Film-making Online (The history & future of Film-making), with Ryan Spanger
[Season 2, Episode 6]

Samuel P.N. Cook is joined with South African filmmaker and marketer Ryan Spanger who provides valuable insight on executing an effective story using the medium of film. From pizza boy to filmmaker/marketer, Ryan has come a long way since his years in film school, picking up valuable knowledge along the way. You will learn how to cultivate authenticity in your marketing ads and how to interview people to get the best out of them.

Guest: Samuel P.N. Cook and Ryan Spranger
Date Added: Feb 1, 2018 3:31:35 PM
Length: 56 min

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Podcast moments that will matter to you:

Introduction to Ryan

How growing up in South Africa in the 70s and 80s influenced Ryan’s way of storytelling

Ryan’s awakening to the world and realisation that his life view had been manipulated

How dishonesty is not a sustainable business practice

What can be learned from historic films

The rise in popularity of documentary filmmaking in the current world

History of filmmaking and how it was used in the past to change the perspectives of their audiences

Transition from film to digital and what it meant for storytelling

Ryan’s journey from pizza delivery boy to filmmaker to marketer

Importance of finding the right coach if you want to succeed at something

The differences between documentary-style film and traditional film

How to get someone who doesn’t want to be scripted to speak about a product/service

Creating rapport with your subjects

Importance of researching beforehand...but also the importance of putting that research away when filming

How authenticity when interviewing can revolutionise your films

Hero’s Journey from a filmmaker’s perspective

Giving structure to your film while maintaining flexibility

Final takeaways from Ryan


Sam: [00:00:16] So welcome to another episode of the coaches mentor series of the Story Matters podcast. I have the great honor of introducing someone if you've been following our free video series and our past podcasts. You've probably heard a lot about this guy, the South African filmmaker, Ryan Spanger, who I mention in many of my talks, webinars, about my journey into learning the art of storytelling, particularly documentary-style storytelling.

I'm going to bring Ryan in the show here and ask him to tell a little bit of a backstory about himself. Introduce himself. And, we've got lots to cover after that including Ryan's inspiration that he gave me for storytelling in a very straightforward but powerful way.

Second, we're going to go over his road trip - the famous road trip - that we took across the United States and talk about the mentorship and learning process of him teaching me filmmaking.

And finally just explore some general themes along documentary storytelling to give you some, I think, practical things that all listeners can implement right away in whatever you're doing whether it's with an iPhone or it's a bit more advanced equipment and other stuff.

So, that's what we're going to cover today. And without further ado, Ryan Spanger, welcome to the podcast.

Ryan Spanger: [00:01:48] Hey Sam, thank you and great to be here.

[00:01:50] And yes, a South African filmmaker and, oddly, South African hybrid having been born in South Africa, growing up there, leaving when I was 17, and moving to Australia, and lived here for about 25 years now.

Sam: [00:02:07] And Ryan, you're a bit modest in your introduction. Tell us a little bit about your background with filmmaking starting at the beginning. When did you catch the bug as it were, and the spark you pursued and then a little bit about your education - film school and your journey into what you do right now. Just dream it.

Ryan Spanger: [00:02:35] Well, growing up in South Africa in the 1970s and the '80s was a very exciting time because it was quite a revolutionary time. There was an oppressive government. And as you can imagine in that type of situation, the media is very controlled. So, anything to do with the media in storytelling is very charged.


[00:02:56] And so the government would try very carefully to control the different messages that were going out - the stories that were being told and whether stories could be told at all. And, actually growing up there, if you want to know what was happening in the country, the best way to find out would be to go to the theater or to try to get a film, maybe, that was banned.

Because you couldn't really know what was happening from watching TV. And so, art was quite a revolutionary thing and it was actually the most effective form of communication. So right from the start, you know, storytelling for me was, you know, very charged. It was about finding out the truth about what was actually going on around you.

And, we know when things are banned, then it makes them more attractive, you know. You want to seek them out even more. So, as a teenager, I became very interested in filmmaking and photography both, you know, making films and watching films and taking photos and went on to study filmmaking at the university. And I approached it very much from a creative artistic point of view. At the same time, I was also very interested in entrepreneurship.

[00:04:06] I was, yeah like, I had-- From the age of 13 or 14, I have stalls at markets and I'd find things to sell. I'd buy things and sell them. And I sold things there from books to, you know, fashion items to pictures, you know, just things that I felt I could add value to and sell. So I had sort of two very different interests. One was entrepreneurship and marketing and the other one was filmmaking which seems completely different.

[00:04:39] And, I went on to study filmmaking and over time I managed to find this part where the two meet, you know. And, I think if you can find two seemingly really different skills and connect them together, so that, you know, artistic storytelling and marketing, then you can come up with something quite unique and valuable if you hone and develop that skill enough over time which I took a number of years to do in my 20s to the point where it was like "Oh, I've actually got something quite unique here".

Because most people will either be on one side or the other, you know. There'll be more on the creative side or more on the business side. But when you can find a way of linking those two together, then that's something that becomes quite powerful.

Sam: [00:05:26] Ryan, you went to film school in South Africa, right? Was that University of Johannesburg?

Ryan Spanger: [00:05:34] No, I actually went to film school here in Australia. So I moved to Australia when I was 17 and started university here and I studied a degree in fine arts and so I was studying things like cinema studies, filmmaking, philosophy, anthropology, cultural studies.

I basically created a list of the least employable, you know - the subjects that would least set me up for getting a job. Well, I completed my degree and then immediately started a career in pizza delivery driving which was pretty much what that set me up for. That's right. It's enough to keep you going.

