I’m So Glad To Be Alive

27th April 2022

How Do Stories Work?  Part 1. Emotional Truth

Dear Storyteller,

That means everyone reading this.

We all use stories in search of answers, looking for pattern, shape and meaning.

Who am I?

Where do I belong?

Where have I come from?

Where am I going?

And why?

Everyone of us is hard-wired for story.

How do stories work?

Stories act as bridges to the experience of others.  They connect us through our shared humanity.  They are about the emotion of shared experience.

Films are powerful vessels for story because they can communicate all the complexity and subtlety of emotion quickly.  Through the curious alchemy of sound, picture and time, they can enable us to feel what it’s like to be someone else.

Every story we tell is an experiment that furthers our knowledge of how this chemistry works.

This post is the start of a story about story based on my own experiments and encounters.

I hope it will work as a starting point for a conversation about how stories work, with a community of people also fascinated by their magic.

Why are particular people such powerful vessels for story?  And why do some moments resonate with ‘the truth’ so strongly?

Welcome to the Sausage Factory

I started out as a ‘picture editor’.

This is about as far from being a storyteller as it’s possible to be.  I worked in the story equivalent of a factory- a processing plant for the industrial standardisation of reality into uniform ‘products’.  These ‘stories’ were methodically stripped of meaning and emotion, to make each one feel the same.

This was ‘the news’.

“I’m so glad to be alive”!

And so, as an escape, I started wandering around with a camera.

I was stunned to discover that the camera acted as a catalyst.  It gave me an excuse to talk to strangers.  And because someone was listening, they were willing to talk.   It was a good combination.

And this is how I chanced across Doreen Thomas, on a deserted beach, under a nuclear power station in Kent…

See video link below- “I’m so glad to be alive”!


In this moment of clarity, Doreen taught me some invaluable lessons-

  • That Life and death go hand in hand;
  • That in life’s transitions, we often find clarity and meaning;
  • And that the ‘truth’ often comes in a spontaneous wrapper.

The Spontaneous Moment.

Sometimes, in the moment, people will say things that resonate.  They are often things that they’ve never said, or even thought, before.  Everyone is caught by surprise.

Their words carry the weight of ‘emotional truth’.  This is a ‘truth’ that defies categorisation or analysis.  You can’t prove it or check it.  We just know in our heart that it is ‘true’ because it taps into our innate sense of universal human experience.

“The Eyes are blind. To see things as they are, you have to use your heart.”

Antoine de Saint-Expery’s ‘Little Prince’

And this kind of truth is not something to be found like a lost penny.

It has to be ‘created’ or, to put it more accurately, it has to be ‘nurtured into existence’.

Got a story to tell?  Or purpose to communicate?
Need some friendly advice?

Let’s talk.


About Spark Films

Films To Believe In

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