My Oktoberfest was more like StoryFest – three storytelling festivals in one month experienced across three different mediums. From solitary immersion in virtual reality (VR) and interactive games – to a deep dive into personal storytelling in the oral tradition – to communal cinematic storytelling – October was a feast for the senses.
The Future of Storytelling (FoST) Summit & Festival, I.NY and the Kerry Film Festival are different festivals in terms of technology, format, content and community—yet, there are a few similarities that can be made. Here are some takeaways.
Immersive storytelling – Future of Storytelling (FoST) Oct 4-7th, NYC
Using the tag line” Get Lost With Us” and offering more than 100 VR and interactive game experiences, FoST invited me to be part of the story. I ventured to Staten Island for a client and immersed myself in as many VR experiences, interactive installations, and industry panels as I could.
One of the busiest exhibits was NOVO Reality a 9-ton robotic arm that catapults you through space while you experience an original VR film. The emotions evoked from the landscape and the objects in space become a big part of the story – total immersion. NOVO creates stories that move you – literally.
Takeaways: Viewing VR is not about watching a series of scenes or events; it’s about instinctively responding to the energy of a storyworld and having a presence in the story. While AI and AR are getting a lot of attention, it’s good to hear more discussions around humanizing technology. We’re reminded that tech is here to serve humans beings – it’s a tool, not a solution. It appears the pendulum is swinging back from digital towards the human element.
Storytelling can have a noble purpose and impact change, as evidenced by the Narrative 4 workshop. By using a “story exchange” methodology, N4 pairs participants together and then asks each participant to share their partner’s story. By stepping into someone else’s shoes, we create the possibility of shared empathy. This is a different type of immersion without the technology.
Personal storytelling – I.NY October 5-15, Limerick, Ireland
Next up, the newly minted I.NY international cultural festival in Limerick, Ireland. This festival celebrates “the relationship between Ireland and New York, one story at a time.”
I.NY took place at a number of venues in Limerick City and included a wonderfully diverse range of events, including musician Glen Hansard with author Joseph O’Connor, director of the New Yorker festival Rhonda Sherman, designer Orla Kiely, and David Bowie’s musical director Gerry Leonard. One of the highlights was the I.NY Gathering at Dromoland Castle. On the grounds of a 15th century castle – over 125 people came together to celebrate individual stories. I was honored to be one of three tellers that night and shared how New York has impacted my personal, professional and creative journey.
Takeaways: True personal stories can be innately interesting and memorable. Positive stories can inspire audiences because of the inherent optimistic nature that they bring. More importantly, sharing stories about our lives and the people in our lives can connect us more vitally with each other.
Cinematic storytelling – Kerry Film Festival October 19-22, Ireland
The Kerry Film Festival in Killarney, Ireland is an internationally recognized festival and brings together exceptional short films, feature films and industry experts. This year I was invited to be a judge and panel participant. The high caliber of entries in the international short film category made my judging tasks quite difficult. I will admit I had a hard time picking a winner.
One of my favorites stories was the opening night film, THE CREST. Two cousins who live on opposite coasts in the U.S.–both surfers and both unaware of the other’s existence–discover they are descendants of An Ri, the last King of the Blasket Islands off the coast of Kerry. The Crest is a story of family, immigration and the value of tradition and culture.
Takeaway: The visual elements that make up a story in film and television (lighting, framing, camera movement and editing) are as important as the story itself. It’s the arrangement of what you see and the way you see it that can make all the difference. However, in order to visually tell a story, there has to be a compelling story to tell. Audiences want to see material that captivates and grabs their attention. One of the greatest story commandments is “Make me care,” emotionally, intellectually and aestetically so I will invest my time. Achieving this is not something that just happens – it has to be designed.
A key takeaway from all three festivals is that no matter what the medium, people will make time to experience a good story.