The way that stories are told is ever changing. But what difference will the explosion in new tech make to storytelling? We spoke to Heather Taylor, an award-winning writer/film director and director of creative strategy for The Economist.
Heather Taylor is the founder of Red on Black Productions. She is currently working on her second feature film with New York-based Small Media XL. She also continues to develop branded content programmes with organisations such as The Economist and the BBC, and brands including Ikea, PayPal, Microsoft, Nespresso, Aetna, and Bank of America.
She firmly believes that storytelling needs to be at the heart of any successful business and that embracing new technologies is the way to go: "We have to continue to reinvent how we tell stories, by how people will experience them".
Virtual vs Augmented Realities
Two of the technologies are Virtual Reality (VR), which offers a digital recreation of a real life setting and Augmented Reality (AR), which delivers virtual elements as an overlay to the real world. She thinks that AR could be the more creative in telling stories.
"To truly embrace the concept of VR as a creator is to think of it as an immersion into a new world and allow the audience to engage with it the way they want to. I truly believe the best VR puts you in the middle of an environment that you can never be in: the middle of a brain, ground zero at Chernobyl, an interrogation room during 1979 Iranian Revolution; helping viewers experience new worlds and new ideas as if they were there."
Taylor thinks that VR can be used to good effect in a teaching environment, but believes that AR will have the greater legacy, 'overall and not just for storytelling'. It "will allow us to interact with the world and to do it with other people. We can see the impact PokemonGo had on people getting out and exploring the streets around their own home to play a game. This could help us bring stories to life in contextual environments. It really feels like the beginning of a sci-fi movie where soon we’ll have AR chips implanted and we’ll see the world with another layer always!"
One of the most innovative AR examples Taylor has come across recently is an award-winning short video trailer created by marketing agency Campfire to promote the TV series Outcast, which puts the viewer in the shoes of someone who is possessed. It uses your PC’s webcam to register if your eyes are open or closed. The story you’re hearing changes dependent on that. "It’s pretty spectacular and shows how you can use tech to enhance the story."
Smartphones and apps
Mobile smart devices and mobile internet are completely changing the way we do business and how we connect with other people. They are also having a marked effect on storytelling.
"Smartphones have made storytelling more accessible which has help re-spark radio in the forms of podcasts and audiobooks. Through audio storytelling, listeners can immerse themselves in new worlds whenever and wherever they want.
"I’ve been working on a project called StoryMapp that maps stories from around the world to landmark types around you. You can go on a walk and you may hear the story of Korean schoolchildren when you pass an elementary school, or the building of the Brooklyn Bridge as you walk over the Thames. Yet another way of bringing new context to your environment through contextual storytelling."
But Taylor points out that it’s important we shouldn’t just use technology for technology’s sake. We need to explore how it can be used to tell a satisfying tale: "There will always be an appetite for new worlds to explore and new characters to follow, but we need to embrace what the technology can give us to help find new dimensions to our stories."