Changing the name again

I keep changing flags, even though I live in the same land. This blog is now called Ztoryteller (Storyteller).

Formerly called CollegeCave and then Brainstory, I’ve finally settled on a name and theme for this blog that is sufficiently broad to serve as a reflection and sounding board of my professional and personal interests. Well, not all of my interests — I will continue to blog about spiritual matters at happygod.

Professionally, artistically, and personally, I will blog here as Ztoryteller. I hope to be observant and incisive, critical in thinking but inclusive at heart as we survey this whole scene of human stories, storytelling media, and authenticity.

This blog will also now integrate my personal videos, as well. I will soon be doing a series called “Papaw Rocks”, aimed at my own grandkids and their ilk. Fun with stories, and fun making up stories together. Thanks for reading and sharing and commenting on the stories I am telling with my words, movies, and photographs.

One of the advantages I’ve enjoyed professionally over the years has been my immersion in the contemporary youth culture as I endeavor to keep my college clients in touch with them through admissions marketing efforts. I’m happy to say that I’m more in touch today, as a middle-aged guy, than I ever was as a young man. Maybe I’m a better listener, or maybe my kids have taught me to appreciate the young for what they are, not just what they can be. Anyway, I hope to share my perspectives on how to communicate with authenticity to this specially important market niche: the tools, the methods, and how-tos on avoiding the gaffes that are so common when trying to be cool around those who define cool.

To consistently reach people with a message – what, so what, and why –Ztoryteller Evocation_w is like making lightning strike twice … a lot harder than bottling lightning bugs. My blog will hopefully serve to help me reflect on what has been working and what has not, and then share my musings with you. So if you’re into recruiting, or fundraising, or marketing or branding for any serious enterprise — college, non-profit, NGO, or B2B communication, I think you’ll find some useful ideas on these pages.

If you’re interested in my business website, Ztories.com, you can find it here. (That site is evolving too).

A tale of two road trips

Recently I watched two different road trip movies. Both were intended to combine action, humor, and romance. Both were done with sizable budgets and excellent actors. Both were written by respected, successful, scriptwriters. Both are meant to be fun, with lots of action, humor, and romance. Both are meant to celebrate music, and use long stretches of pop songs as almost another character in the story. Both enjoyed some critical acclaim, though I’ll never understand why movie B was as well received as it was.

Movie A is Bandits, directed by Barry Levinson.

Movie B is Elizabethtown, directed by Cameron Crowe.

Why is Bandits a blast, and Elizabethtown an eye-roller? Because the one director had an ear for authenticity, and the other didn’t.

Barry Levison and Cameron Crowe both have the credentials. They both can write, and they both can direct. Based on Levinson’s body of work, however, I’d have to say that Barry has a much better ear for authentic dialog. Case in point, the Stagecoach dialog scene in Avalon. (The movie is worth the rental just for that minute of dialog). He’s also a lot more disciplined as a director, with an eye for simplicity and elegance in the shooting. Case in point, the hospital scene when Aidan Quinn is walking with his son, and saying how strange it was to be a child… doors were too big, toilets were too big, and no one ever dies… So simple, and yet so full of dramatic tension and the wonder of childhood.

The big moment in Elizabethtown seems to be the pyrotechnics in the dance hall near the end. Never mind that they look cheesy. What’s amazing is the amount of screen time and the number of shots expended to introduce a plot device. Bandits has plot devices and pyrotechnics, too, but though they may be just as audacious and improbable, they work because they reveal more about the characters, and further the story in a way that feels authentic because it fits with what we have learned about the characters up till now. Besides, it’s downright fun. As I complete this reflection months after I began it, I can’t even remember what purpose the exploding chandelier had in the Elizabethtown story. I just know it was not fun. It took me out of the story (as did every musical interlude throughout the movie). As I watched it in slowmo from multiple angles, it struck me as gratuitous and contrived… as though the director said, “by golly, we paid for these special effects and we’re going to USE them!”

Rent both movies and watch them back to back. I suggest you watch Elizabethtown first…. so the evening ends on a happy note. And then write to tell me if you agree that Bandits, for all its hijinks and hyperbole, is still a story that feels authentic because of the characters that play out on the screen!