The Silver Flask of Narrative Gold

A few months ago, while I was sorting and clearing my dear late mama’s house and antique collection, I found a beautiful silver hip flask that has become somewhat of a talisman. It never fails to elicit stories, memories, dreams and reflections while dispensing medicinal amounts of single malt scotch, as if it were the elixir of life.

photo of my mother's silver hip flaskThe Merriam-Webster dictionary defines talisman as: 1: an object held to act as a charm to avert evil and bring good fortune. 2: something producing apparently magical or miraculous effects. ”

The Genie in the Bottle

As a storyteller, this silver flask is narrative gold. It’s a conversation piece that never fails to both delight and ignite the imagination. People want to touch it, sip it, discuss it, hear about it, fondle it, marvel at it and, not least, savour its golden contents. The effect of this flask as a functional objet d’art, in combination with the malted liquid muse contained therein, is nothing short of remarkable! It’s like a Genie in a bottle!

photo of silver hip flask lid "James Dixon and sons"

So it’s becoming a bit of a ritual: before I head out to a party or gathering, I carefully fill the flask with Bush Mills or Auchentoshan Single Malt whiskey (I’m open to other suggestions). And then I wait for the right moment to pull it out…. the wide-eyed expressions of delight and surprise when people first catch a glimpse of it, is priceless! It’s as if they can hardly believe their eyes!

photo of The Silver Flask of Plenty

Ask the Flask

The stories it elicits have a timeless archetypal quality. One friend, who is not easily impressed, declared that if this flask were sold on the open market, it would be highly sought after, fetch a high price and find its way into the hands of a rich Saudi prince, who would treasure it as a gift from another world. Others have conjectured that it has survived the front line in a World War or two, offering a lifeline for a trench full of dispirited soldiers.  It’s even inspired the possible creation of a creative iPhone app and Instagram filter.

photo of silver mark on the bottom of the flask

The Hip Flask Chicks

I recently had dinner with a couple of digital media creator pals to brainstorm ideas and collaborations, and once again the flask found its way into the heart of our conversation. Not only did this beautiful silver vessel convert a scotch-hater into an evangelizing single malt crusader, but it so inspired her that she promptly spent an afternoon searching local antique shops to find flasks for both herself and her partner. And as we tossed around ideas for project names and hashtags, the flask even managed to become a hilarious steam-punk symbol of empowered female creativity and self expression.

I feel sure this Flask of Plenty will continue to bring me good storytelling luck by inspiring magical tales, miraculous effects, while keeping the single malt industry in business! Thanks mom!

Do you have a talisman that brings you good luck? Share please!

POST SCRIPT (Nov 24) – my mother’s flask has started a craze! People have heard of it where ever I go and people are even shopping for antique flasks! Read Angela Hemming’s flask post, also inspired by my mom’s talisman! tee hee!

Always a storyteller, sometimes a…cameraperson!

My work involves wearing many digital media storytelling hats, which gives me a variety of ‘looks’, or at least, ways of looking. By turn, I’m strategizing with and coaching clients on their media and messaging goals; writing, producing, directing and editing content for every kind of screen; teaching; networking and brainstorming with peers; managing events & programming OPEN CINEMA screenings; and more. Variety is the spice of life!

A Digital Storytelling Toolbox

Having a broad skill base is a good thing if you’re a media savvy storyteller / digital alchemist / social media strategist / content marketer / documentary filmmaker like me, because it gives me a big ol’ digital storytelling toolbox to dip into. (I suspect I’m not alone in my search for an appropriate single term to describe my digital ninja skills these days. Can you relate?)

What is a Digital Alchemist, anyway?

Recently, I’ve been whittling away at a definition of what I do. Here’s what I’ve come up with: I help people to clarify, articulate and share their story or message with the world, using the appropriate media tools to reach their target audience: DVD, TV, cinema, podcast, webathon, YouTube, Facebook, blog, Twitter, LinkedIn…you get the idea. The common denominator is storytelling, and that’s what I know (and love) the best. A good story is like a life preserver: without it, your message is just more dead weight data that will virtually drown in the Internet ocean.

Always a storyteller, sometimes a…

Karen Davies, Steve Walker Duncan and Louise Rose in the Flavours studio kitchen

Karen Davies, Steve Walker Duncan and Louise Rose in the Flavours of the West Coast kitchen

So this week, I was working as a cameraperson on a studio shoot for an awesome local TV show, Flavours of the West Coast. Now in it’s 3rd successful season, this Cedarwood Productions gem features local farmers and foodies who are creating an astonishing array of local delicacies. The series also includes a fab studio kitchen segment with affable and talented host Chef Steve Walker Duncan, who is joined by a different local celebrity Rookie Chef each week. Check it out! This series is a lot of fun ~ with some great recipes, too!

