Write to win Tell To Win

September 8, 2011 at 10:33 pm

Brian McDonald has forgotten more about story-telling than Michael Bay has ever understood. Much of Brian’s wisdom can be found in his book, Invisible Ink, and the rest, shared over drinks at The High Bar with Warren Etheredge. Clearly, Brian believes in narrative structure, the Hero’s Journey and the power of myth.

In Peter Guber‘s new book, Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story, the super-producer, demystifies story-telling while cementing its importance within our society and as the key to your individual success. It’s a tremendous text that transforms Guber’s Hollywood acumen into life lessons to rival Tony Robbins‘ ouevre.

**To win a copy of Tell To Win, watch Brian McDonald at The High Bar, then provide a review below in accordance with solid, three-act structure. Entries received by Noon (PST) on Friday, September 26th, 2011 will be judged for their adherence to classic narrative and by Warren’s whimsical take on life itself. Remember: if you can’t be wise, be funny. One runner-up will receive a complete collection of The Warren Report’s old tv series on dvd.**


  • I have watched, studied, and read Brian McDonald’s work over and over again. That would be called just starting out by his book. Brian McDonald has continued to help me demystify storytelling and structure. And I continue to learn and listen…well I try to, however reluctant my bank account may be. So when The High Bar came out with Brian McDonald as the distinguished bar guest, of course I had to watch. I have seen this episode over and over again. I have only one thing to say about this episode: this is must-watch stuff for creative people, filmmakers and storytellers everywhere.

    It’s important to listen to what Brian McDonald has to say, simply because he gets to the bottom of what a story is actually made of. His book Invisible Ink is highly recommended by Andrew Stanton (Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo, etc etc), Paul Fieg (Bridesmaids), Stuart Stern (Rebel Without a Cause), Jim Taylor (Sideways, Election), you get the idea. In this episode, Brian gives you the same spiel about stories and story structure that has helped the biggest storytellers of our generation.

    At this point a lot of beginning story tellers would act all big-shot and blow him off, making up some lame excuse to not listen to what he has to say. I’ve heard that some folks think his recommendations are a product of marketing. Not so. I am not completely sure, but I bet Brian has a lot of these people on his speed dial. All these people have worked with him in some form or another and they all know his work.

    This guy has been dissecting stories since he was born. And now he gets to share some of his knowledge with Warren Etheredge, an expert interviewer. Beginning storytellers and indie filmmakers simply can’t afford to blow him off. Ego stroking has its costs. Learn something at the expense of your ego, and watch this episode of The High Bar. Your work will thank you.

  • I don’t think the problem is bad storytelling. The problmem is the persistent compulsion to relate to the world in Aristotle’s antiquated and less truthful model. Stories are inherently lies. They exist not to lead us closer to truth, to …humanity, but as a balm to soothe our manichean anxiety and fear. (I don’t listen to Bach for Catharsis. I don’t leisurely stroll through the Uffizi for Catharsis. I don’t look to art for emotional cleansing. I look to it for the opposite, to be FILLED.)

    There is a reason the bible is so powerful. The greatest story ever told. We don’t like gray. We don’t like fog. Me, I’d rather watch a film by Tsai-Ming Liang.

    “Because film is a two-dimensional medium, space for Tsai is a fruitful problem, the same way motion was a problem for static artists like Moholy Nagy, seminal Marvel Comics artist Jack Kirby, and the cubist painters. Tsai is a tender exorcist trying to summon space-trying to yank the ghost of spiritual space from out of mere location. This realization has led me to believe that the most comprehensive critic of Tsai’s aesthetic is Martin Heidegger, the German philosopher who died in 1976. Heidegger formulated his philosophy of Being (what it means to exist) by rejecting the assumptions of the preceding philosophical tradition-that Being was an abstract ideal, existing outside of empirical time and space, and something best understood by a pure, disembodied, exclusively analytical self. Heidegger instead suggested that we’re lodged within the world-not angels, not master logicians, just human creatures going about our theory-less default habits, sweeping the floor or ironing shirts. ”

    excerpted from an article I urge all to read:

    Havn’t we had enough jabbering about story? Do you have classes at your school Warren that teach or encourage plotless screenwriting? Why not? Why do we seek to shackle this most beautiful of plastic arts. There are plenty enough story tellers in cinema. There are not enough Poets. Not enough Mallicks, Liang’s, and Sukorov’s.

  • “I want to see and make films that are prepared to operate as much through an approach to the intellect as to an insistence on making emotional empathy with its audience.

    The majority tradition of American – and English – and European cinema has – by and large – been based on the ability and desire to tell a straight story well. The core of this story-telling is the late nineteen and twentieth century novel with characters operating on recognisable psychological patterns with an overall concern for morality – a morality that varies little from a resolution towards goodness. The genres of this cinema are largely well-defined and the moving force is practically always achieved through emotional empathy.

    Whilst this has been going on for some eighty years, the other arts of the West – have been progressing with other things – exploring, expanding, being innovative, regarding the moral obligations of art from a hundred different angles, breaking away from the old genres, inventing new ones – engaging in questions of style, revitalising the various languages – literary and non-literary.

    Dominant cinema persist in the idea, largely enshrined by the significance of the system of actors and acting – that emotional identification is a necessary formula. People want – in the conventional wisdom – to be “moved” when they go to the cinema – what do they get? – well – for the most part – they get the familiar manipulative emotional cinema – they get sentiment masquerading as emotion – they get well-honed situations that massage prejudices, that comfort by repeating what is familiar – providing the same reassuring emotional experiences by the same recognisable methods…

    Are there alternatives? Of course there are. What about a cinema that does not start with “characters”, that does not start with plot – that does not brand itself in advance as a “weepie” or a comedy or a horror-picture or a thriller? Instead of an exclusive mass-appeal to emotional catharsis – what about a cinema that makes an appeal to some rationality, some delight in ideas, some alternatives to feeling everything – to thinking something? Cinema is not just a vehicle for the performance of actors – it is so much more than that – it operates as a total work where the performance of actors and the possibility of emotional empathy are only a part of the pattern of things.

    If they believe that cinema is only a vehicle for actors pretending to be real people in so-called real-life situations – then I believe that film-makers and film-audiences settle for too little – they are too easily satisfied. Perhaps their expectations would be better realised in the theatre. Cinema is not the theatre – the theatre may exclusively be the actor’s medium – the cinema is not – the cinema is a great deal more than the sum of actor’s performances. All painting is not just portraiture. ”

    Peter Greenaway

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