Storytelling is a gift and a skill. And, when told well, a story can move people – it can drive action, it can teach and it can inspire. Erik Bork knows this more than most. Erik is a screenwriter who has worked on projects such as Band of Brothers, From the Earth To The Moon, and more. On this episode of Marketing Trends, we talked to him about the heart of storytelling and why it’s such an important way to grab an audience and carry them with you. Erik discusses how a story begins, what to focus on while you are developing your story, and what it means to create an emotional connection with your audience.
– Focusing on the idea is most important
– You don’t want to watch people winning, you want to watch people losing but who have a distant chance of winning — audiences have to relate to the main character
– You have to grab the audience and make them care about the people in your story as if they themselves are going through it
“Focusing on the idea is very important. Writers tend to want to jump into writing something — writing a script or even outlining scenes to then write a script from — but what we find over and over again is usually, they’re operating from a flawed premise, a flawed idea for their story or their series or whatever it is.”
“So much of [storytelling] is about emotional investment. That’s the name of the game. The audience has to care about the characters and what they’re facing and what’s going on.”
“[When you’re pitching] it’s all about preparation. It’s all about knowing basically everything that you’re going to say before you say it.”
“What I do is I think about it; I have to love it. I have to want to see it. I’m kind of writing for myself first as an audience. I’m thinking about the audience in an abstract way and I’m thinking if I was the audience for this, would I like it?”
“You want the main character to be mostly losing for most of the story. No matter how powerful they are, the forces against them have to be more powerful because as soon as they start winning the story ends; the story slacks all off. We don’t want to watch people winning. We want to watch people losing, but with a chance at winning, that seems distant and difficult. That’s what makes something exciting to watch.”
“The audience has to relate to the main character. They have to put themselves in their shoes, identify with what they’re going through on an emotional, human level so that they can really care whether they solve whatever it is they’re trying to solve.”
“When you’re trying to market a product to someone where there isn’t that one on one thing, you’re more creating a campaign. You’re speaking to the needs of the people — that you’re the character of the story. You’re trying to imagine and speak to their problems that really matter to them. Those things that have life-altering stakes in some way to them and to their day to day experiences and to what they’re trying to do in the world. And maybe that speaks to them in a way that is about something human and universal that has some emotion and passion to it. It may look boring on the surface, but it’s their life and their livelihood and they probably are invested in it in a way that goes beyond just, this is what I have to do to cash a paycheck. It’s more like they chose to be in this particular profession or to be dealing every day with this particular problem that you’re trying to help them solve, or the world that that problem exists in is a world that they care about.”
“You’re not just writing about something that you think is interesting and the audience is hopefully gonna find interesting. You’re trying to grab them emotionally and make them care about your people and the experiences that your people are going through as if the they were going through it so that they actually get emotionally involved, which is what they want. They want to be emotionally involved. They want there to be this deeper level of caring and passion and purpose as they’re following your character, following your story and whatever its challenges are. The more you can speak to that and meet them on that human level as opposed to a more superficial, intellectual, surface level, the better off you’re going to do.”
Erik Bork is a screenwriter best known for his work on the HBO miniseries Band Of Brothers and From The Earth To The Moon, for which he wrote multiple episodes, and won two Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards as part of the producing team. Erik has also sold series pitches (and written pilots) at NBC and FOX, worked on the writing staff for two primetime dramas, and written feature screenplays on assignment for companies like Universal, HBO, TNT, and Playtone. He teaches screenwriting for UCLA Extension, National University and The Writers Store, and offers one-on-one consulting to writers.
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