Chris: Yeah. Look while you leap.
Adam: Yeah, I think so often we look for…it’s very much human nature isn’t it to sort of need to see a map before we start the journey, and it’s very interesting that so many of the people who have succeeded in a sense online who made lots of money online or have big audiences are people who show and provide a map in lots of ways. So people who do businesses about how to start your own independent business or how to do this, that, and the other is all about showing a map, providing a map to people who could easily do it without a map. But it’s very human nature to want one I suppose.
Chris: Yeah, Obi Wan Kenobi.
Chris: Before we kind of dive into this Delve Project, connect the dots for us. You were freelancing and teaching, you did the blog for up until 2012, what else did that in between time look like and what was in particular, how were you exploring this idea of and I really…it’s hard for me even to say this word because it drives me so insane but for lack of a better term, the personal brand. How were you sort of thinking about that and developing that, or were you? How did all that work for you?
Adam: Yeah, so in the last couple of years from that sort of point of stopping the blog, I’ve been…I think a lot of where that sort of maturity sort of started to come, and I say that as if I am mature. I’m sure I’m actually no where near as mature as I’ve ever been in my work I suppose. So I stop the blog and I started then working on building bigger things and I wanted to make something that took months to write or make rather than hours. And the thing that really emerged in those couple of years as well for me was quite a strong fascination with story telling and the mechanics of narrative. I wish it was something (inaudible) or witty.
Chris: Oh yeah.
Adam: Well (inaudible), but for me I came in it as a complete outsider even though…it’s funny, in journalism which was my background, we always say you know, we call what we write stories. What story are you working on, or what’s your lead story, or that type of thing. But actually in journalism, a journalist’s training in story and then knowledge of it is virtually non-existent. There’s not much beyond beginning, middle, and end or the inverted pyramid. I’ve just started to become really interested in what are these kind of underlying mechanisms, are there any mechanisms or is it all just art and guesswork and magic? Or are there strategies at least, so I started it and there’s loads of stuff out there with screenwriters in mind and there’s Robert McKee’s kind of classic book and story and Christopher Vogler’s book about narrative structure and that type of thing and lots of screenwriters read. And that was all what that was, so I just kind of started to read back and I started to see lots of parallels or potential parallels with non fiction work with kind of factual stories. And you can listen to things like this – American Life and RadioLab which are also re-proving that, then they’re at the top of their game and it’s extraordinarily nuanced and powerful storytelling. But it just sounded like this kind of black magic that I didn’t understand and that’s obviously always the great driver for learning something when there’s this kind of problem that the answer isn’t obvious. So I sort of started this year or two of trying to learn and share with other people how storytelling works. So my first project after the book was publishing a magazine, a quarterly magazine called Inside the Story, which was sort of trying to look at storytelling in a very practical down to earth gritty way. Like what is an active structure or what is the exciting (inaudible) and can you use it in non fiction and all this type of thing? And it was all really me learning how storytelling worked, writing some articles about it and then putting it into a magazine for other people. And the more I learned about storytelling, the more I understood, the more mysteries were unlocked and so the more I wanted to keep digging and diving. And basically I had a couple of years basically where I stopped doing video which has always been my…as I say you know, from being a kid wanting to make television, it’s always been about TV or some kind of motion picture medium for me. But I had a couple of years last year in particular where I think last year I made one video in January 2013 and then the rest of the year was anything but video, but as the year went on and I learned more and more, I started to really want…it wasn’t enough for me to write about how storytelling was done, I really wanted to actually start putting some of this into practice and start telling some stories. And coming from video was really helpful, I think it just kind of reset the box a little bit. So when it got to the autumn of last year, the fall of last year, I was sort of really feeling like okay, I’m ready now to try to put some of this into practice. I had this kind of vague apparition of an idea about what this kind of project might look like. But really, I think the key was all along was reaching that stage in my mind where it didn’t matter anymore whether it worked or whether it didn’t. I just wanted to try it and I didn’t care in a sense whether I got it right and you asked about the brand stuff…I don’t know what I was really doing…It’s one of those things over the years I’ve sort of built up an okay Twitter following which I think mostly is just by being on there for long enough rather than trying, it’s something that I’ve struggled with in a sense of how important is it to spend time being on social media and that type of thing and how important is it just to get good at doing what you do and focusing on that instead. And I think I’ve realized that with the great line from Steven Pressfield, I don’t know if you’re familiar with him, and he’s an author who’s written quite a few great books about creativity and art including The War of Art which is a real classic. But he wrote one called Turning Pro, and this is great, it’s a chapter about social media and it’s got four words in it. And the four words are Amateurs Tweet, Pros Work. That was basically it, and for me that was like, if I want to be professional with this, if I want to get really good at mastering this medium, I need to spend less time on Twitter and more time just making good work and getting better at it.
