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A View from Justin: Remembering your superpowers

A couple of weeks ago Sophie Robinson, Head of Documentary at Sunshine and I headed down to the D&AD to give a masterclass on storytelling.

It was a fun day and hopefully we imparted some knowledge and inspired a few people to use more storytelling tactics in their work. The people who attended the workshop came from a variety of places; from an experiential designer who wanted to tell better stories through experience to someone who worked for a client that had a lot of restrictions and dark markets. Despite their differences, the primary output of all of their work was a creative one.

My job role isn’t purely creative so I have always looked upon that wide discipline as an alluring and magical one. How exciting it would be to just sit back and come up with ideas!? It wouldn’t matter what the brief was, the sheer act of genesis would have me leaping out of bed everyday ready to put pen to paper! Yet, the common motive for attending the workshop amongst our motley crew was one of reinvigoration.

For a host of reasons, all of our participants needed help getting back to the primary function of their job - to put something out into the world that made people feel something. To make a dent, however small, in people’s lives. The creative spirit, when given the right ingredients is one that should sore above us, lifting us all up to their level with what they have brought into the world. But it certainly felt like the daily grind had made these young padawans lose sight of the power they have as a creative person.

It was great to be able to bring people out of the minutiae of their daily working lives and get them back into thinking about the most important thing when creating something: What is the story you want to tell? Everyone tells stories on a daily basis, but few can tell a good one. A story that is finely tuned is one that stays long in the memory. It is something that demands imagination, craft and perseverance.

A story without a truth at its heart gets forgotten. A story without some form of tension gets forgotten. A story without a chief protagonist gets forgotten.

Working on client-based projects often means that making memorable work can require much greater effort. You can’t start with an the incredible character or that incredible event. You have to start with vodka. Or a car. Or a face cream. The trick lies in the role you give the brand or product, in understanding the types of story you can tell and in how you transform that cocktail, road trip or morning ritual into something that we can all get invested in: into the start of a story about a terrible first date; or the race to get a partner in labour to hospital; or a fighter pilot’s preparation for a day in the skies.

Sometimes the trick is to simply remind creatives of their primary purpose. And that should not be answering emails, writing presentations or completing timesheets.

Their job - and their superpower - is to tell amazing stories, where wonderful ends justify that occasionally tortuous journey.

"A story that is finely tuned is one that stays long in the memory."

"Sometimes the trick is to simply remind creatives of their primary purpose. And that should not be answering emails, writing presentations or completing timesheets."