Name: Cliona Bredius
Specialisation: Content Design
Lecturer: Rob van den Idsert
How does the BBC’s Planet Earth II use personification in storytelling?
Imagine watching a nature documentary which is just a 24-hour-livestream of nature – uncut, no music, no voiceover, just what’s really happening. Let’s be honest, that would be boring and nobody would watch it for very long. We need storytelling to enjoy the show.
The BBC’s Natural History Unit (and the BBC in general) are known for their excellent storytelling skills, certainly after producing the award winning nature documentary series Planet Earth. Planet Earth is a journey across the globe, through every natural environment thinkable, showing the remarkable ways animals manage to overcome the challenges of surviving in the wildest places on Earth.
But, as every CMD’er has learnt, good stories need characters the audience can identify with. Characters with goals, conflicts and interactions. So, if Planet Earth doesn’t portray any people, then how does it tell a good story? This is where I think personification plays a major role.
After explaining what personification is, I’ll show the audience how it’s used in multiple scenes, providing some basic storytelling rules. Then I will continue to tell the audience why it’s used, talking from the perspective of a filmmaker. Finally, I’ll do an experiment, showing the audience a scene with no sound (music, sound effects and voice over), to test if they can still identify the story. I might also ‘show’ a scene with only sound and no visuals, to make a point. This will lead to the discussion.