So I’m obviously not great at updating the website… but work has taken over and I’m not complaining. But I have strayed mainly because any content I write or produce I tend to let live on the website I did it for, rather than simply repost here. Meaning, I haven’t done anything solely for the website in a while. I’d say this is primarily because I’m not always sure what Three Quarters Full is about… but I suppose that’s what makes it mine.

In any case, I’m going to recalibrate and bring you up to speed.

I’m knee-deep in books on spirituality, mysticism and real life stuff. I’m going to try to get into a novel again soon. But I seem to be increasingly leaning towards non-fiction. On that note, I have to say that I quite enjoyed actress/comedian Lauren Weedman’s  Miss Fortune: Fresh Perspectives on Having It All from Someone Who Is Not Okay. Before that I read Leah Remini’s
Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology. I find the scientology stuff pretty interesting.

But it’s not all Hollywood. I also dove into Raja Shehadeh’s Language of War, Language of Peace: Palestine, Israel and the Search for Justice. Beautifully written – it’s bursting with emotion even though it’s as much about politics as daily life. I highly recommend it.

Here is a segment I did for ABC RN’s Life Matters program recently – part of an ongoing migrant series I’m doing there between producing on the show.

Alissar Gazal in her kitchen, where she cooked up a storm while sharing stories about her life and connection to the kitchen

Alissar Gazal in her kitchen, where she cooked up a storm while sharing stories about her life and connection to the kitchen

I’m also writing for SBS Life – this is a feature I wrote after reading a provocative update by Ophelia Haragli on Facebook. She runs My Sisters Keeper, and as a cancer sufferer, has a lot to share on living with cancer, and how feel-good campaigns can affect people when they’re unwell.

And for Junkee, I wrote this screed on Hollywood’s tendency to take inspiration from, and exploit, real-world geo-politics in its stories.

Notes on storytelling

More specifically, this is a summary of the advice two This American Life (TAL) producers – Brian Reed and Miki Meek – provided in a keynote. I wish I could share notes from the much-touted Masterclass at Pause Fest, but it was in the keynote that the most important lessons were imparted.

I’m a fan of TAL, introduced to it in my screenwriting course at AFTRS a while back. It has helped me re-orient my viewpoints on storytelling, and has gently nudged me towards thinking bigger and more creatively about how to capture the audience’s interest and hold their attention. In other words, you don’t need print or visual mediums to keep people interested in the story. Audio can be an extremely powerful way of telling a tale.

TAL is a well-oiled machine, with 13 staffers, and as I discovered in the keynote, a very long-term approach to stories because it’s considered long-form storytelling. They will do lengthy interviews (up to seven hours if necessary); they chase a lot of stories that are abandoned when they’re not “enough”; and they have some key points that have to be ticked off to make a story viable.

  • Characters – a likeable character who has had something interesting happen to him/her
  • Action & surprise – the good character isn’t enough
  • Move it beyond an anecdote by making it reflective – it’s as simple as asking the interviewee how a formative event made them feel
  • Stakes – this is a big one, and the point I felt I needed to reinforce in my own mind. I love interviewing interesting people and hearing their stories. But it’s not enough to make compelling storytelling. What is at stake for this person? What do they want? Will they get it? Just like the classic hero’s journey, you want the audience to invest in the person’s outcome, regardless of whether or not they agree with it. Basically, raise a question.
  • Make sure you’re not getting caught up in the personality of the interviewee without imparting information
  • Go in with a strategy and plan ahead – but leave room for moments of surprise
  • Apparently, Ira Glass’ advice to his staff is – and I’m paraphrasing here – every interview has to be like a party for the interviewee. In other words, depending on the subject matter, it’s probably not much fun unpacking events to a reporter, so make it worthwhile