[00:06:19] And so, you know, I think it's good to experience a little bit of that dose of reality afterwards, I think. You know, when you've got some quite abstract but powerful skills - how can you challenge them into something with a little bit more practical and, like - I soon realised that I went on to film school again after that but I knew very quickly that I definitely didn't want to be a starving artist. And also, I think, that's what no one really wants to be - a starving artist.

But I think that the difference is, with an artist, is that they feel compelled to follow that journey of telling that story no matter what and if they don't they will always have regrets. You know, it's the story primarily.

And I think I've found over time that while I love storytelling, it doesn't have to be for its own sake and it doesn't necessarily have to be my unique individual vision that I bring to the world, that what I loved about filmmaking was the collaboration, the creative process, and the storytelling. And what I found really exciting was working with people to help understand and hone and distill their story and help to get their story out there just as much as my own.

Sam: [00:07:34] Yeah. And, Ryan, just want to dig in the few things before we move on, I think if... Just to give a little bit of context. We're going to talk more about our famous road trip across the United States back in the summer of 2013 together. But ahm, one of the things that I really enjoyed the most about our trip was these long drives and conversations about things just to keep ourselves awake. I'm glad we had somebody with similar interests starting with our propensity to study things that make us completely unemployable.

[00:08:05] One of the things that I really enjoyed was you're the breadth of things you've studied abroad in filmmaking like you mentioned all the subjects - anthropology, and culture studies, history, and in the film. We spoke so many times because I had this weird intellectual history bent when I was studying.

And, I came across, you know, the Soviet filmmaking in intellectual history class and we connected over Dziga Vertov and also Leni Riefenstahl. And, you talked about something that Dziga Vertov was a famous Soviet filmmaker and Leni Riefenstahl was the great German filmmaker that worked for the Nazi party and Hitler. You said something very interesting there about truths and finding truths, "When you were growing up, did you know that truth was being obscured from you?" And that obviously made you hungry.

[00:08:59] And, how did you think about in film school when they studied these great propagandists as it were who told great stories and inspired revolutions and movements and eventually had pretty catastrophic collusion between those two great early film making cultures actually came out of totalitarian regime? So, what are your thoughts on that linkage and, you know, when you studied that, did it intrigued you in film school?

Ryan Spanger: [00:09:23] Yeah. Well, I mean, I grew up in a bit of a paradise as a kid, you know - a paradise behind bars being part of, like, a privileged minority among an oppressed majority - that as a kid, I was completely unconscious to that. And I think when I got around the age of 12 or 13 and I started to go out into the world more, I would, you know, see things which at first, like, confuse me and challenge me and then I started to realize that a lot of what I'd actually been taught about how the way the world worked with was actually wrong or, you know, I was being manipulated.

I feel like when I became a teenager I had a bit of an awakening to that and then try to learn more about what was really going on. And then I started to learn about the power of film and, you know, this idea of montage. If you take one clip or piece of film that has a certain meaning and then you take something else and you put the two together then that creates a new meaning. And the power that you could wield by putting different ideas together in a certain way that you could use that to persuade or convince, you know if you had some more nefarious intentions you could lie.

[00:10:41] When I went to film school, my teacher taught me about this idea that he called "lying with integrity" which is the idea that film is not-- is not true. It's not actual. It's not reality. It's a manipulation and a distortion. And you are essentially lying. You know, you're compressing time. You're changing the meaning.

You're using a former shorthand. And, if you're able to do that with integrity, you know. Are you able to do that in a way that reveals a great truth then, you know, you're going to be successful. Whereas, I think, you know, like, the propagandists that you referred to before - if it's based on shaky ground; if it's based on propping up an ideology that's not sustainable; or, you know, is a presser, then you're going to be found out eventually.


Sam: [00:11:29] Yeah it's... What a great uh... I'm going to have to put that in the close to the show - lying with integrity - because one of the great truths that I've learned through graduate school and history and then also working with people like you is you're never going to get close to the actual truth in any story. But the question is your intention to find that truth - the integrity - with which you approach it and the humility of knowing that you don't have all the answers and you allow the audience to understand that.

Ryan Spanger: [00:11:58] Yeah. And that's something that each person has got to go on their own journey about and work out what you want to achieve and how you want to use the media, you know, what your aims are. I think, you know, we have like a moral obligation regardless of if you making something political or if you're selling something, there's, like, an obligation to the society that you live in and the people to do it with integrity.

But also, if you are being overly manipulative or dishonest then I just don't think it's going to be sustainable. And I think as people become more and more media savvy, it's just not going to work out for you. You might have a couple of early wins and then you're likely to just lose your audience. So that's something to be conscious of, you know, if you are in a business or a coach who's using media, who's using video, then you don't really think about how powerful this medium is and how long term it's going to reflect on you in the way that you use it.

Sam: [00:12:58] When you went to film school, and I remember we had a discussion on this, what did they teach you and what can we learn from these early filmmakers who you look at some of the work from like Dziga Vertov and some of the insanely complex edits they put together and it's still to this day with the hard-to-accomplish in all these modern tools? What did you learn watching?

I remember this famous one that I was, really, just kind of, you know, captured the essence of how Soviet society saw itself at that time - the early exciting period - it's post-revolution. What were some of those ancient filmmaking lessons that, you know, informed? Why do you study those in film school and what lessons could you take from this?

Ryan Spanger: [00:13:43] You know, I think with uhm-- Actually with a lot of the early films, you know, when I watched them, it's... actually it's really hard to understand how powerful they were because people were so unschooled and that sort of thing. Like, I watched a Hitchcock film, it was "North by Northwest", recently.

And, you know, hey, there's one of these, like, great works of art and... You know if you watch a film like that or a lot of the films in that era, the editing is so slow. And, you know, the acting is so overwrought and it's quite clunky and it's just because that was the pace that people were able to take in media at that time. They needed to be really obvious. They needed the actors to kind of, you know, over-act and...

