Last week, Adelaide Screenwriter posted an article about one of his favorite filmmakers. Like me, her name is Anne. Like me, she is a web series creator. And like me, she struggles to deliver her stories to a larger audience. Frustrated, she posted a blog asking people what she needed to do to go viral.
The notion of virality is a growing problem in the web-community. To me, it is an insidious thing, for an artist’s work is increasingly not judged by its own merit, but by the number of YouTube views it has. This measure of worth goes against the heart and soul of the independent filmmaker, who yearns to tell great stories. Would I like to go viral? Of course I would, but if that was my only goal, I’d simply be making videos of babies farting powder, or Dog-Cam videos of Old Yeller playing in a park.
Last year, I spoke at a session on New Media. I wanted to talk about online distribution being the new frontier in filmmaking, and how those of us who were using this model were not unlike a particular group of immigrants who discovered a new technology that allowed pictures to move. They invested in little machines known as Nickelodeons, which eventually became the mega-cineplexes of today.
I heard my introduction. I was referred to as a “content creator.”
Not wanting to be rude, I kept my mouth shut and did my cheerleader best to extol the virtues of the online model. Inside, however, I was seething.
The trouble with referring to filmmakers as content creators is that the phrase devalues the work. A giggling toddler is content. A film about a fallen angel in love with a prostitute is a story. A vampire mob boss – story.
I’m not knocking content. I see it every day. I laugh at the hilarity one can find on the web. I get an alert every time Go-Pro posts a new video, and marvel at the wing-suited men and women soaring through the sky. I see a lot of gorgeous stuff.
What I don’t always see are good stories.
And that’s the difference between a content creator and a storyteller. Story. Character. Highs and lows. Joy, anguish, solitude, reflection… character arcs. Bad Guys Closing In. The whiff of death. The triumph and the failure. The transformation of the hero, and the hero’s journey. That’s storytelling.
So please, do not sell yourself short. You are not a content creator. You are a storyteller. You are a shaman; your tribe has gathered around you, entranced, as you weave your tales in front of the fire-pit. The world around you is cloaked in darkness. You are a weaver of dreams. To be a storyteller is to wear a badge of honor. Wear yours proud.
Now, go write.
HRH, Princess Scribe