Will the Real Storyteller Please Stand Up

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Lights, Camera, Action…

Is that all it takes to bring a story to life?

Some lights, a camera and go for it?

As all of you in the biz know, that’s not even close to what it takes.

For those in the biz, this article or post or whatever I’m supposed to call these writings, it is your moment to TAKE A BOW. Your ability to story tell in your discipline is amazing.

For those of you looking in the window of the biz waiting for your turn, this writing hopefully will open you mind to all the amazing creative storytelling options you have in front of you.

Come on… keep reading. It’s totally worth it.

Here we go…

Whether it’s a Broadway musical, a streaming episodic series, a movie, a concert or a TV news / talk show, etc. A lot of people contribute their talents / creativity to telling and bringing a story to life.

But who is the actual STORYTELLER?

Most think it’s the writer.

They are part of it. 

Next up people say, Director.

Yup definitely part of it.

How about the actors or on-air talent?

Of course. 

How about the Lighting Director or Lighting Designer and lighting team?


Try watching a Broadway show with just white florescent lights on the stage.

Is the cinematographer the storyteller? 


Watch a film or TV series all shot with one camera, one lens, set in one position.

Well, music and sound can’t be considered a storyteller.


Next time you watch ANYTHING turn off the audio and see what you end up with.

This list goes on and on, stage mangers, wardrobe people, makeup, set designers, technicians, graphic operators, editors, storyboard artists, animators and the hundreds of creatives that work within the industry ALL are storytellers. Each tell the story through their own expressive art form.

Let me roll through a few examples of how story is told by specific disciplines and how each discipline equally contribute to telling a story.  This should also give you a broader scope of where your career can take you without leaving the title of storyteller.

Broadway or Concert lighting

Let’s start with lighting.  There are layers of creatives working in just lighting.  There are lighting designers, board operators, grips and gaffers, technicians, etc. Sometimes these jobs get combined into one or two people. Sometimes the tasks are split between dozens of people. It usually depends on scale and scope of the project and budget.

For our discussion lets combine them into one contributing craft and use a Broadway show for our example. Remember this example is appropriate for everything that involves story, even a news show.

The shows lights always support the storyline but many times the lights actually tell the story or become a character in the story. To be a lighting director / designer you need to understand the premise of the story, the depth of the characters and their movements on stage.  You need to create the mood, direct the audience’s attention towards or away from something happening on stage. You need to understand colors and how they affect the audience’s mood and emotion. You and your team also need to have a strong technical knowledge of the tools available to you to best tell your story.

Next time you’re watching a play or concert keep your focus on the lighting. Watch as the lights “enlighten” you (ha see what I did there… en lighten) as to the depth and emotion of the story, many times with a word being spoken.

Film / Visual capture

Moving onto the cameras, lens, the cinematographer and the operators. These are the folks that are usually transparent to viewers because the audience is actually looking through the camera’s lens not at the camera’s performance.

The camera operators are doing the thinking for you. They are telling you a story by showing you what they want to you to see and how you should be seeing it. They may bring you uncomfortably close to someone’s face or offer up a panoramic vista of a mountain range, all relating to how they are telling and interpreting the story moment by moment. 

It is important for an operator / cinematographer to understand the emotion of each moment, in order to visually express those moments completely. Many times, the capture of those moments is not just in support of the storyline but actually become the storyline.

When you read a feature film script you will be astonished by the lack of actual actor dialogue. The majority of a feature is left in the hands of visual storyteller.

Episodic Music and Sound

People watching a feature film usually become aware of the music score by conversations with others, reviewers and the general pop exchanging thoughts about the theme music. Some of these scores actually become stand-alone musical hits because of the film’s exposure.

What doesn’t get much notice is how music and sound play a major role in storytelling in both TV and streaming episodic work.

There is the “atmosphere” of the moment. They need to simulate and or exaggerating what should be heard at any moment in the story.  They need to tell the story sonically.

To accomplish this there are dozens of talented storytellers involved in the process. Music Directors, composures, recording engineers, recording studio technicians, sound modeling engineers and again the list goes on and on.

Bigger project, the bigger the demands for more sonic creatives becomes.

Smaller projects use less people but these people have to be skilled in several deferent areas because they will be called on to create in several different positions as the project develops. (I personally would rather work with a small elite group of diversely talented people then a large group of signal minded experts. Neither is wrong it’s just my preference.)

The process is similar to what the sound and music teams do  

Being aware of how the audience will be receiving your story.

Film and live theater have a major advantage over other playback devices like, TV, computers, tablets and phones.  Film and theater hold their audiences’ attention captive. The other devices compete with the environments for their audiences’ attention.  

The sonic and visual storyteller needs to understand not only depth of each moment in the story but also how and where their story will be heard by their audience, and adjust accordingly.

The Big Finale

I have only scratched the surface of who are the storytellers. Each and every discipline is a critical storyteller. Each discipline deserves the right to be known as a Storyteller and each needs your consideration when you’re looking to “fit into” the world of a Creative Storyteller.

In no particular order here are SOME of the storyteller positions you might consider. Each of these consists of dozens, if not hundreds of individual areas of specialty and unique skill sets within each grouping.  

As the new creatives make their way into the industries with new and creative ideas this list will grow and expand as it has throughout the history of storytelling.

Wardrobe / Costume


Set designer

Make up


Motion graphics


Storyboard artists

Mechanical and electrical technicians

Stunt people

Script readers

Production Coordinators

Coordinating producers

Fast track your entertainment production career