You Are Not a Storyteller
A video has been making the rounds that seems to have quite a few people riled up. FITC Events, a company that puts together conferences and seminars around topics like technology, business, and design, sat down with designer Stefan Sagmeister to discuss his thoughts on the idea of storytelling. Essentially he said that if you're not in the business of telling actual stories, you shouldn't be calling yourself a storyteller, and that those people who do tell stories, don't necessarily see themselves that way -- though he uses a bit more colorful language in his response in the video:
And some background on Stefan:
Stefan Sagmeister formed the New York based Sagmeister Inc. in 1993 and has since designed for clients as diverse as the Rolling Stones, HBO and the Guggenheim Museum. Having been nominated eight times, he finally won two Grammy Awards for the Talking Heads and Brian Eno & David Byrne package designs. He has also earned practically every important international design award.
In 2012 young designer Jessica Walsh became a partner and the company was renamed into Sagmeister & Walsh. A native of Austria, he received his MFA from the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and, as a Fulbright Scholar, a master’s degree from Pratt Institute in New York. After his studies he worked as a Creative Director for Leo Burnett in Hong Kong and for M&Co. in New York.
Stefan absolutely has a point in saying that it's very "in" to be calling yourself a storyteller regardless of what your actual job is. Even in the most basic jobs we can still be creative, but there seems to be this idea that what you do isn't good enough or "cool" enough, and it's necessary to use more creative terms to describe a job or career. This is true in any profession, and definitely true in filmmaking, where there are plenty of jobs that have nothing to do with telling stories.
What I do think is a bit silly is getting so worked up over a basically nonexistent problem. People can call themselves whatever they want, and it's not hurting those who do actually tell stories. When it's no longer in vogue for roller coaster designers to call themselves storytellers, they will find new words to describe the equally challenging work that they do, and the word will return to what it originally referred to in the first place. Some of the same arguments have been had over words like videographer and cinematographer, but if the work speaks for itself and clients are happy, the words we use to describe what we do probably don't matter.
A great Zacuto FilmFellas webisode a few years ago discussed a similar topic with wedding filmmakers:
What do you think about Stefan's idea of storytelling? Do you think he's being too narrow-minded in his definition, or are there too many people trying to make their professions seem like something they're not? What about other careers, do you think it hurts actual filmmakers or storytellers when other people use those terms in jobs that have only recently started using those terms?