Tribalism and monkeying around with storytelling

By July 29, 2015 Blog

Guest writer, chapter co-founder of StoryCode Sydney, Ester Harding.

So much can happen in a year and what a year this has been! Since the StoryCode Sydney launch event in July 2014, we have made hundreds of new friends, brought makers together on projects, built live games, and provided a supportive platform from which writers and producers have shared their ideas.

Tonight StoryCode Sydney will celebrate its 1st Birthday with screenwriter and academic Steve Vidler, as he takes us back to the basics, reminding us that storytelling is in our genes. What Monkeys Can Teach Us About Screen Story delves into the explosion of neuroscience studies over the past few decades, that have produced real, practical insights into what makes us connect, care and invest in other people and their stories. Join us for a fun and enlightening tour of three key monkey studies that illustrate where the manuals get it wrong – and how you can get it right, whatever medium you’re working in.

Following Steve’s presentation, Nathan Anderson (Multiplatform Exec Producer) will lead a panel discussion with Michela Ledwidge (Artist and Interactive Media Producer); Chris Phillips (TV Screenwriter and Story Producer); and Samuel Jensen (Games Designer).

Steve asks, “How many screenplays have you read, and how many films have you seen that suffer from the same problem? Screen stories that are conventionally ‘properly’ structured, and yet are devoid of meaning…”

If we’re serious about mastering the art of screen storytelling in these forms, we need to unpack the package, throw some of it out and replace it with something more relevant to our needs. But how can we get an overview of screen story in the absence of the package deal?

There is another kind of map available to us. A non-structural map. But it takes a little more mental effort to learn. And a little more creative thinking to apply. This map lies in the evidence from the sciences.”

The codification of storytelling is a subject quite close to the heart of StoryCode (as you may have guessed), and Steve’s investigation into our collective cognitive needs as both maker and participant will provoke serious discussion.

But wait – what is StoryCode, I hear you ask? And why am I talking about it?

In 2010, when I was studying for the Advanced Diploma in Multiplatform Producing at Metro Screen, lecturer Timothy Wilde discussed with us ‘authentic storytelling’ – the idea that we were writing from a place of truth, from ‘within the tribe’. Put simply, how do we locate ourselves within the storyworld, to become genuine facilitators for creative ideas?

Identifying and building tribes is something that people in the content industry do as a matter of course, and over the past few years of my career, I’ve travelled from the television tribe, to transmedia, documentary, and now feature films. However, each sector of the screen industry has a quite distinct tribe and often it startles me how little they interact. To this day I spend a lot of time thinking about how we can go beyond trading materials and start to really contribute properly to each tribe’s ‘village’ – I’m a firm believer that transmedia storytellers have the most to offer in this way, as we have the skills to collaborate with and build bridges for creative practitioners, technologists and distributors.

In mid 2014, during a conversation that delved into much of the above, a colleague asked me if I’d heard of ‘StoryCode’. Founded in New York as a transmedia meetup, StoryCode has evolved into an open-source global community for those who are passionate about exploring and building the future of storytelling. The intent is for local content producers to become part of this exciting global community, which connects cross-platform and immersive storytellers from the fields of digital media, tech, social impact and beyond.

When I looked it up and saw that there was no Sydney chapter, well, the rest is… a year old.

Ester Harding is an award-winning all media producer, who has delivered documentary and drama content across multiple platforms to a global audience. She is the chapter co-founder of StoryCode Sydney and a graduate of Metro Screen’s Adv Dip in Multiplatform Screen Producing.