How A Master Storyteller Keeps The Audience Engaged by Mark W. Travis

Film Courage: Mark can you share with us the use of two narrators?

Mark W. Travis, Director/Author/Writer/Instructor: Yes, the story I just told you about my 10th birthday was told mostly in the past tense. Now what we will do when someone asks something and you’re about to tell an autobiographical story or you want to tell someone about what you’ve just witnessed or you saw a week or two ago. You will by instinct (and there’s a lot of reasons for this) tell it in the past tense.

You will say It was last Wednesday and I was driving my car on the freeway and then I saw…and it’s in the past tense. As soon as you’re telling the story in the past tense the listener automatically knows several things.

They know that you know the ending of the story. That sounds silly or a little confusing or Why wouldn’t you, of course you’d know the ending of the story? But when you tell it in the past tense, that narrator knows the end of the story. That narrator also knows everything that has happened since that story until the present moment. And that is why we call it The Omniscient Narrator, a narrator who knows everything:

*I know the story I’m going to tell;

*I know how it ends;

*I know everything that has happened since then;

*I know the repercussions of that story;

*I know everything.

So it actually means in the telling of the story, the story is here [points to outside of himself] and the storyteller is here [points to himself] telling about this thing [refers to the story outside of the storyteller]. You the listener are there and there is the story. The story is separate…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).

Check out Mark’s book Directing Feature Films: The Creative Collaboration Between Director, Writers, and Actors

Check out Mark’s book The Director’s Journey

Check out Mark’s book The Film Director’s Bag of Tricks: 

How to Get What You Want from Actors and Writers

Watch the video interview on Youtube here



MARK W. TRAVIS is regarded by Hollywood and independent film professionals internationally as the world’s leading teacher and consultant on the art and craft of film directing. He is known as “the director’s director.”

Fueled by the desire to generate organic and authentic performances in an instant, Mark developed his revolutionary Travis Technique™ over a span of 40 years. Not limited to filmmakers, The Travis Technique™ has proven to be an essential set of tools for all storytellers, writers, directors and actors.

Mark Travis has taught at many internationally acclaimed film schools and institutions, including Pixar University, American Film Institute, UCLA Film School, FAS Screen Training Ireland, NISS – Nordisk Institutt for Scene og Studio (Norway), Odessa International Film Festival (Ukraine), CILECT – The International Association of Film and Television Schools, and the Asia Pacific Screen Lab (hosted by Griffith University Film School, Brisbane, Australia).

Productions directed by Mark W. Travis have garnered over 30 major awards, including: an Emmy, Drama-Logue, L.A. Weekly, Drama Critics’ Circle, A.D.A, and Ovation awards.

His film and television directing credits include: The Facts of Life, Family Ties, Capitol, Hillers, and the Emmy Award-winning PBS dramatic special, Blind Tom: The Thomas Bethune Story. Also the feature films Going Under (for Warner Bros. starring Bill Pullman and Ned Beatty), Earlet (documentary), The Baritones, and The 636.

On-stage, over the past 20 years, Mark has directed over 60 theatre productions in Los Angeles and New York, including: A Bronx Tale, Verdigris, The Lion in Winter, Mornings At Seven, Equus, Café 50s, And A Nightingale Sang, Wings, Linke vs. Redfield, The Coming of Stork and others.

Mark is the author of the Number-One Best Seller (L.A. Times), THE DIRECTOR’S JOURNEY: the Creative Collaboration between Directors, Writers and Actors. His second book on directing,

DIRECTING FEATURE FILMS (published in April of 2002) is currently used as required text in film schools worldwide. His third book, THE FILM DIRECTOR’S BAG OF TRICKS: Get What You Want from Writers and Actors was published in 2011. Mark’s popular DVD, HOLLYWOOD FILM DIRECTING, is available now.

MARK TRAVIS and ELSHA BOHNERT offer workshops and consultations on all aspects of storytelling for writers, directors and actors.

MARK TRAVIS and ELSHA BOHNERT offer workshops and consultations on all aspects of storytelling for writers, directors and actors. ELSHA BOHNERT is Chief of Staff of Boyden Road Productions and the director of The Travis Story Center in Los Angeles, California. She is the author of DON’T TRIP OVER THE GARDEN HOSE (Deuxmers 2013). Her stories and poems have been published in literary journals and she is an award-winning visual artist as well, with works in public and private collections throughout the US, Europe, and Japan. Elsha teaches workshops in “Art & Writing for Healing” and is the only teacher authorized by Mark W. Travis to teach the “Write Your Life” Travis Technique™. 

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