick and captivating glimpse of what to expect at the upcoming conference called The Future of Story, which takes place on August 27, 2011 at the Beaudry Theatre at Los Angeles Center Studios.

The Future of Story is led by some of the best-selling screenwriting authors and teachers in the industry. This dynamic conference will help you take an objective look at both yourself and your professional skill sets as you polish and target your stories for film, television, and print. With over 30 MWP authors attending this conference, you’ll have an opportunity to network one-on-one with experts on screenwriting, pitching, and various aspects of filmmaking. Who should attend? Screenwriters, television writers, novelists, non-fiction writers, graphic novelists and all those interested in emerging trends in narrative.

Marketing has become viral in every aspect and it has brought the importance of personal branding to the forefront. Recently, I watched a video interview with Sam Rosen, co-founder of ThoughtLead, a firm that specializes in online marketing. He laid out The Seven Pillars of the Future of Marketing. In them, he explains the idea of ‘content differentiates,’ which basically means this: when we do things differently and offer a platform that gives numerous perspectives from top experts in the field, we offer the participant a much broader view of the topic. ThoughtLead did an event on the Web called “The Influencer Project” which featured 60 speakers in 60 minutes. The results were massive. What this demonstrated was that when you get top professionals in the field together to share their expertise, the information is invaluable.

I encourage you to attend events, seminars, teleseminars and webinars to keep up on the latest information in any of these arenas. Follow your curiosity and your passion. When you listen to professionals that know how to get you where you want to go, you will hit countless “aha!” moments. I’ve been to many of these events and what I’ve learned is that we are all constantly growing. Information will bring us into the future in a way that will bring us results. You want to be ahead of the curve and utilize all the latest technology to help lead to your success! Be the creator of your destiny.

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