At Steven James, we know the power of story. Everyone has a story that is unique in some way, and one that has power to some degree. A number of the members of our collective were asked- “What’s your favorite story?” With no particular medium or genre to specify. What they listed may not necessarily be their very favorite, but each is a story that they have each connected with in some way, shape, or form.
Steven James’ fearless Director of Marketing, Sharon, wrote: “There are so many stories to read and see and tell. Aside from the Greatest Story of All, I would have to say that one of my favorite tales of all time is Mary Poppins. As I child, I loved the songs and the animations. The idea that you could jump into a sidewalk drawing was absolutely splendid and the spoonful of sugar never hurt either. As an adult, I have found a special kinship with Mary. Having experienced several career changes, I can identify with what it means to have to go when the wind blows and take my carpet bag of talents to the next grand adventure. I am blessed like Mary, to have a Bert, and to be surrounded by a group of characters (#teaontheceiling) that inspire my imagination and let me believe that I am practically perfect in every way.”
Our splendiferous social media specialist Hayley chose an underrated classic: “I would say my favorite story is Disney’s Mulan. I will never forget as a kid my dad putting the VHS (hahaha) in the TV every Sunday. It’s just one of those movies that I can still watch to this day and like it even more than I did the time before. Of all the countless Disney movies I watched as a kid (and still watch today), Mulan always stuck. Great story, great message!”
Abbey, aka our ‘Bob Ross of chalk art’ aka the SJ graphic design guru, selected ‘The Phantom of The Opera.’ “I fell in love with both the 2004 movie and the music when I was a young girl. It totally captivated me. Gerard Butler’s versatility is amazing. To think he’s done everything from Phantom to PS I Love You to the epic action film 300! My love for the movie and music finally culminated in seeing Phantom on the stage in London this past June. I took my boyfriend to see it, and he ended up loving it as much as I did!”
Jeremy, video production specialist extraordinaire #1, wrote: “I decided to go with the 1936 Buster Crabbe film ‘Flash Gordon’ as my flick. This one has always been really important to me, as my grandparents introduced me to it at an early age back when it was just Mom and myself living with them when I was a youngster. My grandmother recorded all of them for me off of AMC’s serial thrillers special off the TV (and she made sure to stop and start the recording to remove all of the commercials for me). I recall telling them about how I didn’t like old movies and the black and white feature was lame, until I watched it and became utterly captivated by the storytelling and practical effects (or lack thereof). I think I can attribute this movie to jumpstarting my interest in older films and my lifelong love of “B” Movie flicks. I have since had to retire that VHS tape; I watched it so much that it wore out and eventually snapped from fatigue. To this very day, I still think that Ming The Merciless is one of my favorite villains ever created! Don’t get me started on the 1980 remake. Can’t even compare to the original!”
Josh, video production specialist extraordinaire #2, selected the feature film Birdman, the Best Picture Oscar Winner from 2015. Josh says: “It’s one of those movies you’re watching and at some moment you realize that ‘Hey, they haven’t done a cut here.’ The movie is filled with these extended scenes. The actors had to be able to handle extraordinarily long takes and deliver – and they did! Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, and Zach Galifianakis were all strong. These long takes played into the stage acting versus film acting aspect of the movie. I also liked the whole theme of everyone implying that Keaton’s character doing a stage play was basically meaningless since he was already an established movie star from his role as the super-hero Birdman. That idea of needing others to value what you do to make it valid or significant is a powerful one. Everyone working in commercial production or advertising deals with this question to some degree.”
Brie, Steven James’ brilliant branding maven, contributed this: “My favorite story is probably the film La La Land. Aside from a killer love story that can tug at anyone’s heartstrings, my background in dance and my childhood spent watching musicals with my mom and grandmother lends to some serious goosebump-raising nostalgia every time one of the musical numbers comes on. A successful story takes the emotion it is trying to depict and makes you feel that emotion to the point where the story relates back to your own life, and that is exactly what La La Land does for me.”
Cinematographer Chris – Steven James’ Man with the Golden Eye – naturally chose a film that is noted for its amazing lighting. The Road To Perdition is a fantastic film shot by the late master Conrad ‘Connie’ Hall. It won the Oscar for Best Cinematography in 2003. “I believe Connie was dying of cancer even as the film was being made,” Chris recalls. “But it had his signature techniques and talents in all of their brilliance.” Mr. Hall did pass away soon after the film was complete, and his Oscar nomination and win were both made posthumously. The lighting is almost a character itself in the Depression-era noir film, constantly using illumination and shadow to reinforce the film’s themes about life and death, crime and punishment, redemption and revenge. Based on a graphic novel, the cast of The Road To Perdition is stellar with Paul Newman in one of his last great roles, Tom Hanks as a stoic Irish mob enforcer, Jude Law as a photographer who moonlights as a hitman – or is it the other way around? – and Daniel Craig in a pre-Bond fame role as a character who is as opposite from James Bond as you can imagine.
Our lead content developer Paul’s choice is the film A Bronx Tale. “I love the movie because it’s very powerful storytelling about a hard-working couple trying to raise their son to grow up and honor honest labor while at the same time the boy has been taken under the wing of the area mob leader. As he grows into a young man, he is being lured by the appeal of illicit money from crime and graft. It’s a timeless story of the struggle that almost every parent and child deals with to some extent, although the struggle presents itself in different forms.” Based on a one-man play by Chazz Palminteri (who stars as the gangster Sonny in the movie), it was Robert DeNiro’s directorial debut. DeNiro also portrays the father trying to raise his son the right way. It was adapted into a Broadway musical – that was also co-directed by DeNiro. And the musical is coming to Rochester in the fall as part of the newly announced RBTL’s 2018-19 season!
Jim, the managing partner and captain of our ship, the USS Steven James, points to the Aaron Sorkin political series West Wing (1999-2006) as exemplary storytelling. Jim loved the authenticity injected by professional political experts such as Frank Luntz and Dee Dee Myers who were consultants and contributors for the series. “The writing on West Wing was brilliant,” Jim points out. “The acting was off the charts. Martin Sheen, of course, was fantastic as the president, but many others, too. Most of all, I appreciated how it was a great representation of how the major political parties in this country could co-exist – something sorely missing in today’s political climate.”
Bart, our Master of All Trades and Jack of A Few More, offers two short stories as examples of compressed literary genius. “The Open Window” is by British writer Hector Hugh Munro, better known by his pen name Saki. Says Bart: “It’s a wonderfully crafted mystery leading you down a road filled with twists – and it’s all done in four pages. A masterpiece.” The second story Bart holds dear is “The Little Match Girl” by the acclaimed Danish writer Hans Christian Anderson. It tells the story of a sick young girl’s hopes and dreams. Originally published in 1845, Disney made an animated short based on the story in 2006 – proving it has maintained its relevance over the course of time.
Nick, Steven James’ chief creative strategist, editor, and director, points to Dead Poets Society as one of his all-time favorite films. “I love the inspiration found in that movie. Robin Williams’ character impacted those young characters’ lives so powerfully. But what I really admired and thought was great is that Williams’ character of John Keating was just the catalyst for change. It was the students in the movie that had the arc of transformation. A defined and emotionally intense arc is the hallmark of superior storytelling.”
So there you have a number of influential stories that hold special places in the hearts of some our collective at Steven James. We hope they triggered a good memory or two for you, or inspired you to check a few of them out. And remember: If you have a message or story that you need to tell for your agency, business, or organization, give us a shout! We’d love to help you tell it! What’s YOUR favorite story?