Learn the arc of the whale and different broadcasting tools to better plan for stories and interviews.
Note: Due to licensing concerns, several video and audio segments that were played during this presentation have been removed from this audio recording.
Photo by Bob Goyetche.
Bob Goyetche: I’m Bob Goyetche.
Mark Blevis: I’m Mark Blevis. This is special coverage of Podcasters Across Borders 2007, from 2007, on the Canadian Podcast Buffet.
Bob Goyetche: This episode is brought to you in part by our friends at TD Canada Trust. Stay tuned to the end of the show to see how you can get a free iPod.
Mark Blevis: Keep watching www.podcastersacrossborders.com and keep listening to the Canadian Podcast Buffet to find out details on attending Podcasters Across Borders 2008. Don’t just listen to the audio – be there when it’s created.
Bob Goyetche: And if PAB2007 motivated you to start your own podcast, be sure to submit it to www.canadapodcast.ca and we’ll introduce it when we come back this fall.
Mark Blevis: We’ve received a lot of feedback that we haven’t podcasted many of the breaks from the session. And that’s because I didn’t have the audio recorder going during the breaks. There really wasn’t much to record.
Bob Goyetche: So we might as well skip that then.
Mark Blevis: Okay, so we’ll skip the breaks. Pretend you had the break and let’s go now to the conference floor on June 21st for a session on “Storytelling for Podcasts” by Sonya Buyting.
Sonya Buyting: How many of you were at Tod Maffin’s session yesterday? From Idea to Air? Okay, excellent. What I’m going to tell you today is, is Tod…okay, what I’m going to tell you today is basically Storytelling 101. This is like the most basic storytelling construct that you could have and it’s a very good compliment for everything that you learned in Tod’s session. And so basically, if you’re looking…this is a skeleton for what you can dress all of those wonderful elements that Tod told you about yesterday.
So, before I get started though, this came from…I have to give kudos. This is from Neil Everton’s School of Training. And he was a professional trainer, former producer for BBC. And he’s trained lots of CBC National reporters, CNN, BBC, Discovery Channel and that’s where I learned it. So he’s now Executive Producer of Global Maritimes and I told him I’d give him kudos, so yeah for Neil. So, when the story is not obvious and chronological then the model that I’m going to give you is, is basically where to put your content to make the most dramatic story you possibly can. Very basic. And it can be used for documentaries, it can be used for interviews, it can be used for country songs, for first person stories. Whatever the hell you want to use it for.
So I’m going to show you a video and this is the best example I was able to find. It’s the most textbook classic example of this type of storytelling. So I’ll show you this piece of video. And just keep in mind when you’re watching this, this story. I don’t know what the guy’s name is, I think it’s Gadd is what they say, so we’ll just call him Gadd. The main character…keep in mind what forces are working for him and what forces are working against him. So, take a look…okay. So that’s the story. His name is Will Gadd, Now the producer who put this together, all she did was (…)…let’s turn this off. So all she did was the interview. He and his team had acquired, got the footage themselves and sent it into Daily Planet. And then Carol did an interview and put the story together according to the exact arc of the whale model. So, the whale looks something like this, right? This is the profile of the whale in the water. Doesn’t make much sense yet, but it will in a second. First things first though, is she needed to figure out who is the main character. It’s obvious here; Will Gadd is the main character. He is a world class Ice Climbing Champion and he is the guy who has all the great clips. And that’s another thing where that producer totally lucked out in is all the clips…I’m so excited…oh my god, I’m going to die…this is scary…and dah, dah, dah. That’s really…those are great clips that she was really lucky to have had on tape.
So, in this case, it’s really obvious who the main character is. But a way to…I’ll tell you about it in a second…so you have the main character, in this case it’s Will Gadd. So you need to first figure out your focus statement. And someone once told me that the easiest way to figure out a focus statement which is one sentence which will be your angle into the story, and it will be the…yeah, it’s the angle that will help you tell the big picture. And it is not a sentence about what the topic is about. It is not a sentence about what the subject of the story is about. It is the focus statement of this character. What is this guy’s quest? So, in this particular example, Will Gadd, what the hell is his focus? So he wants to climb, he wants to find an iceberg to climb because he gets off on the thrill of reaching the top. He just gets off on it, it’s a big challenge for him. So, that’s’ one sentence. He’s looking for an iceberg that he wants to climb because he gets off on it. You can always boil down a focus statement to somebody wants to do something because of this reason. And yeah, that has helped me focus a number of stories.
