Ann Booth-Clibborn is an Executive Producer and runs her own business helping companies to tell their stories. Here she shares some of her secrets for Media Parents.
Stories are our life-blood and our obsession but can you articulate to anyone else, the story you feel instinctively in your soul? writes Ann Booth-Clibborn. Here are three storytelling tips that might help next time you are sat in an edit or production meeting, needing to get that story out in the open.
What world are you trying to create in this show?
What does it feel, look, smell like? What are the rules?
What question is your story trying to answer?
Defining this question will help refine what this story is about and define your end point.
What is the jeopardy in your story?
What is at risk? What is at stake? When you have this down to one line you will know you have passed on the essence of the story.
I am really interested in story mechanics. I currently work as a trouble-shooter and writer for Discovery, and I have my own company helping businesses tell their story. As an Exec Producer for Channel 4 features I felt I had a pretty good grasp of how to make a good show but when I went on the BBC Academy story telling course, it changed my mind and ultimately it changed my career path. I had always been obsessed with commentary, from my early training when I launched Changing Rooms, through being an SP and Exec, but my real immersion into writing was re-versioning. I had just had a baby and I have to say at the time I felt I’d gone back about 10 years in my career, but I realise now it gave me the opportunity to write.
I got the feeling for the length of a line (7 seconds for two thoughts, 11 seconds for three thoughts), and an understanding of how a script could rescue a show. Later, working on Great British Menu, I was shocked at the variety in quality of the writing and I wrote to the BBC Academy to call for a commentary course. They invited me to the Academy to help develop one. The story telling course was part of my induction. What it gave me was a language to talk about story principles to other producers and even to people who didn’t work in TV. My skill that had been entirely instinctive was now out and proud! I set up my training company, storycoach.london to help businesses tell their story well. Then an exec from Discovery called me, she had a doc in a terrible state which needed a complete restructure and rewrite. Could I help? It was like giving a cleaner a dirty house to work on – I loved it. When the show transmitted on Discovery in Russia, it was their highest rated show of the day. I then reworked a 6-part doc, Zoltan the Wolfman, for Animal Planet.
At the end of last year I remotely exec produced The Primeval Forest with a Russian production team and I found using story principles as a basis for discussion and planning really successful for me, and the Russian director. I am looking to take on another part time exec producer role now where planning stories and weaving them together is key; specialist factual, features or a doc series. My feeling is every genre can benefit from some rock solid story telling and I can help a team deliver that. http://www.mediaparents.co.uk/freelancers/12497/ann-booth-clibborn