[00:14:26] We're in a completely different era now where we're so much more media literate and also things are so much faster. That's... Actually, I find it hard to really watch and understand a lot of the really early films because it would all must be like the equivalent of, you know, chiseling on a cave wall versus a piece of multimedia. So, it's actually so unsophisticated. But I think what I find really interesting is that the early filmmakers were such pioneers, you know. They had such ambitious pioneering spirit and their heads had great aims.

[00:15:04] A really exciting time for me was in the 1960s when film moved from these, like, big heavy cameras which you needed large crews. Cameras were very stationary to cameras which became a lot more portable. And so these documentary makers of the 60s and 70s were really freed up to move the camera around and work with small crew groups and follow people around.

[00:15:26] And in France they had what's called cinema verite which I guess talks about the other idea of truth. And these small teams of documentary makers following contemporary stories, making these observational fly on the wall, documentaries. And then in America, you had a similar school which was called direct cinema.

[00:15:44] Those two were trying to achieve quite interesting things but they approached it slightly differently because in America, they believe that if you just follow a story and you are unobtrusive then you can actually capture the truths like the reality of their personal story. And in France was similar but their idea was just by the camera being there.

It could act as a catalyst to create a deeper truth that maybe in some ways, you know, in people in their day-to-day life, I have a mask. And what if by filming someone you could actually get them to drop their mask and actually create a version of truth or reality that's like even more real than their lifestyle. You know, they're grappling with really interesting ideas.

Sam: [00:16:25] It's fascinating. Now, I want to dig into that a little bit later. Is that-- How does the camera affect someone's portrayal of themselves? Is there a way? You know we can talk about techniques on that a little while as to how to get authenticity and deeper moments out of people then perhaps, if that was possible, based on the camera.

[00:16:44] So, the French film school, documentary film school, had a bit more of a, let's say, role or they said filmmakers have more of a role to play rather than just observational. How has that evolved over time in terms of the different documentary schools of thought?

Ryan Spanger: [00:17:04] Well, it's become so mainstream now. You know, like, if you look at, say, a TV channel like vice? You know, then that's just... It's a very popular mainstream form of filmmaking which is accessible to all of us. Grab a camera. Find an interesting subject. Follow them around. Capture this story. And then distill that. And... What it mainly comes down to is accessing interesting, you know, out of the ordinary kind of stories but this is just now-- just a matter of a form of filmmaking that we all know and implicitly understand.

[00:17:40] But if you could go back to the 60s, you know, just the fact that someone would shoot handheld rather than having the camera on a tripod was actually revolutionary. The other thing that was revolutionary was choosing real people to film stories about and it's kind of, like, if you go to art history where the school of realism was about creating art, about people, but it was like about kings and famous people and all that sort of thing. And then, you've started to evolve to naturalism which was like, "No, we don't have to just paint famous people. We can paint like a peasant, you know, in a field or just an average person." And, that's the thing that's important to bear in mind. It's how fast all this stuff has changed and so much of what we take for granted now was revolutionary not that long ago.

Sam: [00:18:33] Yes. It's interesting to watch and I'm always fascinated speaking to someone like you who studied this craft their whole lives. It's the history of how filmmaking has evolved, you know, from actors like as you said over exaggerated movements to this school of realism that came in with the documentary style.

And that's actually something that I think you brought into marketing and taught me which we'll get into a little while here. Right. But before we move on, I just... I'm fascinated by this as you described filmmaking used to be so such a big endeavor.

[00:19:13] You know, before, I like to say that one of the things that led to the rise of the totalitarianism was this rise of mass communications industry. And the fact that this brand new medium that was so powerful of telling stories we found which the Soviets and the Germans in the 1930s were experts at manipulating was a big industry. It was a big undertaking to make these kind of films that could be distributed, you know, as kind of, like, a national project.

[00:19:43] And the countries that harnessed it early on and did it well, I think, had a great advantage to mobilize the society. And I think you also see that the history of Hollywood - the Americans creating Hollywood - kind of as an answer to this arms race for storytelling through film. Talk a little bit about that because I think what's interesting now people take for granted is how easy it is to do your own filmmaking with just an iPhone. It wasn't always that way and the decentralization of control of this extraordinarily powerful medium, I think, is having a huge effect on society.

Ryan Spanger: [00:20:20] Well, I think for our era, the biggest change was when we moved from film to digital. So, in the past, you'd be shooting on film, it would cost quite a bit of money; you would film it; and you wouldn't actually be able to see it. You'd have to send it off to be processed. And then you'd get this negative.

And you'd have to, you know, you'd have this long thin roll of film that you would have like a viewer and you would run the film across this lot which would you'd be able to see frame by frame - what you actually had there. And then, when you wanted to edit, you would be committing to making cuts like you'd actually be physically cutting that film.

And each time you did that, you'd lose frames. So you're doing something permanently irreversible to it so you'd have to think quite carefully about their cuts because it was also quite laborious.

[00:21:07] And then, when we moved from film to digital, we moved from this idea of linear to non-linear. So, linear means there's only one path like you could really only just create one film. It was much harder to create multiple versions.

[00:21:21] Once we moved to digital, we're shooting on video, uploading their content, which has data, to the computer, and you use an editing program to edit. And it's very easy to try different versions. And it's very easy to go back and your cuts aren't irreversible so it's opened up this world of creativity because you could try many different versions.

You could have different endings. You could have multiple versions. If you try something and didn't work, it was very easy to go back. And so that was pretty incredible because when I started, we were shooting on film and cutting it and then we started with video.

