Digital Story-Telling: The case for old ideas
This week I spoke at the third annual PRCA Ignite event on digital creativity.
My stance on creativity has evolved over the years, but probably the most important lesson I’ve learned is not to exhaust yourself trying to think of new ideas. Because actually, your chances are slim and you can be just as creative taking an old idea and refreshing it for a contemporary audience. This is what my presentation was on, and there are some great examples of brilliant story-telling that have used this technique.
The best example of this is Star Wars. Star Wars follows to the letter a 47 step narrative template called 'The Hero's Journey' devised by Joseph Campbell. This template can be applied to everything from Beowulf to Finding Nemo. Yet, if Star Wars is just a copy paste job of thousands of other stories, then why was it so successful? The answer lies in the way that George Lucas took a story that people instinctively know and understand, and put it through the lens of what the audience were interested in at that time. In the case of Star Wars and 1977, this was the height of the Space Race. The other examples I shared are Jurassic Park and Frozen. Jurassic Park is based on the classic story of ‘Hubris’, man aspiring and failing to overturn nature and be like the gods. From Icarus to Dr Frankenstein, it’s a story everyone knows. Jurassic Park took that story at a time when cloning and genetic modification was in the news. Finally, Frozen. A classic story of ‘Rebirth’ a character going through a process of change and acceptance. Put through the lens of gender equality.
In the digital age we have a great canvas for story-telling as people are consuming more and more content, but we must remember this principle of including timeless story-telling with contemporary relevance. And we can’t prioritise technology over story, or we risk replicating Star Wars’ own ‘fail and learn’ moment in the Phantom Menace, a film full of CGI and devoid of story-telling.