Chris: That’s challenging.
Adam: Which is hard, I know right. I’m still on Twitter every day which is evidence of failing in that regard but I’ll get there, I’ll get there. But yeah, by the end of last year, the magazine had built up and my interest in storytelling was really strong but I was really starting this project from zero. I didn’t really have an audience ready and waiting for it, it went out to zero people which affected how I approached it. I think I decided that I would…I mean as the essays themselves sort of say, I was ready to wait quite a long time for them to work, for people to watch them. I was happy just to set on there for ages and get a hundred views, I would have preferred them to stay anonymous a while I think so that I maybe could get better at it before people started mixing them.
Chris: So the January 2013 video, what was that?
Adam: So that was actually a video about how to make a video.
Chris: It’s so meta.
Adam: Yeah, well I found that was one of the reasons that I stopped writing the blog was because I didn’t want to be known as a journalist about journalism or a storyteller who was known for writing about storytelling. I wanted to be known for someone who did good storytelling. I wouldn’t dismiss it entirely because as we’ve said, being able to share what you learn and what you do is a really important part of the process I think. So I think you do always have to get better about these things probably but yeah, I just was increasingly finding that the only things that I sort of felt the inclination to write or make a film about or blog about was about what I did or how I did I suppose. And it’s been a long time other than doing projects for clients, this is really one of the first projects where I’ve tackled something outside of my own area of expertise.
Chris: So the video about making a video was that…where did that idea come from? Why that? Why was that the one thing?
Adam: Yeah, it’s actually borrowed or inspired by a book I read when I was about fourteen, basically when I couldn’t…when I was fourteen I couldn’t make videos in the 90’s, I read books about it instead and I read this book…I can’t remember what it was called but basically it was a training book given to BBC cameramen or directors in the 90’s. That’s how hard I had to look for this type of stuff.
Adam: And I can’t remember what it was called but it was by a guy called Harris Watts, he was some kind of director or drama in the 1980’s and he did lots of BBC training programs. And he does this great analogy for how the filmmaking or how the video process works which he says it’s like…making a film is like making a meal. And what he means by that is the filming of it is basically just going to the supermarket and buying the ingredients, the film itself like a meal doesn’t come together until you’re in the kitchen which is the equivalent of the edit suite. That’s where you’re mixing the right ingredients in the right order and the right proportion in order to create something that’s greater than the sum of its parts. And that always interested me because in video and in television and in film, so much energy and noise goes into camera and lenses and all the stuff that happens on set and all the glamour is about what happens in front of a camera. But actually it’s just going and collecting ingredients, and for me the magic is always about how you assemble those ingredients together. So basically this film was that analogy just made visual. So I filmed a friend of mine baking a cake of all things and then juxtaposed kind of words from his book over those images at the right place trying to make that point basically. So yeah, it was sort of explaining that metaphor just visually.
Chris: Wow. So you had read the book when you were young and you had that still in the back of your mind but still it takes so much effort to make a video. There has to be something fueling that, some goal or some inspiration to actually make it happen. It got finished….
Adam: It did. And there is something about video that feels like of all the different mediums that someone could choose, it is the biggest pain in the backside, you know? The editing is time consuming but probably no different than doing a web comic or Photoshop or whatever. But having to sort of…just things you know like arranging location permissions and traveling to different places to film and waiting for the weather to clear up and so much, it is one of those things that’s so energy sapping. I think you’re right, you do sort of…I think for me, it was an idea that was just niggling in my head and I found I kept going back to it and I just needed to kind of launch that (inaudible) and just do it. And no one else had sort of done it online or anything so I thought I could chance and do that, but yeah, I think after Christmas just before I moved to Paris and then cut it my first week in Paris. And it gets sort of, if I use it when I teach videos, I think other lecturers borrow it as well…