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.
This post originally appeared at Sightline’s Daily Score blog.