Ryan Spanger: [00:21:56] And I think it was about... when was it... 1998 or '99 when Apple brought out Final Cut Pro and that was sort of what got a lot of filmmakers into editing digitally. So, yeah. It's that idea of the difference between analog and digital and linear and nonlinear. I think that's been the biggest filmmaking revolution of our time.

Sam: [00:22:20] Yeah and as we go back and look at this, that was the big revolution of our time. Has that been bigger than the switch to the accessibility of devices at a lower and lower level?

[00:22:34] I mean how would you assess the costs of, you know, the quality of footage you can now get for less versus the switch to digital versus analog? How is all of this? I mean this is even changed since you and I shot together five years ago. What are the trend lines like in terms of technology and how quickly this is changing?

Ryan Spanger: [00:22:54] Well? that you know, revolution which happened in the '90s was about production, that cameras became cheaper. Editing suite became cheaper. You know, pretty much anyone could start to access the stuff but there was no real distribution. There was still the old forms of distribution which were television, broadcasters, so they were gatekeepers.

And you had to get through those gatekeepers to get your films shown on TV or film festivals. All of these things are very controlled. So the next big revolution was in distribution because previously, it became very accessible to be able to access the means of production.

[00:23:34] Camera-- the cost of cameras came down. Its suites came down. It really wasn't that hard to be able to afford to make your own film. But it was hard to get it out there because your choice was either TV where they were gatekeepers or cinema film festivals, that sort of thing.

Some entrepreneurial people would make films and take them on the road and hire holes and sell access to them. But the next big revolution was with the rise of YouTube where now you could not only make your film quite cheaply but you could distribute it pretty much for free and access a global audience and as a way of reaching that audience which, again, we just take completely for granted. But, you know, when that happened that was completely incredible.

Sam: [00:24:19] Yeah, and one of the things, Ryan, that you've lived through this kind of change and distribution. How early on in this switch with the gatekeepers went away? Did you know that something big was happening? What was a realization for you when you observed this?

Ryan Spanger: [00:24:37] I think I was probably fairly slow to realize it's mainly, you know, in retrospective, it just seems so obvious. But, a lot of it is because we have these sort of pre-built ideas in our mind. So, studying film and being a young aspiring filmmaker, you just have these fixed ideas of, well, the way to get your story out there is to make something and get picked up by a broadcaster or the cinemas or at a film festival.

And so I don't know if there was a particular moment because I think there was, you know, these videos being distributed online and I think it took me quite a while to realize, "Oh well, this is actually just another completely legitimate form of distribution."

So, I actually don't know. I think that it's very easy to look back and see these changes but, I think there's probably things happening right now that a lot of us aren't even aware of. And then, a couple of years in time we'll look back and go, "Oh, that was so clear that that was revolutionary."

Sam: [00:25:31] Ryan, as you got into filmmaking, talk a little bit about going from pizza delivery boy to filmmaker. What was your original path and how did you get into the marketing now?

Ryan Spanger: [00:25:44] I spent some time after I studied at university doing a range of different sort of fairly probably low skilled jobs. And also you use that as a chance to do quite a lot of travel like in Australia and around the world. I actually got to a point where I... There was a filmmaking course that I wanted to study that I applied for and didn't get in.

And I made the decision like I'm going to go traveling again and get a van and a surfboard and travel the coast and pick up jobs along the way. And I was actually all set to do that. And then I was contacted by the school a week or two before and I said, "Someone's dropped out and the place has become available." And so I took that opportunity and went and studied this filmmaking course and I used that as an opportunity to create a film to get into, sort of, I guess, what you call proper film school like this.

At the time, there were a couple of, you know, big well-established film schools in Australia that were very difficult to get in. And so I was able to use that opportunity to make a standout film that helped get me into film school where I studied documentary making. And, from there, I really just started to pick up whatever jobs I could, you know - making films. And at that time, it was just exciting to be able to be paid for making films.

[00:27:09] And so I remember I made one or two music videos. And then I got a job editing surf videos which was just a great training because there is only so many ways you can cut these surf videos together and make them look interesting that you could play a lot.

You could use effects a lot. I was part of it. It was quite a pioneering group at the time who were selling surf DVDs and sort of as magazines. So they were interviewed with surfers and a lot of guerrilla-style behind the scenes of filmmaking. So I did a lot of editing with them.

[00:27:48] And then I also worked with the Jewish Holocaust museum in Australia editing testimonies of Holocaust survivors. And that was incredibly interesting as well. And, also I felt like a huge responsibility and obligation to be able to edit and tell the stories in the best possible way. So that was kind of my early training.

[00:28:13] And I also did a lot of... filmed a lot of weddings. And there was also great training as well because you were thrust into the situation where you're doing very long days. You've only got one opportunity to get it right. People have high expectations and, you know, I would literally be out there for like 12, 14 hours non-stop filming.

[00:28:32] And I just went in with the idea of that... I'm just going to grab whatever I can. Any opportunities that come up for me in film I was just going to grab them, you know. I did some volunteer work working on student films. Like I said, I did these weddings, the surf videos, the Holocaust videos, filming events - anything that I could get behind the camera and the edit suite and make stuff and often get paid for it.

[00:29:00] I just took that opportunity and, slowly but surely I just developed my skills and started to hone what I was interested in. And as time passed, I was able to say 'no' to certain things and 'yes' to things that I was more interested in.

[00:29:16] And, I always took it on as a long-term project so when I committed to it, I said to myself I'm going to give this five years and then I'll reassess. And I'm not going even question the process until then and five years passed and recommitted for another five years. But I knew it would be a long slow road in the early days to get the momentum going.

