Thursday, May 3, 2018

Visual Storytelling Gives Power to Truth: Interview with Marc Havener - Producer, Founder & CEO of Resonate Pictures

This week I had the pleasure of meeting with Marc Havener, Founder and CEO of Resonate Pictures. As told on Resonate’s website, Marc worked in Hollywood for 10 years as an Assistant Director and Production Assistant on feature films like Pirates of the Caribbean, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Wedding Crashers, 2 Fast 2 Furious, and more. Marc’s golden revelation to build a business around ethics related films (Q Resonate Pictures) came during his time working on the Office style series for Bearing Point, his first ethics and compliance related series. Marc has traveled the world on film adventures and has won multiple awards and a regional Emmy; and now Marc is breaking new ground integrating cinema and critical messaging for training films.
Marc is a creative mind and very forward thinking, someone whom I would call a “progressive storyteller”. I imagined Marc asking himself questions like, “What if the stories we show in movies could spark more ethical behavior in humans? And if we hit the right demographic at a large scale, what if we could influence a whole culture of higher ethics, safety, and wellbeing?” Personally, I envision this “ethical storytelling” as a string, a current of electricity. The lesson is the current traveling into the viewer's brain, this energy excites the viewer’s mind and emotions to jump to a higher frequency (consciousness) which results in people’s thoughts and actions aligning with higher standards of compliance. It’s really a simple formula. 

Visual Stimuli + Empathy + Logic + Values + Workplace Policy + Understanding the WHY 

This concept is something Marc describes as being “sticky”...a “sticky story”. The end goal is to have that electrical current, that sticky string, resonate with people and link them to the characters of the film, weaving them into the larger fabric of a stronger morale society. I was excited to ask Marc a few questions. Marc is very passionate about what he does, and here is a window into his WHY.

Q1: What is storytelling and why is it so important to you?
Story is the best vehicle to carry a message. The problem is we are inundated with messages and it’s difficult to know which ones to pay attention to as well as remember the messages we want to remember. So we use stories to make a message human and "sticky". At its essence, a story is made up of a character who faces a dilemma and must make choices and act to overcome it. This struggle causes internal change and provides a new perspective and understanding of life. When told well, a story causes the listener to identify emotionally with the character and vicariously experience the same change, giving them practice to face similar, real life challenges.

Q2: What is the greater impact of storytelling to society?
Humankind has used storytelling to inform and transfer values for ages, causing a society to become the stories it tells itself. Think about it, we pay attention to anecdotes and testimonies that support and explain our perspectives. But when we are faced with a story that nudges us, that helps us see life from a different angle, in a way that resonates, it changes us a little. The best stories help us understand each other better, make us more kind, generous, brave, forgiving, etc. This creates better communities and better cultures. The potential is that it becomes normalized to help others strive for their best rather than striving only for personal gain.

Q3: Why is the visual aspect of storytelling so powerful?
It taps into the power of nonverbal communication - a form of communication that influences us more than words (and powerpoints!).  A good actor can establish empathy with simply and expression. Add to that composition of the frame, lighting, color, sound and music…and you’re able to send a powerful message in a matter of moments.

Q4: When was the moment when you realized that visual storytelling was so influential, and could be used for something more meaningful like ethical behavior change?
I remember when I was seven I saw Fox and the Hound in the movie theater. To this day I think about how that film influenced how I view my friendships, teaching me not to take them for granted. I haven’t seen the film since but it remains lodged deep into my memory. Our most visceral memories are the ones attached to emotions. Attaching information to emotion is what gives a story it’s power.

Q5: Considering the public now has at least a general understanding of the power of visual storytelling, and more prominently scientists and techies understand the power of the screen, do you ever feel like you’re fighting a battle for the good guys? 
What do you think of those who exploit this power for personal or business gains only? Do you believe there is a social responsibility to use the power of visual storytelling as a force of good?
I don’t think it’s any different than any other tool that can be used for good or bad. Short gains will always be made when you exploit the tool. But eventually, the truth always wins. So those of us playing the long game have nothing to worry about. We just need to hang in there!

Q6: In the context of your business, how do you plan to use ethical and safety storytelling to spark positive change in other businesses?
We bring a filmmakers perspective to training videos. I’ve been in the film industry for over 20 years and what drives me to make “corporate" films is the same thing that drives me to make “film” films. It's their unique ability to influence people (or employees) to live life better. Messages involving ethics and safety are particularly suited for storytelling because they often hinge on empathy - a by-product of a well-told story. Our productions involve a little more investment than a typical corporate training video because we believe the creative (screenwriting, acting, cinematography, editing, sound) really is worth it. It can mean the difference between a video that makes employees role their eyes and one that ignites empathy. We partner with companies who share similar values and are serious about creating a culture where their employees can flourish.

Thanks Marc for sharing your story. We look forward to seeing more of it up on a screen. Long live the all-mighty truth!

Written by Charlotte Whiteman - Defense Mitigation & Remediation Advisor

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