In this age of technological revolution, the craft of storytelling has exploded into a dazzling array of different forms. Whilst the spiral of digital innovation creates exciting new directions for storytelling, it equally creates some dilemmas.
As a storyteller following the oral tradition, my choice of medium is simple – the spoken word. For each session, the tales I tell adapt in tone, energy and choice of words depending upon the audience in front of me (whether they be children or adults, daytime or evening and so on). As an audience becomes immersed into the narrative, the session takes on a life of its own and opportunities for direct interaction with the audience begin. It is a craft of living in the moment, which is ironic considering many of the tales I tell are many hundreds of years old. In that storytelling space, a tale is woven through words, gestures, body language and movement to create images and an emotional connection. The tale is told and then gone, never to be retold in exactly the same way again. For me at least, the power of traditional storytelling is in this immediacy and direct interaction with the people listening.
However, for all storytellers, we ignore the rise of social media at our peril! The internet has totally changed the way the world operates and receives information. For all the good and bad that this silicon fueled future has brought, it cannot be denied that the web offers a way to reach far more people than any of us could have done before.
The most obvious way for storytellers of the spoken word to reach out to the global community is You Tube. This medium provides a way of introducing the powerful art of storytelling to a completely new audience, although in my opinion this opportunity comes with a significant BUT!…
A recording of a storytelling session can communicate the words of a story but not the actual experience of sitting in a live storytelling session. There are a plethora of subtle nuances and interactions between teller and audience and even among the audience itself that cannot be captured by the lens of a video camera. As a result I have been continually frustrated in trying to create a video of a storytelling session that portrays an authentic rendition of what live storytelling is about. The many recordings I have made seem hopelessly inadequate because they are distant, lack atmosphere and seem sterile. Basically what the camera sees and hears, does not reflect the full experience. However, tellings direct to camera haven’t seemed right either, they felt artificial.
My breakthrough came while trying to create a video of a Christmas story. Finally the dawning realisation came after several recordings. I eventually woke up to the fact that video will NEVER be able to capture the experience of sitting in front of a storyteller which seems obvious in hindsight! Yes I felt stupid to have not considered this before, but in my defence I am a storyteller, not a film maker. I had caught myself in a dilemma of my own making, namely that the video should enable the viewer to get a good ‘sense’ of what the oral tradition is when this can never be a reality.
I realised the key word here is ‘sense’ because an audience in a live telling have all 5 senses at their disposal to fully experience the story, whereas video is restricted to just 2; sight and sound. What video lacks in its sensual experience, it more than makes up for through its ability to optimise and enhance those 2 senses beyond what would normally be achieved in a telling and so create a richer experience. Video can also be replayed and paused whereas a storytelling session can never be replayed exactly the same way twice.
As soon as I allowed myself to accept that film cannot capture a truthful recording of a telling and instead embrace video as its own medium, I was freed to capitalise upon the tools and techniques of video in order to ‘paint a picture’ of what storytelling is about.
From now on, when it comes to creating and posting videos I will always intend to optimise and enhance the video experience to do my bit in feeding the growing resurgence of interest in traditional storytelling.
True, the video may not be what an audience would experience when told live, but that isn’t my focus anymore. I simply want each viewer to recognise that storytelling is not just the preserve of children sat in a library. It is a living, breathing part of who we are as a species. No matter how far we externalise ourselves into technology, storytelling will be there with us to the bitter end.
So which do you prefer?
You can see the difference I’m talking about for yourself in the clips below. The two clips show the start of the same story in two different situations. The first clip was recorded during an actual telling whereas the second clip was created specifically for sharing on You Tube. My video editing skills are not brilliant but I believe the difference is apparent. So which one do you prefer?
P.S. I do not regard this as digital storytelling – I think that is a subject for a wholly different post.
If you want to see the full story please see my previous post
CLIP 1 – live storytelling
CLIP 2 – storytelling adapted for the medium of video