Why I'm a Passionate Story-Teller
Updated: Jan 30
I've always loved a good story. I love movies based on real-life events. I love watching documentaries. I even produced a documentary with plans to create even more.
Throughout my career, I've always been drawn to story-telling. I started my video production career working at a local TV station. I worked on newscasts every day that consisted of stories. I learned early on that sometimes a story took shape from the perspective of the story-teller. Sometimes they got it right and sometimes, they got the facts of the story wrong.
I remember having a veteran come to me as I was coming back from break after hours. He was upset over a story that aired at the previous newscast that was about veterans and he showed me a letter that clearly stated facts that the reporter had wrong in their story. His motivation in visiting the station after hours was to set the story straight.
I remember going inside and asking the reporter to come out to speak with him and look at his letter which clearly contradicted facts she had gotten wrong in her story. Instead of jumping at the chance to speak with this viewer who was only seeking out that the truth be reported, she immediately snapped at me for getting involved. After she calmed down and reluctantly went out to speak with the gentlemen, she quickly realized that he was right and well, her story was wrong. As a result, she had to report a retraction of her previous story later that night on the late newscast.
What was disappointing to me is that she didn't offer me an apology but rather gave me a stern warning not to EVER do that again. I was disappointed that regardless of the truth, she was more concerned in how it all played out rather than the true facts of story getting to the public. This was my first realization that maybe authentically reporting someone's story was lost on those doing the reporting. Stories became sensationalized to breed more viewers and it didn't matter what the true facts of a story were at that point.
I will never forget that gentleman who was only seeking out the truth of HIS story being told. I truly believe in being authentic to a story we are trying to tell. Stories shouldn't be about gaining views, likes, hearts, emojis, viewers etc. Stories should move us to empathize and take action when needed. It shouldn't be about our gain but in changing hearts, minds and society for the better.
After I left that position, I started working for a non-profit organization as a video producer. One of my duties was to create promotional videos asking for donations for the many projects the organization was involved in. It was a very worthy cause and I was so excited to travel to several places around the world to capture the stories of how we were helping and impacting those communities.
One of the trips sent me to Cuba. It was truly an experience of a lifetime as we met and spent a week with the local people our organization was serving. We were accompanied on the trip by two individuals from a marketing firm hired by my organization to assist in gaining material that could be used for fundraising purposes.
The local people were amazing and so intelligent as education is free to cubans. Many that we talked to held multiple degrees including doctorates in medicine and law. They were articulate and passionate. My intention the entire trip was to authentically capture their stories and the need. What could be more compelling to a US audience than the story in their own words.
That's the approach I took as I interviewed them about how our organization could help them improve their community. I worked with a translator who would tell me what their answers were to my questions. One of the subjects talked about the lack of resources in Cuba and how they have had to adapt and repurpose, reuse and make do. He talked about how Americans have credit cards and can get anything they want. To my disappointment, the individuals from the marketing firm latched onto this statement about not having credit cards and ran with it as a marketing slogan. They thought it would be a great slogan to build their marking campaign on and that's exactly what they did.
The statement was grossly misused from that moment on to raise funds. It no longer mattered what the actual story or intent was - this is what the story became, "we don't need credit cards, we need education". They had plenty of education. They were very well educated as education was free in Cuba. What they needed was the ability to fulfill their vision to reach people beyond their island.
I went back and listened to the interviews, the questions I asked and the answers that were given and the interpretation of those words. Really the marketers latched onto the first part of their statement but it held a totally different meaning from how they used it in their marketing.
At that moment, I was so disappointed as the heart of the story got lost in this marketing campaign. Their words and stories were totally cut out of all the materials from that moment on and it really saddened me. I thought their own story was far more compelling of how they have managed to make do on their own for so long. Even though they had managed to adapt, they truly desired what our organization could offer them and how they desired to become missionaries to other countries even though they couldn't leave Cuba at that time. They had a vision to reach outside of their own country and I thought that was so compelling. However, that message was lost to a ridiculous marketing campaign about "not having credit cards".
I felt their words, their stories were more moving than half a statement that was misunderstood by the marketing firm. Yes, the individual said that they didn't have credit cards like Americans do, but he followed that up with how well they have adapted with what they have to follow their vision. The meaning and intent of the statement was grossly misused and misunderstood by the people doing the marketing campaign.
In my view, it was a tragic misuse of someones story. Their words and their passion was more compelling than any marketing slogan. They never got the chance to be heard as all of that material went unused. Their story was dubbed over with someone else's voice and sadly, agenda.
I realize that these two instances have shaped my view on story-telling. I don't want to twist someone's story to an agenda but rather, I want to hear their heart, their passion, their disappointment and triumphs. We as content creators have a huge responsibility to not exploit people for our own gain like the reporter at the local news station or the fundraising efforts of a large organization.
This is why I'm so passionate about being true to the stories I'm trying to tell. I want your voice to be heard, your truth. Only you can tell your story in an authentic way. I believe everyone has a story. Your story can encourage others to follow their passion and dreams. Your story can move people to action, to get involved in seeing change in our community. Your story can help someone feel that they are not alone in their struggles and give them hope for a better tomorrow.
This is my passion - authentic story-telling. I believe everyone has a story to tell and I would love to capture yours.