Interviews

The art of storytelling

Four-time Emmy-winning producer and five-time PromaxBDA Gold award-winner, Nicole Hendrix.

A four-time Emmy-winning producer and five-time PromaxBDA Gold award-winner, Nicole Hendrix hosted two workshops addressing advertising, film and storytelling at the -ing Creative Festival in Dubai last month. One was on ‘Storytelling for a brand’, and focused on using storytelling along with data to create a 360-degree marketing campaign. The other workshop spoke about ‘Pitching and how to sell your idea to various audiences’. She shared advice for filmmakers and creative professionals on how to gain more visibility for their work and create a brand name for themselves.

In a world clamouring for attention, pitches can be tricky. How can content creators, especially MENA filmmakers, create the perfect pitch?

I find that using relevant research and data as part of the foundation of a creative pitch enables your audience to understand how you arrived at your idea and why your idea is the perfect solution for X. Doing your homework and coming prepared with examples of what you’re hoping to achieve are other key components that help tip the balance in your favour.

How can content creators sell without compromising on creativity and freedom of expression?

Sometimes, having completely unrestricted parameters for creation can be crippling. Having unlimited possibilities can keep you from even picking up a pen, because you don’t know where to start. Having a strict set of rules to abide by, and then figuring out what is the most creative and impactful way to communicate within these rules, can be a fun game that mentally stimulates you and keeps you up to date with the trends in your craft.

How is pitching an idea in the Middle East different from elsewhere in the world?

From my research, advertising rules on accuracy and positivity are stricter [here] than in the US. These rules coincide with my personal philosophy and pitching strategy, as I tend to rely on facts and solutions. Social media is also a heavy focus, so a plan for social engagement to me would be a key component to a pitch’s success rate.

How can content creators factor in the commercial aspect of their work right from the inception of an idea? Are there any definite steps to follow? What should be their strategy?

The idea needs to be a great, creative idea. Period. Once that idea has been formed and scripted, an edit pass on the idea for opportunities for partnerships, product placements, merchandising, tax credits, trade, etc should absolutely be done, to help investors/clients see that there are multiple revenue opportunities available to support the great creative idea.

How is crowdfunding changing the commercial landscape for content creators?

Crowdfunding is a beautiful thing for content creators. Even if a campaign isn’t 100% successful, being able to show that there is an audience or a market for an idea is very valuable. Failure is only failure if you didn’t learn and adapt from what happened. I found several inspiring projects on Zoomaal – from a mompreneur out of Lebanon whose start-up provides sliced, chopped and dried ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables, to a deaf-mute interactive communication product out of Jordan. From a content creator standpoint, it does seem that musicians seem to have a higher success rate from my research on this platform, but there are some beautiful short films and documentaries that have been successfully funded as well.

With data bringing in revenue for many players today, how can content creators use it to their advantage?

Content creators should be looking at what is out there similar to their idea. If their product is similar to X but with a unique Y twist, they should be researching how much revenue X made and be incorporating that into their pitch (along with why Y makes it a better idea). Looking at user behaviour data and trends over time can give you valuable insight into who your audience is and how to tailor your product or messaging to increase your success and growth. From a software standpoint, anything that has a data visualisation feature – so you can easily incorporate images into your pitches or reports – is worth it.