What is the primary job of a story teller?
To tell the truth.
Every so often, someone tells us a story that stops us dead in our tracks. On rare occasions, the telling of that story is also a milestone for that person recounting the tale.
And this act of sharing can be transformative.
I had such an experience today, and I will never forget it.
This week I have been training European filmmakers, helping them with their pitches and generally getting their projects into more marketable shape.
I won’t share the exact details as this story was shared in confidence.
What I can tell you is that the writer at the heart of this extraordinary day, is writing a film about a girl who experiences a terrible event. The girl in her story then goes through the grieving and recovery process to finally discover that life is in fact, wonderful and glorious.
The problem was that the tragedy she had written felt a little contrived, cliché and actually out of place.
After pressing hard about why this overly melodramatic and overused plot device was used, she looked at me hard… there was a pause.
And a moment passed in silence.
Then she began to speak, sharing the story of a terrible event that she had personally survived two years earlier.
Genuinely, she should not have survived – and yet she did, and now she was right in front of me and opening her heart.
She spoke calmly but emotionally and we listened in total silence.
In those moments, a powerful and amazing truth was shared and bond between story teller and story listeners was formed. Quite literally, you can’t make that stuff up. Actors know this too, great performances come from honesty.
What resonated profoundly with me was how she had come through it all. While her body had suffered terribly, I could see that her soul had been enriched enormously. There was still great pain and loss of course, but there was also a deep appreciation for life and a desire to do something amazing.
For her, this film was that amazing thing she wanted to do with her life now.
I encouraged her to consider removing from her script, the contrived ‘terrible event’, and draw from her own personal experiences.
Structurally she could easily replace it with something that closely mirrored her own experiences, something that felt organic and honest within the world of her story.
In doing so, the story would become much deeper, it would gain genuine pathos and tragedy, but crucially, it would ooze with hope, courage and joy.
Instead of imagining events, having the courage to share truthfully about what had happened, how she felt, what she went through and how she become the strong and vibrant young woman she is today, would result in a story that people would connect with profoundly.
And a story that comes from THAT place… well that is the good stuff.
She agreed. She smiled. She was energised by the idea and the sharing.
After our chat we had a hug. I felt like I was embracing an old friend.
The truth is often difficult to tell. We hide it away as it is often too painful to confront. But audiences can tell when we are making up stuff, and when we are digging deep into our souls and sharing ‘the truth’.
Thank you M for sharing your story, you have inspired me.
Awesome day. Awesome.
Onwards and upwards!