So, okay, we have the focus statement, right? There’s Will…Will…okay I’m going old school and I know all of your asses with this whiteboard. So you have Will Gadd. And his goal is to find an iceberg to climb because he gets off on the thrill. I’ve got this all typed out and I just don’t do PowerPoint presentations. So I can forward this to everybody who wants this afterwards. On the climb. Okay. Now there are a number of forces always working for the main character and against the main character. And if there is a toss-up as to who should be the main character, then you might want to try plotting out the pros and cons, the forces going for the character, the forces going against the character. When you have a lot of obstacles for the character and it’s quite balanced, the forces for and against, then that’s probably a good character. But if there’s like another character who really doesn’t have that much invested and there’s not that much at risk for that person, like what Tod was mentioning yesterday, then that’s probably not a good main character to choose. So in this particular instance…how much time do I have?…okay…in this particular instance the pros…I’m just going to list these ‘cause I think there’s quite a bit for me to get through, I was going to ask you guys. But some of the pros for this guy is: he’s adventurous, that’s obvious; he’s knowledgeable, we can see he wrote a book on it and he knows what he’s talking about; he’s experienced, he won all those medals that you saw on the piece; he’s got a really good team behind him, which was also evident in the piece; and he’s got good equipment and just this kind of goes under the experience part of it, but you know, he’s able to assess structural integrity of icebergs just by the sound. And another thing he’s got going for him is he’s got perseverance. But he’s not, he doesn’t do so blindly. He’s not stupidly perseverant…that’s not the way to say that…he’s not, you know, he’s not going for it stupidly.
Okay, now going against him though, there’s quite a few forces going against him. And one, this is obviously a dangerous hobby, okay. Two, everyone knows how dangerous this is, so everyone thinks he’s kind of crazy, so that’s not really going for him. Another thing going against him is that icebergs are inherently unstable and you heard in the piece why. They…so much more underneath the water, they can easily tip over or break in half. Another thing is that there’s that temperature differential. When the actual atmosphere causes a temperature differential, they’re even more unstable. So, you have all of these things working for and against. So you have this guy here on his quest and you’ve got the forces for and against. And, you know, you can just write out your list of pros and cons, just like if you’re trying to figure out if whoever you’re dating is a good person to date. You get your pros and cons. Oh, you’re not like me, okay.
Okay, so we’ve got this whale. I’m just going to erase this ‘cause now I’m gonna draw a big pretty diagram of the whale. Now this is the only thing I don’t have in my Microsoft Word document in case somebody else wants to draw this for me in Illustrator, because I don’t know how to do that. But the whale…okay, we’ve got the hump. So it kinda looks like a whale, its appropriate. We’re out there in the ocean. So this here, this axis…excitement, okay. That’s what that stands for. And this is time or unfolding of the story. Alright. So right off the bat, the first thing that you want to do when you start any story…and oh, by the way, when I say any story, what I mean is this is a very basic formula, and once you know the formula, you can start listening to it in every story that you encounter. And then you can start picking up where you deviate from this formula. Because, you know, this is a good textbook classic example. But you don’t always want to stick to it exactly.
And…okay, so first things first. You have the hook and the hook takes you to about here, okay. And the hook is the part…this is what you need to do to grab peoples’ attention. You want to get them into the tent. You want people to pay attention to your story. You want people to not change the channel, to not skip your podcast. So, you know, it depends on whether you’re writing a story, whether you’re doing an audio only, or pictures. But you might want to think about using your strongest sound, your strongest words, your strongest video, to really grab peoples’ attention. But when I say the strongest, like if you don’t want to see the guy get to the very top right of the bat. Because you also want to build the suspense right? So don’t give away the ending in the hook. Tease them. Make them want to watch all the way through.
So you have the hook first. And I hope we’re going to get to a…we might not get a chance to watch this again but…so for…in this particular instance, the hook is “you know, Will Gadd has done some crazy things, and today he’s gonna climb an iceberg”. And in the hook as well you may want to…that may be the time to introduce your main character and to set up what their challenge is.
So the next part where the excitement dips a bit is the context. And this is where Neil would say your story, live and die. You make this too short, people might not be able to understand the rest of your story. You make this too long, you might lose your listener or viewer. And this is the need-to-know information to be able to move on with the story. So in this particular case, you know, you got a little bit of back story about Will. You know he’s an award winning climber. He’s even written a book, you know, okay, fine. It’s very short and sweet and that’s the way you want it because you want to get on with the good stuff in the story.