Cooking up Soul Food

Chef Steve Walker Duncan with R & B legend Dutch Robinson in the Flavours kitchen

Chef Steve Walker Duncan cooks up soul food with R & B legend Dutch Robinson

During two long studio shoot days, we shot ten kitchen segments with ten amazing local talents, including Bob McDonald (Quirks and Quarks), jazz singer Louise Rose; Assistant News Director at CHEK Dana Hutchings; and an exciting newcomer to the West Coast music scene: Dutch Robinson. This R & B legend demonstrated his five octave vocal range (!!) and he’s played with The Ohio Players (Love Rollercoaster), Kid Creole and the Coconuts and most recently DRUM. Every one of these folks is passionate about their life and their work, and it was a pleasure to help share their stories.

I love my job!

 

The Passion and Poetry of Community Leadership

Last week I was invited talk about Community Leadership at Darlene Clover’s University of Victoria class. At the end of the class, Darlene offered up a ‘found poem’ that poignantly captured the essence of my presentation. I felt so honoured, and it resonated so deeply, that I thought it was worth sharing…

Ode to Mandy Leith

by Darlene Clover

Do your part
Believe in something
Arab spring, European summer, North American fall
Our stories are powerful
Stories make us human
Raise your message above the rest
Be the change you want to see
Live your message through your life
Move forward with what inspires you
Speak to where the community is at
Plant your dreams
Challenge the didactic passive education role
Encourage conversation
Ask what people think
Create a sense of community
Change the seating, put the audience at the centre
Have food – they will come
Everyone is a community leader
Occupy everything
Use living microphones
Be loud, commit, build trust, democratize
Own your culture, be a media activist
Teach media literacy
Tear down the power structures and senseless bureaucracies
Let film speak for your community
Restore the banter of the bazaar
Breed engagement, create traffic
Follow the rules/break the rules
Let passion exist

Currently, my passion is leading me to work with the vibrant global Occupy movement. Where does your passion live?

A Good Story Isn’t Perfect. Neither are Blog Posts.

It’s been far, far too long since I last posted here…why is that?

Blogging is a Commitment

It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about interesting stories I’ve wanted to share over the last few adventurous months (more on that later, promise!). But every time I’d think about writing a blog post, I’d feel strangely daunted and intimidated by the task. What to do, what to do…

I recently had an aha moment — I realized I’ve been labouring with this idea that everything I publish here needs to be polished, poignant and, well, perfect. After all, I’m an editor who understands just how long it takes to craft good, meaningful stories. And yet I’m starting to believe that the true value of blogging is to offer up authentic, tasty, narrative bites that can be easily digested. That’s an art in itself, that I have yet to master.

So when I came upon this inspirational video the other day, it seemed like a perfect  segue and a great opportunity to approach blogging with a different perspective…

Creativity is a Process

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

So I need to give myself time to find my own blogging style by experimenting and practicing, to see what works for me and of course, you, dear reader. So I’m going to keep it simple and keep sketching in order to find my own natural, easy blogging voice.

Sketchblog v. Masterpost

I’ve had this conversation with a lot of other bloggers and I suspect it’s a common complaint. How to do you deal with the practice of blogging? What are your stumbling blocks? What’s worked for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Social UnMedia, Filmmaking and the Bigger Story

Scott Stratten doesn’t like the term ‘social media’ and he makes a good point. The word ‘media’ evokes an old paradigm,  a pushy marketing mindset that’s going the way of the Dodo. Traditional media is characterized by a privileged voice broadcasting a unified message to the masses, but now the emerging digital revolution is changing the game and giving everyone a voice. The key to getting heard above the roar is to authentically engage one-on-one, develop relationships and offer compelling content that pulls people into your (story) world.