Sam: [00:29:42] And now that brings you to where we met. So I guess you'd had-- you've done a couple five-year... Well, how long and very measured are your business been in existence before you and I met?

Ryan Spanger: [00:29:55] Yeah well, that's right. It's been 10, 11, 12 years somewhere around there.

Sam: [00:30:00] So you'd re-evaluated twice and realized you're up for another go then?

Ryan Spanger: [00:30:04] Yes.

Sam: [00:30:06] And ah... Just to give the listener a little bit of context to how we met. Ryan, I first met you in the James Schramko's Silver Circle which is a private coaching group for marketers, a lot like what we do with Storyville.

[00:30:22] Now, James Schramko focuses business systems and overall stuff whereas the story guild, I really focus on teaching storytelling through film and funnel mechanics and the paid ads and everything around it so I wouldn't stay. Our group focus is a little bit more on the tactical implementation of funnels but also some of the strategic thinking behind product and storytelling.

[00:30:46] So, we were both in a group where we were looking to grow our agencies or businesses at the time. Why did you decide to join that group and what was the big benefit you got out of that aside from the project you and I worked on? What was your overall benefit to that? Where were you before business owner and after you had completed that program?

[00:31:08] You were in there quite a while. And one of the things I noticed about you was on these group calls that we'd show up on. You would actually be on there and watching everyone and everything like a hawk. And, you really got your money's worth out of these few calls. 'Cause the way the calls worked from Lisner was it was a group coaching program where everyone would have their turn.

Speaking to James Schramko, the mentor on the group coaching calls, and you could use a group call in. You could sit there and watch what other people had their session. But it was also one on one because you had one on one time and other people can jump in and lend suggestions or insights if they thought that some important conversation. But Ryan, what was your motivation for joining that group and what did you get out of?

Ryan Spanger: [00:31:51] Well, I had done some work with other coaches leading up to that - some one-on-one coaching. And then I heard James on a podcast and found the things we talked about quite interesting because I think this was back in about 2011, maybe?

And I really didn't know that much about online marketing at that stage. And so it started to open me up to this world of online marketing that I found quite exciting and saw it as a huge opportunity.

[00:32:21] The other thing that I appreciated was that he had a really strong background in business because a lot of coaches out there are sort of expert at being coaches but they don't necessarily have that many runs on the board in terms of, you know, creating successful businesses before that.

And so, I'm really just instinctually went along to his event thinking there's a lot that I can learn here and based on what I-- He brought together, just, you know, at the time cutting edge information about online marketing, about Google Adwords, you know, using Facebook and that whole side of things but also business ideas about building a team and leverage.

[00:33:02] And, it just makes sense that anything that you want to excel at, if you have the right coach, you're going to be more successful than trying to coach yourself. Because if you find someone that you resonate with, that you trust and believe in, and then they give you that belief back, that's an incredibly powerful thing. And it can also act as a bit of a mirror and give you feedback and challenge you.

[00:33:26] And that was the process that I went through which I found very powerful. And so, going through that, I was able to really speed up the growth of my business. And then the other really powerful thing was being around other successful business people in the group like you where I could use that as inspiration but also I learned from other challenges in the group. So if there are people who are listening to this, who are thinking about the idea of coaching, you know, I would just highly recommend it as a way of amplifying your results.

Sam: [00:33:58] Yeah and... Ryan, you were in that group for a number of years, right? I mean you really spent a long time I think really transforming your business through that process.

Ryan Spanger: [00:34:08] Yeah. There's a lot of people I've noticed who jump from one coach to another or one group to another and really always kind of searching or quite restless. And I was lucky or skillful enough to find a coach that I knew I could go the distance with.

And whatever I brought, he would be able to handle and have that capacity, and also, you know, be conscious of the level of growth that I wanted to move at with you. My approach has always been slow and steady growth. It's not about, you know, within a year you're creating something massive. It's been about creating something strong and sustainable.

[00:34:54] And so I think that's the other thing with coaching that... It was always like that - the grass is always greener on the other side. We're always looking for something that we don't have. But if you can find a coach that you can work with and submit to-- I don't know, submit is a powerful word but it's actually relevant here if you can humble yourself a bit and give yourself to the process and trust it, then that can be very very powerful. And so, that really just worked for me.

Sam: [00:35:23] Yeah. It really to be great a great structure. I was just starting out. I was not confident in business because I just started my first agency. I was confident in my ability to do marketing or at least my interest and passion for but it really had some holes on the business partner side. On the business side that I tried to fill with business partner, I realized that was not the best fit because of the business partners should be really hard to get, right?


It's like another relationship you have to cultivate and maintain and find the right fit. I just decided that a coach was a better way to fill some of those gaps in knowledge and skills that I felt I had than using a business partner. And I was really right by going that way at that point in time. And actually one of the things I didn't anticipate when I joined was the power of the group and the network and that was where I met you and a bunch of other really talented people. And I actually started to realize as I went deeper and deeper into the program that the real value for me was the network inferior. And that's where you and I kind of connect.

Ryan Spanger: [00:36:35] Yeah. Very much so. And you were able to get access to some real experts in particular areas and also see them behind the scenes, you know, because you weren't just choosing experts to work with you based on the marketing that you saw, but you, you know, within the group itself you're able to see how they function - what type of people they are, how they think.

So I think, you know, you're actually really able to, like, mine the resources of the group really well and that's, you know, one of the powerful things about being inside a business coaching or mastermind group.

Sam: [00:37:09] Yeah. It was quite just an amazing group of people - yourself and James Reynolds and then some of the other people that joined under chaperoned and Justin Brooke and... You know it's kind of been like a who's who in the marketing world that's gone through that group. And, I think we were lucky to be some of the earlier members in it - increased those powerful connections.