And so the next part is the story unfolding. So this is…and this can be divided into however many sections you want to. Or however many different scenes, or obstacles. And this is where you want to refer back to your…the obstacles that this person is facing. Because all of these obstacles you can make into a different little section in the story unfolding. This is when the little parts will start revealing themselves and you’re building the drama. So in this case here, you know, first thing he’s trying to do, he’s trying to find an iceberg. And then he meets other people who are telling him how crazy he is and how dangerous this is. And the big risk is yes, these things are extremely unstable. And, you know, you get clips from him all the way along saying “I don’t know whether to be excited or scared”. And okay, here we find another peg in here, you find an iceberg, he found an iceberg, yeah. But he starts climbing it. Really bad ice. He can hear this. And then, you know, in this piece here, you get into a little science about why that crackling sound is important to his decision on whether or not to continue. He does continue. So he keeps going up. And then you hear about the whole temperature differential thing that could screw him even more. And as you’re going on, you’re building the excitement and just raising the whole drama of the story until you get to the very top. And that should be at the top, so let’s just pretend that hill is the highest right there. You want to climax. Everybody wants to climax. But in the story, you want to climax. And in this particular case, he got to that top of that little peak. And it’s like, oh, yeah, we’re all rooting for him anyway. He got to the top. We’re excited.
And after that, you have what’s known as either the wrap-up or denouement, whatever the hell you want to call it. And that is, you know, he’s just talking about oh my god, that was really scary, the most horrifying ice climbing I’ve ever done, which I’m sure is an exaggeration for the camera but still. And, you know, in this part in the denouement, you can always do a recap of, you know, what you’re hook was. You could mention, you know, do some forward thinking. What’s coming up next for this guy? Or you can just wrap-up the story that you’re telling.
So these are all just very basic tools. Oh, there’s one thing I didn’t mention here. In here, before the excitement starts dropping down, there’s usually a good spot to put what Neil would call a statement of enticement. And that’s where you actually get to hear from the character about the challenge ahead. Where the character says “oh my god, I’m…just can’t believe I’m going to be doing this” and, you know, “I really need to find an iceberg today because I gotta climb it”, you know, or whatever the heck he said there. And so, you know, it always, you always want to set…make sure that it’s obvious to your viewer or listener where…five minutes, excellent…where that, you know, what the challenge is. And this place here is a good place to put it in a very basic, and this really is very basic. This is their thread right here, you know, like that thing that I wrote, Will Gadd and His Quest and the plus and minuses, you know. Will, this is it right here, it just takes this form.
And this, like you know, I encourage you if you didn’t get a chance to attend Tod Maffin’s session yesterday, to attend it tonight because this can be incorporated into what he’s talking about. And if you don’t know what content or what information to put where in your story and you’re just starting out, you can just start plugging into this formula, you know. And keep in mind all those amazing things that he talks about, you know, including different scenes or different reflections. Like all of these elements here could be interview clips. They could be scenes that you captured. They could be the reflections. They could be a numerous amount of things. Like whatever your imagination can really allow. And yeah, once you have this formula, then deviate. I recommend you deviate. And yeah. I have five minutes left. Would you guys like to see the video again? There’s enough time to see the video again and just so we can stomp it. And you can see the different parts. Or do you want to hear a Johnny Cash song and I’ll tell you where he deviated?
Bob Goyetche: Or we can see if somebody has any questions, maybe.
Sonya Buyting: Or anybody have any questions? Anybody? Johnny Cash? Okay. I love Johnny Cash.
Bob Goyetche: Everybody turn off your audio recorders, this is not Podsafe.
Bob Goyetche: This episode of Canadian Podcast Buffet featuring Podcasters Across Borders audio is brought to you in part by TD Canada Trust. When you switch your main chequing account to TD by August 3rd, you will qualify for either a Free Shuffle, iPod Nano or a 30 gig iPod. Visit www.tdswitch.com/pab for details.
Mark Blevis: Thanks to all of the PAB2007 Sponsors: Rogic Podcast Conglomerate, Third Storey Productions, TD Canada Trust, Thornley Fallis, StartCooking.com, Marion McDonald, Don Edwards, Freddie Litwiniuk, Bill Deys and Christopher Penn.
Bob Goyetche: For more info on Canadian Podcast Buffet you can go to our website www.canadianpodcastbuffet.ca.
Mark Blevis: For more information on Podcasters Across Borders visit that website www.podcastersacrossborders.com.
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Mark Blevis: Of course you’re welcome to join any and all of the Rogic forums including the Canadian Podcast Buffet forum, the Podcasters Across Borders forum, and there’s a link to that at www.rogic.com/forum on the Canadian Podcast Buffet website.
Bob Goyetche: Canadian Podcast Buffet and Podcasters Across Borders are proud members of the Rogic Podcast Conglomerate.