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Where the story goes

Hello and welcome back to another episode of the Designers’ Soup. This month, we are looking at the Explorer archetype. This archetype is known for its audacious curiosity and venturing into the unknown inspired by a sense of wonder. It's this thrill of encountering the unfamiliar that brings vitality to all the adventure stories we love. Sometimes, when we make stories—particularly ones involving a larger scope or team leaving room for more changes—I find myself leaning on my inner Explorer archetype and sensing where the story is moving through the inevitable changes.

Last year, we were invited to help direct the narrative of a Sri Lankan surf documentary. Early on, I decided to document my experience of working on this project. As the filming started, and I joined the film crew, I was faced with the dichotomy of presence versus documentation. I’ve been dancing with this paradox ever since. And I wonder, as someone who is part of building a narrative for the story, how do I become absorbed in the present, feeling out the moment to moment, while also recording it? To strike this balance, I keep a journal; it’s become a tool to reconcile the images and sounds captured from the day’s surf mission with the evocative emotions triggered by the experience. The camera encapsulates reality and the journal distills its essence. 

Some stories can be designed within strict parameters while others need room to evolve. Stories like documentary films are notorious for this need to take form through the changes that affect the team, place, resources and even things completely beyond the story makers’ control—like the weather.

The task of unravelling the essence of a story can be challenging, particularly when it’s ongoing. Since we started working on this film, there have been unpredictable weather changes, last-minute cancellations, and unexpected discoveries along the way; all these have moved us to adjust or make changes to the direction of the story. For these kinds of scenarios, we tend to let the story play out, keep the script open, and use a framework to tie the different pieces under a common thread later as the story gains more form. This approach works not just for documentary films, but also in shaping business stories. For example, in my company Public Works' case, the open script was intentional. We allowed the business an incubation period, enabling an organic evolution of its identity and persona. We knew our business would change as we settled into the market; we chose to wait before defining our story. This approach led to a more authentic representation of who we are and what we’re doing as a business; our narrative didn’t arise out of thin air, but rather from a deep-rooted understanding and real experiences. 

We use story maps as a way to keep track of where stories evolve, particularly when they’re complex or are forming a series. Especially in the case of stories that need wiggle room to evolve, story maps help us keep things on track and aim toward the end goal of the client. But, that’s a whole other story.

Change, like an uncharted path, demands preparedness. Packing for adventure is similar to a business gearing up for changes; you need to have an understanding of the basics you need and pack them; you must stay open and nimble enough to move with the tides. Everyone may not have the readiness, and this is where my work at Public Works usually emerges as a crucial ally to our clients. Most of what we did during COVID, was helping our clients stay in business. All the businesses we worked with, once they had the right tools and the know-how to use them, were able to adapt to the new landscape. As a consultant, I find myself channelling the seasoned guide aspect of the Explorer archetype. 

Coming back to this film, a good part of the work I’m doing on this documentary involves determining what is relevant to the story, where it’s going, and keeping us along that track. With the methods and tools we’ve designed to help our clients tell their business stories, I’ve been able to adapt and embrace the wonder of the unknown in documentary filmmaking. Let’s see where this story goes.

Our storytelling tools are designed to let stories evolve while making sure they stay on track to deliver commercial goals for the client. To find out how we use story maps to keep a story on track, drop us a message.


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