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Authenticity On Screen: The Future of Storytelling

May 2, 2018
emma morris rare scholarship interview

In the past year, The Berlin School became a proud founding partner of RARE Global – a new international platform promoting diversity in the tech and creative industries. We were also delighted to introduce the first RARE Scholarship for our global Executive MBA. We caught up with our scholarship winner, Australian producer and director, Emma Morris. As a fierce supporter of diversity in her own work, Emma believes that empowering diverse content makers "behind the screen" is the best way to tell authentic stories that resonate accross the spectrum of Australian viewers. 

Tell us about your career so far…

I’m an Australian producer and director who has been working for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for over four years. Before that, I was working for independent production companies all over Australia making films and TV shows for a variety of broadcasters and clients. 

I’ve had a very fortunate career that has taken me to some amazing parts of the world where I’ve got to meet some wildly eccentric characters. This is by far my favourite part of my job – meeting and working with people from all walks of life that have inevitably enriched my own life.

I recently started a new role at the ABC as the Senior Producer running an initiative that explores the stories and the science behind the weather. Australians love the weather – we rely on it daily for our work and our pastimes, and we are increasingly curious and hungry for knowledge to understand the world around us. 

Before that, I was at Foreign Correspondent, which is an international current affairs program at the ABC ,where I produced stories for TV and online. This was one of the ABC’s flagship current affairs programs and it was interesting to be a part of a new bunch of content makers pushing for stories to be produced beyond the traditional TV schedule. While I was there, I produced and launched award winning interactive documentary Freedom Riders.

As I’m a nutter for anything new, I’ve tended to gravitate towards the innovation and technology space. This has meant a lot of projects have been hugely successful or massive fails. But in all of them, I’ve learnt something new that I’ve taken onto the next project or story idea. I consider myself a creative geek who hopes to push the boundaries of storytelling and people’s perceptions of the world.

 

Working in the TV industry in Australia, what developments have you seen in the area of diversity in the creative industries over the past few years?

The Australian TV and screen industry has made huge improvements to empower diverse voices and stories both on screen and off screen in the last few years. At the end of 2017, The Screen Diversity and Inclusion Network (SDIN), which includes many of Australia’s leading media organisations as well as screen agencies, launched a Charter to promote diversity in the sector. The SDIN will set targets for industry change and evaluate progress via sector-wide measurement tools. These will hopefully have industry wide impacts for all types of creatives involved in the sector. 

The ABC has also made headway in 2017 by launching the Connecting Communities program that aims to reflect the demographic makeup of Australian communities and to increase the organisations insights and perspectives with job placements and internships. 

We still have a long way to go before all of our screens reflect the diverse Australian voices and stories in our society. And importantly, to empower content makers behind the camera so that stories and projects are more authentic and genuine to the communities they represent. 

 

What is the correlation between empowering diverse creative minds and the ability to reach diverse audiences across TV, radio, and digital media?

By empowering diverse creatives to explore stories, we have the power to harness stories that reach and engage our own communities. We also need to encourage people to think about where these communities are. Whether this be Weibo, YouTube or Netflix - audiences have places they hang out in just like real world communities. We can no longer demand audiences to switch us on at certain times, in certain places. If we want to talk to diverse audiences we have to go to where they are and tell stories that resonate. Not only will stories be more engaging and authentic, all audiences will appreciate a better reflection of the stories that are shared. 

While this sentiment is good in theory, the next question to answer is how do we foster psychologically safe environments for diverse creatives so that we feel empowered to create meaningful projects?

How important are authenticity and value-awareness in progressing as a creative leader?

Knowing your values and authenticity as a leader are paramount in any profession but particularly the creative industries. It's an industry that encourages honesty, transparency and I believe we have the power to let the truth shine through the bullshit. In any role I’ve had, and on any project I’ve worked on - if my values do not align with the people I work with, there are always consequences. Whether it be to the outcome of a project, the ongoing relationships of the team or my own mental and emotional wellbeing. As a creative leader, not only do you need to be clear on what your values are but you need to be consistent in delivering them to your team. By being clear and open with your intentions encourages the whole team to be more authentic and communicative. When people care about what they do and who they do it with - the journey and results are always better. 

 

How do you hope your Berlin School journey will help to shape your career and your future?

I hope to learn creative leadership skills that I can directly take back to my role at the ABC and my creative practice to foster positive and lasting change. I feel especially lucky to have the opportunity to participate in discussions in an international context. Australian's often get stuck in our down-under bubble and I’m looking forward to learning from experts and peers to give me a more global perspective. I’m hoping to examine global best practices so that I can lead my team to take more meaningful steps to create more opportunities, empower diverse voices, and lead the future of storytelling.