The art of storytelling - Alex Witkowicz

    "No one ever teaches you how to tell a story." @witkowicz

    Worse, this realization doesn’t occur until you sit down and try to create one. Whether it’s filmmaking, photography, or the written word, storytelling is an art you simply have to teach yourself. And it can be brutal.

    It’s possible to gain immense insight into the process by consuming books, blogs, podcasts, films and even music. You can deconstruct the themes and characters within any of these formats, and you’ll likely find some sort of logical narrative structure emerging. But when you’re faced with the characters of your own choosing — whether real or fictional — all of that knowledge and theory seem to evaporate, and you’re left feeling like a fish out of water. Actually doing it, unsurprisingly, is a lot harder than learning how to do it.

    So when I set out to create 142 Miles From Monday, I made storytelling my number one goal. I wanted to practice everything I’ve learned about revealing story — through visuals and the characters within them. I wanted to make mistakes of all shapes and sizes, because I know that when I feel like I’m screwing up, it means I’m learning an important lesson.

    142MFM campfire

    The real irony with all of this, of course, is that you never really know if your story is any good until it’s done. Until you’ve spent countless hours working and reworking every element, to the point where you lose perspective and become your own worst editor.

    That’s the point I’m at now. And, although no one ever teaches you this either, I think that’s the point where you hit the “publish” button and walk away.

    Before & After

    After transcribing the interviews with Dan, Heath, and Haris, I printed them out, cut out individual thoughts/ideas/soundbites, then moved around the pieces on my living room table until the narrative revealed itself.

    I’ve never taken a literally physical approach for a digital project before, but doing so helped me see things in a way that editing software could not. It was cumbersome, and wasn’t my first choice for getting the job done, but I think in this particular case it helped me to see and understand all the raw material I had at my disposal.

    Here’s what it looked like:

    142MFM BTS 1

    And, here’s what it looks like organized (sort of) in Final Cut Pro:

    142MFM BTS 2

    One of the cool techy things used to shoot this film was the Spot Tracker. It’s a little GPS device that the bikers carried, and allowed me to track them on my phone in real-time. Without it, finding and intercepting them throughout their daily rides would have been nearly impossible.

    Left is the bikers track as seen from the Spot app, right is the route map:

    142MFM Map

    [Originally featured on]


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