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How to Tell a Story: NPR’s Scott Simon & Ira Glass Reveal Their Secrets

January 7, 2010

What is it that makes you listen to someone else tell a story? It’s a question that is always important to writers, producers, filmmakers, reporters, and people on porches entertaining friends. If you want to make short films, or write a book, or be on the radio, or make speeches, you’ll probably want to be a lifelong learner when it comes to storytelling skills.

Today I found a couple of great videos featuring two successful radio storytellers, Scott Simon and Ira Glass, both of whom can be heard on National Public Radio. I found these links on D. Eric Franks’ great website for web video producers, Videopia.  A long time ago, I was a morning radio news announcer at an NPR affiliate at the University of Alabama. I can tell you from personal experience that weaving a story with just words and sounds for radio is not nearly as easy as it is with video.  But the principles of storytelling are timeless and universal, so anything you learn about it in one field can apply to another.

I invite you to watch these short pieces and think about how their suggestions can help improve your ability to win the attention, emotions and memories of your audience:

The Scott Simon video is part of the YouTube Reporters’ Center, which has lots of great videos for helping journalists improve their skills, and many of them work for storytellers in any medium.

And for today’s bonus video, it’s snowing in Alabama and many places across the Southeast today…

But unfortunately (or not, depending on your perspective), it’s not sticking yet, as of 2:30 p.m. CST. I found this beautiful video shot with the Canon 7D of a snowy day in Paris, where it definitely IS sticking:

What I found REALLY interesting about this video is that in the notes on its Vimeo page, the video creator says he edited it in CS4. I’m assuming he means Premiere Pro CS4, but it isn’t specific. I’m guessing he might have put it together with Premiere, but in doing some research I found out you can modify single video clips in Photoshop CS4 Extended, adding layers to modify them just like still images. Photoshop doesn’t have an editing timeline like Premiere, but being able to add adjustment layers or filters to change the look of a piece of video is a really amazing new way to use the old program. Here’s a link to a great tutorial on how to edit single video clips in Photoshop. Enjoy!

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