Friday, November 27, 2009

More on story-telling.

We hear a lot about story-telling in the business and most of it seems to me to be so much blather. People--that is, clients, don't really want stories, they want brand litanies--copy points--masquerading as stories.

I think a lot about stories. About the essential elements that make up good stories whether they were written five thousand years ago like "Gilgamesh," seven hundred years ago like "The Canterbury Tales," or even a story I've just watched "Bang the Drum Slowly," which was written nearly sixty years ago.

Criterion ( film archivists who do a great job of preserving and propagating great stories. They have just released and I have just begun watching a box set called "The Golden Age of Television." This three-disc set includes "Bang the Drum Slowly," "Marty," "Days of Wine and Roses," "Requiem for a Heavyweight," and others and looks to be fabulous.

"Bang the Drum Slowly," stars a 31-year-old Paul Newman and is the story of a young ballplayer dieing of an incurable disease. It was shot as a stage play in the early days of television and on the cheap. There are about four sets. No special effects except lights turning on an off. And a lot of looking at the camera and talking to viewers directly.

Paul Newman wept at the end as he performed his lines. I've read the book a dozen times, seen the DeNiro version a few times and this version a few times as well. I teared-up anyway.

It is a great story.


Kelly said...


Thanks. Now I know what I'm getting for my father for the holiday I dare not mention around here. ;)

He'll love it and so will I. I can't wait to help him enjoy it!

Stories. I was thinking about this yesterday as I recommended the tiniest of tweaks—to a client's email address, in fact—to keep in step with the story she tells at her company.

The problem as companies get bigger and bigger is they don't have the time or the inclination to see how the little details add up to the big story: Bruce singing (then fading) in the background as Arthur speaks adds so much, in that clip, or a dozen other details, things as small as facial tics as Arthur gets closer to overwhelm.

Lots of big companies had the time when they were small, but maybe not the knowledge—and now, coordinating a story masterfully just looks so much harder than plopping a script on top of everything and hoping it's close enough for the masses.



Tore Claesson said...

Amazing clip. Great script, first rate acting. The kind of acting that doesn't look like acting.

george tannenbaum said...

Paul Newman's acting was as impressive as his abs.