Meerkat Stories

katsrev.jpg What a great opportunity it is to get to listen to and interact with the people who make the shows we watch on the Discovery networks. And Wednesday was no exception as Mick Kaczorowski, Senior Executive Producer for Animal Planet, shared his insights working on “Meerkat Manor” and the upcoming feature length film based on the life of the Meerkat star, Flower. Of course, any time he mentioned story telling I was on full alert. Some things that I’d like to hold up for review…

  • The Meerkat team rolls the tape and shoots and shoots and shoots from before dawn until the family calls it a day at dusk, for months at a time. The closest we in education might come to filming like that is setting up an unmanned, stop motion camera to catch a plant growing or a butterfly emerging. To make the most of valuable educational time and limited equipment, shots need to be well planned and kept short.
  • Extracting/finding the story is key. In addition to the exciting photography, someone has to glean the moments and the personalities out of all those hours of footage so that we care and maintain interest. And what (even occasional) viewer didn’t care about Flower? It has taken them four years to gather Flower’s story and only now do they have enough for a full length motion picture. Imagine how much thought and writing has gone into that project
  • What does it take to tell a good story? Mick says READING. Get to know literature. Understand the classic conflicts. Harold Ramis (“Caddy Shack,” “Groundhog Day,” etc.) came to speak to our students a few years ago and said almost exactly the same thing. Students were asking questions about preparing to be actors or writers or directors and he told them they had to understand the human condition first. And that understanding didn’t come from talk and reality shows. Read… and write was his message.

In short, the technology plays a very small part in good digital/visual storytelling. It’s still all about telling (writing, planning, preparing, organizing) a good story.

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