[00:37:30] So, this brings me along to our collaboration. You were speaking on stage I think at the same conference... No. It was a year before I spoke with a super fast business. Because when I spoke it's the best business I was talking about - what you and I have done together. And, you were talking on stage and actually, I think that was one of your first thoughts onstage.

Talk me through that talk again and what you were trying to communicate and what you thought you'd get out of it. Does it really change the whole direction of how you approach business? I mean, I can't imagine my business today without listening to that talk.

Ryan Spanger: [00:38:06] Okay. That was a while ago now. I'll try to remember. I mean I know some of the things that I spoke about. I think I spoke quite a bit about the idea of filmmaking - of actually what goes into making a film into using composition, and color, and sound, storytelling, but maybe just to give it a bit more focus. Tell me about the particular things that you picked up on that you found so powerful.

Sam: [00:38:35] Well, for me it was simply... I think James Schramko asked you to get up there and just talk about how to do quality films. But to me when I was going through at the time as I talked about it in my talk in the four free videos series, the master class was having a really hard time figuring out how to script a man who refused to be scripted.

 [00:39:01] Bobby McGee. And how to put him on camera where he said he refused to prostitute himself online. And I was thinking about whiteboard videos and explainer videos and all these cool little tricks that people seem to be using to get their message across my video. And then, your talk just kind of hit me with simplicity but also the sophistication of the way that you put us all.

Ryan Spanger: [00:39:25] Yeah. I think 'cause I've always been interested in documentary making and people telling their actual stories more so than working with actors. Although I do sometimes work with actors and I enjoy that process too. The talk of filmmaking that I get most excited about is the more documentary side which is just, you know, actual people telling their stories.

And that was what we talked about particularly after the event is the fact that there were so many marketers out there using these manipulative techniques. And they, actually at the time, weren't that become a lot more popular now but there weren't many people actually making a documentary style sales videos.

Sam: [00:40:06] I don't think there were many at all. Maybe we have a small part of the popularity of that style. No, I don't think anyone was doing it. You were doing it for corporations. The ears weren't specifically sales videos. You were more... Well, what were you doing at the time? And I'll let you give your recollection of our conversation.

Ryan Spanger: [00:40:25] Well, some of those sorts of films that I was making in my business were things like case study videos - going and speaking to someone who's used a product or service and getting him to tell that story and they would talk about at first where they were at before; and then, the challenge that they were having within their business; what it was like when I found out about your product and service and met you and experienced the service and the impact that it had on their business and where they are now. And these were, you know, two to three minutes stories telling that before during after story.

[00:40:57] And, when you watched those sort of videos, you can tell that it's just someone in their own words sharing their real experience. And the other thing that makes them really powerful is emotion because when they talk about those early days, you can sort of see on their face the pain and the struggle they were having.

And then, the other spark will arise when they talk about how, when they start to integrate your product and service, the influence that it had on their life. And, there are really powerful proof videos that we've made. Many of those both for our clients and for my own business because they work.

Sam: [00:41:39] And we spoke about that together on sta-- or right after he spoke on stage, and I basically said, "Hey, I've got this really encourage us. There's a problem that he doesn't want to be scripted. He doesn't want to get on their news entities manipulative sales tactics. And how do we do it?" And I think you just looked at me very directly and said, "Well, that's easy. Just get the people he's helped to tell his story for him.

[00:42:04] You know it's just kind of struck me. This was like a thunderbolt of project idea. Or I said, "OK well I want to interview all the people that he's helped and also interview him and let him tell his story in an authentic way and then let people sell him for him." I told you about all the projects we had, yeah?

I think three different projects at the time-- four different clients of mine. And then I said, "Well, why don't we wrap this all into one big road trip." And, you know, I think you at the time had not been to the States before, was that correct? And you found it interesting?

Ryan Spanger: [00:42:38] Well, I had. I was there in 1994 as a kid. I've traveled there with my parents and we went to New York and it was... I remember it was wintertime. I remember there was snow on the ground and I just found it at the time was most exciting place that I've ever been.

And I remember, you know, traveling in a taxi and looking out the window and seeing people doing graffiti on the wall and break dancing on the side of the road. And, it was literally the most exciting place that I'd been to. And going back to New York again, all those years later, I felt exactly the same way.

Sam: [00:43:13] Yeah, and basically we just hatched a plan to interview everyone that all my clients had worked with and then go speak to them and then speak to the subjects of the interviewees or... sorry, the experts. Speak to the coach, the expert himself.

And we just sat down and did it. And I remember you packed one bag that was actually a carry-on bag with the coolest camera equipment I'd ever seen stuffed into such a small bag that you were able to do a lot of things with lights and cameras and all the memory equipment you had.

[00:43:54] You showed up in Boulder Colorado for our first shoot. Very long day with Bobby McGee. Then I think we flew to New York City. And then from there we hired a car and drove down to Texas where we had our-- No, we drove upstate New York and then down to Texas where our other clients were. And I think we had a bit of a road trip so...

Ryan Spanger: [00:44:19] Here's my version of the story. I spoke at James Schramko's event. And I met this guy called Sam afterwards. I think we end up having dinner with the group together and we spoke. We walked through Sydney and we spoke about filmmaking and storytelling. And, you know, I had a fantastic conversation.

And then, we started to talk about this idea of your clients and then you contacted me, I think, a day or two after. And you said, "Oh, Ryan, I'm so excited about this idea. I could hardly even sleep, you know. I've got this vision and this is what we need to do and for you to come to the States and work on this project together." And I thought, "OK, yeah, that sounds pretty cool.

