Today marks the release of “The Story of Solutions” – the latest clip from The Story of Stuff Project and Free Range Studios. In the eight-minute clip, “Story of Stuff” storyteller Annie Leonard describes a set of solutions to the issues set forth in the company’s mega-popular series of videos, including “The Story of Broke,” “The Story of Cap & Trade,” “The Story of Electronics” and “The Story of Bottled Water,” among others.
Mara Slade: The last movie you worked on with The Story of Stuff Project was "The Story of Change." Why "The Story of Solutions" and why now?
Jonah Sachs: "The Story of Change" was about the ingredients behind successful social movements — how change happens. This final installment of the current Story of Stuff series talks about what kind of change we should be aiming for. Past movies in our series have been focused on showing the problems in a way that changes people's thinking. But we'd never really focused on the solutions. We felt it was time.
MS: What was the process of making the movie like this time? Is it different now that you have collaborated with Annie Leonard so many times?
JS: This one was probably the hardest one we've done because there are so many things you could be talking about when you talk about solutions to our global sustainability and social challenges. We knew we couldn't just make a list of cool things that people should support. As Annie says, there are thousands of those out there. But we also didn't want to be too abstract and just talk about the principles that go into creating solutions. We almost drove ourselves crazy. But having worked together for 6 years, we really did have the trust we needed — both in each other and in the process that some magic always does come out the other side.
MS: What do you and Annie hope will happen as a result of people seeing "The Story of Solutions"?
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JS: Two things: first that people will believe that there is hope for a better future and want to invest more deeply in it. Second, I hope they learn to filter out what real solutions are — those that can drive major change — from distractions, that is solutions that really don't change anything or even make the problem worse.
MS: You have written a book, Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell — and Live — the Best Stories Will Rule the Future, and taught several workshops about storytelling in the "Digitoral Era" to teach people how they can get messages across in more compelling ways now that the rapid spread of peer-to-peer communications has brought back pieces of ancient oral traditions. What do clients struggle with most when taking this approach and attempting to do it for themselves without the help of a company like Free Range? How can they become better masters of storytelling in their own right?
JS: I think the most critical transformation is for people to stop talking about how great their brand or organization is and to start talking about how great their audiences can be. In the Broadcast Era, when all the communications tools we reflexively use were invented, you could simply boom out your message to the world and people had no choice but to listen. Now, audiences are in charge and they don't care about your so-called facts or proclamations. It takes a lot of rethinking to make the shift, but it really works. And once you do, you'll find yourself much more likely to be telling stories, which is the key to creating buzz in our social media landscape. It's a process that takes time and practice, but nothing is more natural to human beings than storytelling, so it's also very satisfying.
MS: What's the best-told story you have seen in recent months? What makes it successful?
JS: I'm still pretty blown away by Dove's Real Beauty Sketches ad. It's such a revolutionary way to sell a pretty mundane product. And it quickly became the most viral advertisement in the history of the Internet. Essentially the brand has transformed into a storytelling brand. They've created this whole cosmology in which the media is the villain making women feel ugly, and the heroes of the story are women everywhere who are rebelling against the villain's lies. Now does a beauty product brand deserve to tell this story? That depends on your worldview. Does it work a hell of a lot better than talking about how great their products are? That is undeniable.
MS: What’s next for Free Range?
JS: We're very excited about work we're doing with one of the world's largest software makers to rethink the way the world sees the making of things. We're about to launch a new video about conflict palm oil with Rainforest Action Network that I have high hopes will be popping up everywhere. And finally, we're having so much fun running these storytelling workshops. It's a whole new world for us to actually teach people how to do what we've been passionately doing for years.