Recently, I had the good fortune to encounter some folks who may well be the next generation of great environmental storytellers: Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele. They’re producing short multimedia pieces that are just riveting.
My favorite is a five minute story about the ways that climate change is affecting reindeer herders in Norway, but there are other gems too that are closer to home: snow-making at Snoqualmie Pass in Washington; fire-fighting in the Cascade Mountains; and sustainable job-training in a Puget Sound prison.
It’s not as if Drummond and Steele invented multimedia—in fact, high-quality multimedia is getting cheaper and easier to produce all the time—just that they seem to be mastering an art form as it matures. Most importantly, they’ve got the knack that the best storytellers have for enlivening a scene and fleshing out a character, but not beating you over the head with The Moral Of The Story.
And now, a couple of quibbles. First, I hate it when people younger than me do great work. It makes me feel old, which is not my favorite feeling.
Second, I sort of hate the word “multimedia.” For me, it conjures up memories of stultifying PowerPoint presentations in windowless hotel banquet halls.
But regardless of the semantics, it’s a good format. Both more web-friendly and less frenetic than video, it manages to convey a degree of gravity and emotional resonance that you just don’t get very often, whether in audio alone, written word, static photography, or web animation. You’ll see elements of Ken Burns-style documentary-making and maybe even a hint of Al Gore’s masterful slideshow that forms the basis of “An Inconvenient Truth.” It’s not a media form that I’m terribly familiar with, but it will be fascinating to watch it develop over the next couple of years.
Postscript 1: If you want to waste an entire afternoon, go take a look at the “1 in 8 Million” multimedia series at the New York Times. It rocks.
Postscript 2: Thoreau actually is on the Internet; go check out his blog.
Photo courtesy of Benjamin Drummond / facingclimatechange.org. Used with permission.