What Sailing Can Teach You About Storytelling

Posted April 13, 2018
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This week, I have been sailing off the coasts of Cornwall, England.

Sailing off England in April is not like sailing in the BVI.  It is cold and wet and windy.  Perfect weather for me.

Lisa got me this charter as a birthday present.  I wanted to learn bad weather sailing and there is no one better to learn with than Captain Howard Smith.

The trick to successfully navigating bad weather sailing is preparation.  The better prepared you are for what may come, the better you are equipped to deal with it.  Shooting a great video is no different. If you just cast off and sail into a storm, you are going to be in big trouble.  If you just show up at a shoot and start rolling film (now there is an anachronism), you are also going to find yourself in serious trouble as well.  

Survival at sea in bad weather hinges to a great degree upon great preparation. The better prepared you are, the more you do our homework before you set out, the easier the sailing is going to be. Just like filming.

A second analogy, and one I found particularly interesting, relates to storytelling.

If you've taken one of our bootcamps or done the storytelling seminars on TheVJ, then you'll know that my mantra is 'Have the courage to let the story go where it wants to go, not where you want to take it."

As it turns out, rough weather sailing (or sailing in general) is also based on the same concept. You have to 'feel' the boat, the interaction of wind and water and the boat itself. You can feel when you are in the groove - when the boat is performing optimaly and just wants to go.  

If you fight the groove and try and force the boat too far upwind or overpower the sails, you are going to have a problem.

Great video storytelling is no different.

You have to 'feel' when you are in the 'groove' of the story.  It's where the story wants to go, as opposed, as often happens, to forcing the story where you want to take it. 

If you prepare well and learn to feel the story (or the wind and the sea and the boat), you'll bring your boat or story home successfully.

Fail to do either, however, and we'll have to revert to our practice on abandon ship, or abandon the story drills. 


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