Last year, I wrote about some examples in higher ed where institutions have been able to replicate Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey”, through video work. The hero’s journey describes a common storytelling arc used in many myths and, in modern times, the Star Wars movies. Nancy Duarte does a great job showcasing the up and down pattern of the arc in her book “Resonate”.
This time around I wanted to showcase two institutional videos that have many of the stages of the hero’s journey, and similar to “Resonate”, I wanted to show when the peaks and valleys in the stories occur. Below is a graphic showcasing all of the steps in the hero’s journey, and then examples of how the University of Michigan and The College School have videos that follow similar arcs. Now, not every video will have the all of the steps from the hero’s journey, and you will notice that with these two videos, but they share very similar themes.
The University of Michigan's video "An Unlikely Partnership"
This video tells the story of a Muslim student at UM who leads a team of student volunteers on a service trip in Guatemala. This video has a couple of key elements in it from Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey.
The Ordinary World/Limited Awareness of the Problem (0:05 into the video) – The beginning of the video features a voiceover from an alum stating his thoughts on the students who would be helping him as volunteers on a water sanitization project. He states his initial assumptions about the students perhaps not treating this project too seriously.
The Call to Adventure/Increased Awareness (0:18 into the video)– The alum then also expresses why he thinks this project may be challenging for this particular student leader.
Refusal of the Call/Reluctance to Change (0:48) – The student leader discusses her apprehension with certain parts of the project.
Crossing the Threshhold/Committing to Change (2:16) – The student team leader discusses the acceptance she feels from the local children, when she expected them to be reticent towards her.
Tests, Allies and Enemies/Experimenting With First Change (3:03) – The alum discusses how big of a role daily prayer plays in their community, and is hopeful the student leader will be ok with that.
Approach the inmost cave/Preparing for a Big Change (3:20) – The student leader discusses how you must learn to work with people who may be very different than you in order to achieve anything.
Reward (seizing the sword)/Consequences of the Attempt (3:44) – The village fell in love with the students who were working on the project.
Road back/Rededication to Change (4:25) – The student expresses her understanding of the value of what alums are doing.
Return with the elixir/Final Mastery of the Problem (4:50) – The student leader explains how she now understands how great it is to work with alumni and later explains why she loves working with people who are different than her.
This video is unique it that it is telling one story from two different points of view, but the viewer can still feel drawn in by the use of storytelling techniques and great editing.
The College School's video - Digital Recording Studio: Raise Your Paddles
The College School is a pre-K to eigth grade school whose mission is to "explore the world through authentic experiences, empowering students to engage deeply and be ready for what is next." The school places a large emphasis on experiential learning and reflection. One way the school looks to do this is through giving students the chance to produce videos. And, the school had a need for a studio to really enhance the students' production experience.
Here is the video breakdown through the lens of Campbell's Hero's Journey.
Ordinary World/Limited Awareness of the Problem (0:17 into the video) – The Assistant Director of the College School explains past technical challenges for students at the school but how the students are able to use their own creative ingenuity to still make great video and audio pieces.
Call to Adventure/Increased Awareness (0:43) – One of the teachers discusses the value of providing a recording studio for the students and what a difference it would make for the students.
Crossing the Threshhold/Committing to Change (2:40) – Faculty members visit recording studios to see how it would work at their school.
Tests, Allies and Enemies/Experimenting With First Change (2:50) – The College School discovers that a recording studio will be able to fit into one of their buildings.
Approach the inmost cave/Preparing for a Big Change (3:50) – Teacher talks about how the one big thing that is missing from a lot of the student’s creations is a good recording studio.
Reward (seizing the sword)/Consequences of the Attempt (4:44) – One of the School’s students talks about the pride she had in a recent video that was produced by some of her fellow students.
Return with the elixir/Final Mastery of the Problem (6:18) – Staff members discuss the impact a previous fundraising attempt had on the school, and the immediate impact of a donation.
Next time you are going to develop a fundraising or alumni relations video, keep the “Hero’s Journey”, and some of our most treasured myths and movies, in mind and see how you can incorporate various steps to tell a compelling fundraising or engagement story.