Stratten, the dynamic speaker and author of the best-selling book ‘UnMarketing’ was one of the awesome Keynote Speakers at Victoria’s first Social Media Camp (#SMCV10) on October 3rd, 2010. About 500 people gathered for a full day of speakers, roundtables and networking opps, exchanging digital tools, tips and techniques — plus a whole lot of joie de vivre! The buzzwords were ‘content’, ‘engagement’ and ‘relationship’.  That sounds a lot like filmmaking to me. Or maybe we could call it ‘storytelling technology’. Let me explain…

Social UnMedia is All About Relationships

According to Stratten, the outdated concept of marketing as a job or distinct task no longer applies. “STOP that!” he scolds, jumping up and down like an adorable nerd. UnMarketing is the new normal;  everything  you say, do, don’t do, watch or ‘like’ online contributes to the persona, character or brand you are offering up to the digital ecosystem. Good relationships have always been a key to good business; except now they’re the lock, the key, the door and the entire treasure box itself.

Social UnMedia, (to borrow Scott’s UnSemantics!) is making it possible for everyone to be a broadcaster, and even better, you can now connect with each person individually, so you don’t have to shout.

‘Now Hear This!’ becomes Once Upon a Time…’

Social media amplifies everything, so it’s not a quick fix for anything. “If you suck at business offline, then you’re just gonna suck harder online!”, warns  Stratton. “People only spread awesome frickin’ content!” What makes awesome content? Great storytelling.

I’m ready for my Close-Up, Mr. DeMille!

The invention of social media tools to the evolution of the Internet is equivalent to the discovery of the close-up to the history of filmmaking. The movies came of age in the early 20th century, graduating into a true storytelling medium when D.W. Griffith, the father of narrative cinema, decided to move the camera from it’s proscenium arch wide-shot to a close-up of the actors for dramatic effect. At first the Hollywood producers were horrified, worried that audiences would demand their money back having paid to see the whole actor! But as we all know, the close-up led to the art of editing and the evolution of the language of film: a set of ever-evolving conventions that offer precise creative control over the story’s dramatic narrative, fact or fiction.

Overacting was the norm in turn-of-the-century silent-era films. Grand exaggerated gestures were necessary for actions to be noticed in the fuzzy wide shot. But acting styles were forced to change with the advent of the close-up, which accentuated subtle nuance, unspoken backstory, laser intimacy and vulnerable authenticity. The tiniest facial twitch can suggest a rich personal story, such as Marlon Brando’s performance in The Godfather or Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs.

So what does this have to do with social media? Like it or not, social media is the contemporary digital hearth around which our stories are being told. “It’s a social forge, a fiery pressure cooker that transforms (or destroys) everything that is fed into it.”  So says Julien Smith, #SMCV10’s other awesome Keynote speaker and co-author of the best-seller Trust Agents with Chris Brogan. Smith nailed it: “We are being called to expand our role and tell a bigger story.”

The Internet Moves in for its Close-Up

Social media is telling this bigger story in digital close-up. Echoing the cinematic revolution,  almost exactly a century later social media etiquette favours authentic human gestures over bold, brassy proclamations .  Conversation and engagement is what it takes to be a star in the social media universe, everything else is likely to find itself on the cutting room floor.

Storytelling Technology for Reinvention

I’m continually amazed with the ways in which good social media strategy mirrors the filmmaking process. As a filmmaker, I live in the realm of story and I’m very excited about the opportunity for transformation and reinvention that this new storytelling technology offers. What’s the bigger story that is calling you?

It’s all about story

When I was 8 years old, I started writing a novel about a young tomboy’s adventures and I decided that I wanted to be a novelist. A year later, I was given an instamatic camera and I fancied myself a photographer. Later I took up singing and I dreamed of being a musician. I always adored art classes and at age 14, I was commissioned to make a series of silk batik scarves for sale at a chique shoe store in Brussels – it was an artist’s life for me!  I spent much of my teenage years working with school plays and by the time I played Juliet, I was convinced that my real future was in the Theatre.

Finally at age 18 I found myself at film school, almost by accident (that’s another story!). Now 30 years later, I’ve enjoyed a fulfilling career in the film and television documentary industry only to discover a passion for social media’s kaleidoscope of creative engagement apps and opps. Now that I’m putting it all together, it’s clear that when  it comes down to it,  I’ve really been exploring different aspects of one thing my whole life: storytelling.

I’ve wanted to get back to writing and get this blog out into the world for a while. Blog posts have been writing themselves in my head for a few months now, so it’s a relief to finally be here at the keyboard.  The outcome is unknown, dear reader. But here we go…..

What place does storytelling have in your life? I look forward to exchanging all manner of tales with you around this virtual campfire…where will it take us, what will we learn in the process…? Let’s hope there’s some fun along the way.

Sheesh, what happens next…?