Meet Emily Forbes | How to share online stories you weren’t there for

An expert guide on video storytelling without picking up a camera.

Can you imagine a world without stories? No, I’m not talking about those mini-Oreo-sized crystal balls that line up at the top of your Insta feed like a string of candy pearls waiting to be gnawed on one by one. But before you choke on a showreel of one of your colleagues smoking a vape to “Young, Wild and Free” or the latest Kardashian offspring wearing a face-filter-flower-crown, let’s consider life’s greater narrative here. What I’m really referring to is storytelling. The most ancient of human art forms, an intrinsic need engraved into our beings, much like double-glazed doughnuts. Emily “no relation to the finance magazine before you google” Forbes is undoubtedly the digital generation’s greatest storyteller. Telling the world’s truest tales gathered like gold dust off the fingerprints of those who have actually held them tightly in their grips, and get this, she doesn’t even have to leave her kitchen table to share them!

“Storytelling is the most powerful tool we have today, because it’s how ideas are put into our world. Storytelling has the supernatural ability to open someone’s eyes to new experiences other than their own and share a completely different perspective, quite literally bringing humans closer together.”

Every human has a story. Happy ones, sad ones, good ones, bad ones, ones that make you want to re-enact the “I’m flying” scene from Titanic - or ones that make you wish you’d been on the Titanic. Emily’s one is what I like to call an ‘Ellipsis Story’, because it doesn’t have an end, much like Meryl Streep’s abilities. It’s one that the world can continue to add to and she’s captured it all on camera, just not her own. (But less Big Brother and more bigger picture.) Miss Forbes’ story begins slap-bang in the middle of a Rhino rally in South Africa, where she had been filming the poaching protest for a short documentary. “Through my lens I realised that I was filming people filming. They were the ones capturing such raw emotion, because it was their friends and other supporters who they shared a real passion with. Their dedication immediately caught my attention and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t recreate their genuine connections in the same way.” Emily quickly put her camera down and with an imminent African pun drawing nearer, gave her documenting horns! “In South Africa to give something horns refers to giving it your all, just a side of trivia for lunch today.”

Weaving in and out of the crowds, she began collecting the local protestor’s amateur footage in exchange for a larger video edit of the entire event she promised to put together. Think “The Island of Misfit Toys” meets Adobe Premiere Pro. And with that, the high school girl who began selling home-made bracelets suddenly added “founder” to her bio, later breathing life into the world’s first community-driven video production app – Seenit. Allowing multi-million pound organisations to place their brand stories in the hands of those who care most about them and giving audiences the creative confidence to tell their stories through video. “I would never have believed anyone if they told me I would start a business, but with storytelling always being such a passion of mine, I would now have to say bring it on!” And Bring It On, minus the early 2000’s pompoms she did.

“For me, the power of collaborative content is huge, with one knock-on effect after the other. Building confidence and belief in yourself, growing respect and understanding for others and giving people at large a sense of belonging. Watching this unfold and play out as more stories are told together, by people even on other sides of the world who would have never met, is truly incredible.”*

What do you feel are the next stages in the evolution of online video?

“For me it’s all about the content landscape. Mobile video will continue to rise and give people the opportunity to get more creative through short form formats. Millennials on average scroll 90 metres a day, so you’re going to need to know what it takes to grab someone’s attention in a few seconds and enable that thumb to stop. Early hooks are going to become essential. There’s no doubt that vertical video will begin to take centre stage as more mobile content is consumed on the go. Platforms which have traditionally stood by the display of horizontal content will begin needing to reformat their experiences to seamlessly play and host vertical video. Content creators and storytellers are going to having to look at ways of re-purposing video, so it appears native to that particular platform which often means capturing with the distribution platform in mind rather than struggling to retro fit it.

"The quality of mobile captured video is also increasing due to the rise of better in-built cameras with every new mobile release, but what platforms such as Instagram have done is give templates and easy add on filters that can turn any amateur into feeling like a decent photographer or filmmaker. It is this rise of creative confidence in individuals as creators which I find fascinating and has the potential to truly shift the content landscape.”

Trends on Instagram have dramatically shifted from ‘over-stylised’ to ‘underdressed’, where do you think the future of real online storytelling will take us?

“The true democratisation of content creation to me is the future of REAL storytelling, because voices from around the world can start to be heard. Smaller groups of super fans are coming together and listening to smaller voices that are so passionate it’s infectious. It’s breaking away from having to have the biggest audience and it’s about having the most engaged audience. I am interested to see though how the power of social media and the ability to follow someone’s ‘real’ life now adds another dimension and layer to the acting and modelling industry. The line between model and influencer is now becoming more and more blurred, people don’t just want to see talent, they want to know what you really stand for.”

You have mentioned in the media that you feel that video is the most powerful tool for communication, pairing this notion with the age of user-generated content that we find ourselves in today, what are your thoughts on IGTV?

“I love it! I am still taking it all in, but I think why not, more content created specifically for the device we’re checking a hundred times a day makes sense!"

Will it have longevity?

“Absolutely, I am a big fan of vertical video at the right time when I’m watching on my mobile. It is a format which opens up a new opportunity to push the boundaries of creativity.”

One word that springs to mind when you think of IGTV?

“Immersive.”

How might Seenit facilitate the use of IGTV for your clients?

“It’s still early days for us, but a number of our clients already create episodic content using the Seenit platform and it’s something we would like to encourage further. I think it will help to educate our clients that people enjoy following a more ongoing and developing story or journey. It also opens up an interesting channel for our own Seenit original content too. Who knows what our next story will be?”

What’s that saying? A picture says a thousand words, but a video tells a thousand stories? Something like that.

Before we log out:

Feature you wish Instagram had? “The ability to edit the text on a story’s post once you’ve shared it. I always write typos or miss a tag out.”

Cake or Carrots?

“Carrots.”

If we got matching tattoos what would they be?

“Two ocean waves.”

One item you wish you didn’t own?

“I love all of my items, I think that’s the problem. I collect and keep things from years ago. Everything has a story.”

Words by Devin Dewar.