Introduction: A Father's Enchanting Quest
The Challenge Begins
How do you tell a fresh story to a four-year-old child five nights a week? This is how it all began… once upon a time in Ayrshire, Scotland, in March 1994, and the 'why' is almost as interesting as the 'how'. Rashly, I promised that I would tell my daughter new stories every night and the gauntlet lay on the ground at my feet as she asked – “But how, daddy?”
Really, I had no idea, but that simply heightened the challenge: I needed time to think. “Let’s buy an ice cream, and I’ll tell you”. I had a few minutes to find the answer, or my daughter would remind me of this for the rest of her life. My brain raced - how was I going to do it? Inexplicably, my mind took me to the mid-eighties when ‘Joy Division’ were in the charts and dinosaurs roamed the earth.
Lessons from 'Who's Line is it Anyway'
Around that time, the TV show ‘Who’s Line is it Anyway’ featured some smart young comedians to play its ‘improv. game’. The show demanded each player invent clever stuff at zero notice. It was fascinating, so when the opportunity to see them billed as ‘The Comedy Store Players’ at the Glasgow Renfrew Ferry – a floating venue on the Clyde - I jumped at it. Sure, the show was compelling, but it was their approach that got me thinking. I was fascinated at how they generated improvisation straight off the cuff.
Forming the 'Story World'
Now I had the chance to study their methods live, and a pattern began to emerge. It became apparent that while each of them generated ideas swiftly, it was the 'envelope' in which they operated that gave the appearance of spontaneity. So how did they do this? They would ask the audience for suggestions of locations, genres, and characters, then improvise comedic scenes and sketches around those ideas. So, we’d get such scenarios as a set on the bridge of the USS Enterprise to which Uhuru would have to sing Abba.
Creating Princess Michaela's World
Each had a keen sense of where the other player was in their improv. journey and would be working out where they would insert their pieces. They would ‘tag’ each other carefully so as one faltered, another one picked up the thread. It was genius. This is what went through my mind as I held my four-year-old daughter’s hand, at the ice cream counter. But this wasn’t an answer in itself; now, I had to marry this idea to the promise to tell her four new stories a week. Suddenly, an idea began to formulate in my mind. What I needed was that mechanism, that envelope, that space into which I could improvise a story each night. Clearly, that would make the task much easier but still daunting.
Assembling the Characters
At this point in my life, I hadn’t studied storytelling or filmmaking, but the inference clearly going through my mind was that I needed a 'story world'. A place with characters and land and buildings and problems. But what story world? That was where the extensive reading from my youth came to play. C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Browning and John Masefield spun through my mind, and from there, I began to assemble the bones of our story world in my head.
The Birth of Princess Michaela
I paid for the ice cream, seated her at the table and looked into her eyes and said, “Once Upon a time”, and her face lit up. “We need a heroine: who should that be?” In an instant, she said it must be a Princess. “And what’s this Princess called?” She thought for a second and replied, “Princess Michaela”. From that point, we assembled a list of characters: our heroes, our villains, and our story world. From there, we developed and honed it over time, with a war horse called 'Glendale' and two dormice called 'Spike' and 'Esmeralda' who rode in the saddlebags. Of course, Princess Michaela lived (with her parents) in a castle near the mountains in a faraway land.
Tales of Adventure
Over the following week, I began to hone my storytelling skills. We started our tale with a long journey high across the mountains where Princess Michaela came across a brown bear, with its foot caught in a bear trap. The animal was howling in pain, bleeding from the wound and growled as the Princess dismounted and approached to help. Unfazed, she searched around for a stout tree branch and levered open the trap, while ignoring the danger of setting the animal free. But the bear sensed that she was there to help, not to harm, and he became her constant companion. My daughter named him ‘Bearhug’ and from that point onwards he was her guardian and would sleep slumped inside her bedroom door to ensure nobody could enter. The two dormice slept in the top drawer of her bedside table, and a chaffinch, whose broken wing she had mended previously, made a nest on her bedroom window sill. That chaffinch was her eyes and ears for everything that went on in the kingdom. It flew far and wide and would bring back intelligence from every corner of the country. Finally, her long-distance travel was by eagle's back, when she would cast a spell on herself to become tiny and climb up into the feathers.
Unleashing the Power of Storytelling
I discovered two simple, but key approaches to telling these stories. I could either think in terms of broad expanses, or I could go deep into detail. The mould was set, and most nights, for about 5 or 10 minutes, I would make up a new story for my daughter as she drifted off to sleep. I could do it! And I kept this up for years - often with nieces and nephews drifting off to my stories too.
So that was where it all started. I loved those tales, those characters, their world, and she loved it too. To this day, I believe that everyone can tell stories.
The Power of Storytelling
My haphazard journey into storytelling illustrates just how magical creative expression can be – no matter how bad or good it is. As I crafted Princess Michaela's world with intricate characters and captivating adventures, I discovered the art of storytelling. Yet I believe the power of storytelling can hold immense potential for businesses seeking video marketing and creative media production.
Captivating Audiences through Video Marketing
Just as I created a "story world" for Princess Michaela, we can create exciting narratives for businesses to captivate their audiences. With the right storytelling techniques, businesses can immerse viewers in engaging content that resonates long after the video ends.
Join Us on This Enchanting Adventure
Join Page Break Media on this enchanting adventure as we delve into the world where commercial media meets the magic of cinema. In the next Blog, I’ll relate how I became obsessed with storytelling, writing and filmmaking and where that obsession took me.