[00:44:56] And then really I think within about three weeks I was there after a very long flight of going from Melbourne to Sydney to Honolulu to L.A. and in Boulder Colorado. I got out of the plane at about 3:00 in the morning and then I think by about 7:00 that morning we were on the road filming.

And, we did some crazy hours and it was just... It was a very exciting pioneering trip, you know, where we got a lot done and you sort of threw down the challenge. And, we literally traveled across the whole country which was incredible. You know, I've always had this dream of driving across the States and I got to do that and make films along the way. So, it was yeah, it was an amazing project. It was tough at times because we were doing some really long hours. But it was, you know, it was very fulfilling.

Sam: [00:45:54] Yeah. I remember actually you traveled and you got into Bobby McGee's basements, I think, where we were crashing for a couple of hours then we were up early in the morning in a summer day filming running practice. And then after running practice, we just went from interviews interviews interviews.

[00:46:13] And the thing I was struck by, we really had no training. You and I did very little prep work because of just the reality of your schedule and mine. But, I had developed some frameworks of questions that what was really fascinating to me was watching you work and watching you set up, and then very very quickly teaching me the skills of interviewing and then patiently asking questions after I'd finished what I thought were the right questions or eliciting the responses I felt we needed.

[00:46:47] You would fill in the gaps with these questions that brought out that extra layer. And, it was quite exciting to see that in the collaboration and... You know, from your perspective, what were your expectations of the project compared to what we actually did?

Ryan Spanger: [00:47:05] I'm trying to remember what my expectations were. I think it was probably fairly similar. I think I knew that we were going to be working with some interesting people but to have the privilege of working with one of the top triathlon coaches and Bobby McGee.

[00:47:24] Not only seeing his skills but getting a chance to speak to him. And he gave me a copy of his book which I read incredibly inspiring person that regardless of if you're a runner or a cyclist or in business, people like him are quite rare, you know, and just what a privilege to be able to meet and work with him that the same with swimming coach Terry Loflin, you know, once again just an incredible coach and human. So, I didn't realize how amazing these people were going to be that we met. So that was really quite incredible.

Sam: [00:48:03] Yeah. And I was quite struck by your ability to very quickly teach me the essence of documentary filmmaking. And I remember very clearly some of the first things we did in terms of setting up and just showing me throughout the day how you're getting footage that would feature prominently in these videos.

It's very important to get the b roll shots, as you called it, that we need it to fill in the story visually and the way we got the interviews asked or these authentic reactions of people. And actually I remember at the end of Bobby McGee's shoot, we had a very late night, I think, until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning and he was actually getting quite tired.

[00:48:49] I remember I would sometimes fall asleep. You sometimes fell asleep. We're all sitting there, just beating this interview out of him.

[00:48:58] And, what was really interesting was I think some of his best moments came when he was the most dire because he just put his guard down and he got really authentic and really real in the video about why he just loved what he was doing. And, you know, when I watch his video now to this day, I just kind of get goosebumps thinking about it that you can't fake that kind of passion, that kind of authenticity.

[00:49:23] And it took a while to get it, but it was so powerful when it came out.

Ryan Spanger: [00:49:29] It is. I mean one of the most important things with that type of filmmaking is that you need to be able to create rapport with your subject which just means to be able to create a connection and an understanding. Because they're being in your video, they're making themselves vulnerable.

So they are in some ways potentially putting themselves in a weaker position. And so they need to feel like they can trust you and feel comfortable with you. And you're working with a situation where humans, you know, we naturally have this desire to have our stories told. And then, on the other hand, we've got this like self-protective mechanism that we don't want to get hurt or embarrassed or ashamed so we're sending out these two signals at the same time.

Ryan Spanger: [00:50:10] One is like, "Please, understand me. Know who I am and share that with the world." And the other one is like, "Stay back. Don't hurt me. Don't embarrass me." And so, when you interview someone, firstly you've got to build that rapport, that connection, and we're able to do that with Bobby. We spent the day together. We had dinner together. It was great to be able to have that luxury to be able to do that.

[00:50:31] And then, as an interviewer, you need to pick up on those subtle cues because what someone will do is they'll answer your question and then they'll usually leave a little clue and the clue is sort of saying here is... You know, it's like a bread crumb. Here's something that you can follow on but I'm not going to give it to you I'm going to just drop this little hint.

[00:50:50] And it's an invitation for you to follow to sort of peel away another layer of the onion but you've got to do it kind of subtly and skillfully. And if you're too clunky or clumsy about it, then they're going to pull back and put that guard down again. So when you're interviewing someone rather than just working off a list of questions, have that as a backup. But it's much better to freestyle and look for those clues and then go deeper into them.

Sam: [00:51:17] Yeah. This is one of the things that I learned working with you is how much the plan and how much to improvise. It's actually sometimes quite frustrating for some clients or staff of mind you'd like to be a bit more organized and shoot it.

[00:51:33] One of the questions you're going to ask in a lot of time is usually refused to give that up. And even to my staff that are watching me, "What is the plan for this interview?" A lot of time I say, "Well I'll know it when I hear it. And just kind of go down there." So what's your... I know we worked on this when we're together and I tried to script that at the beginning and have a list of questions. And I just kind of learned from you. I had a really freestyle and go more naturally into. What's your philosophy on planning versus prescriptive questions versus just... How do you learn to be good at freestyling and, you know, what's your technique for teaching that?

Ryan Spanger: [00:52:16] Well, firstly it's very important to plan and research. And people who I've watched work, who I've been very impressed by, it's immediately obvious that they've done quite a bit of research and they've got their list of questions.

And, sometimes people air on the other side and they just think to myself, "Oh well it's much better to just being natural and organic and I'm just going to come in there." And if you don't prepare and if you don't research, it's pretty obvious. And even if your interviewee is polite enough not to led on, they're going to know and they're going to react to that.

[00:52:51] So it's really important to give your interviewees the respect of actually doing that research but also it's going to help you to come up with much better questions. So, best thing to do is to research, create your list of questions, but then ideally just put that away. Put that in your pocket and, you know, you can always refer to that if you need to. And you can also check it at the end to make sure that you've covered everything but have an actual real conversation, just like you would in real life, you know, and approach the conversation or the interview was like a really deep sense of curiosity.

[00:53:25] So find out what it is about that person that you find fascinating and also what your audience is really going to want to know. And then, it's really important to cultivate the sense of unconditional positive regard that you basically need to kind of open your heart to this person in a way and what I mean by that is that you have to let go of whatever judgments you may have.

[00:53:53] And you have to, in that interaction, you know, think of them as being really important and fascinating and not in a contrived sort of way but actually just to approach it in a very very open way and be fascinated and be interested and have a sense of, you know, care about them. It's not something that you can fake.

It's going to be obvious. So it's a really, you know, deep human to human interaction. They're going to pick up on that. They're going to feel that you have their best interests at heart that you're deeply curious and then they're going to share a lot more. Look for those clues, pick up on them and go deeper. So, usually they'll answer the question but they'll sort of leave a little hint and then you'll, "Oh, tell me about that." And keep your questions short. That's the biggest mistake I see people make is they feel compelled to use the opportunity to ask a question, to demonstrate how clever they are and to answer the question.

And that's why I don't listen to a lot of podcasts because I get so frustrated with their interviewing process where they spent so long. And, again, when I listen to the best interviewers and usually people on the radio, the questions are really short and they don't feel compelled to demonstrate their expertise. They ask, you know, really simple questions.

Sam: [00:55:16] I was quite impressed with your ability to draw or pursue those breadcrumbs. Learning that interviewing is a skill. It's high art and it's something that you have to just constantly be aware of and hone. I think you're right.

It totally absolutely comes down to deep understanding of your client, knowing them quite intimately - a lot of research. And one of the things that we tell clients that we work within the filming process is the research base or the planning stage or the scripting phase is quite extensive. And there's no surprised by that, like we can just go outside, set up cameras and get some videos. And that really doesn't serve them well and it's sometimes hard to get that across until you really lay out the entire process.

And I think that's a really fascinating insight we give on that. And, something I always admired about you is your ability to quickly transfer that skill to me and just make me do it and then back me up when I was, let's say, not catching everything I could have.

Ryan Spanger: [00:56:21] Yeah. It's actually not that complicated. It's also about knowing what your particular skills are. So, there's not one individual way to approach it, you know, like it's about knowing how you are as a person in the world and how you relate to people. So, you for instance, are very good at making connections with people straight away.

And so that's quite a powerful thing that you can use where you can, you know, get to a state of, you know, deep connection with someone quite quickly. Other interviewers have different skills like if you look at Louis Theroux from the BBC who has a sort of documentary show where he mainly pursues kind of stories of, like, offbeat people in the U.S.

What works for him is that he comes across as being very unintimidating and that's the thing that helped people to drop their guard with him because he doesn't seem predatory. You know, it doesn't feel risky to be around him.

[00:57:22] So find, you know, what that thing is about you, like, how are you when you connect with someone in your life in a deep way and how can you bring that to your interviews. And then add that, like, a deep pursuit of curiosity that, you know, you just feel compelled to spend time with this person to, you know, to learn something that you don't know.

Sam: [00:57:44] Yeah. I'm fascinated by watching different interviewers because I'm starting to train members of my staff on interviewing. And actually one of the things that I have noticed about myself that I would like to work on is I'm a bit stoic and don't express a lot of emotions or reactions when people are saying something to me but they can definitely tell that I'm listening and connecting with them and some people appreciate and respond well to that.

But one of the things I've also learned about interviewing is don't try and be someone you're not in your future. So if you aren't naturally expressive, very emotive, type of person, don't fake that you are in the interview chair but just find a way to connect with your personality and be authentic because people will not open up to you unless you're authentic as an interviewer.

Ryan Spanger: [00:58:37] That's exactly right. And, the other thing that's important to mention is that you can actually be quite controlling and direct people because you know this is not a natural authentic. It's really unnatural and contrived - the situation we've set up these chairs and you've got lights and microphones and, you know, it's often people feel quite awkward about it because it's just not something that we normally do.

So you've got to accept that as well. And you've also got to accept the idea that you're there for a particular reason. You have a sense of the kind of thing that people are going to talk about and part of your planning is actually anticipating the answers that you expect from them and gently shepherding them to actually giving you their content.

[00:59:22] So it is a highly manipulative thing, but that's where that line with integrity idea comes in where you're helping guide them to content that you feel is natural and authentic for them.

You're not putting words in their mouth. You're not making them say something but you've done your research enough to the point where you have a sense of what you think they're actually going to talk about. But don't be under any illusions. That's going to naturally come.

You are there to lead, you know, with the sense of authority to get the content that you're looking for. And then of course sometimes the best content just ends up being stuffed that completely surprises you that comes out of left field.

Sam: [01:00:02] Yeah, that's such a great point to emphasize. Yeah, people will not know what they need to say until you help them say it and sometimes... You know, I started out in interview. I was in Bordeaux with a client about a month ago and I heard very clearly the ad and it was quite directive. It said, "I want you to say this. I want you to say this. I want you to say this."

[01:00:26] And he said it and we kind of got through it all in many soundbites and I knew that this might work because it was quite a powerful string in story that we were able to get out of them. But then I said, "Well, why don't we just start from the beginning and you just say what you just said in your own words."

And he just went off on a wrist that was not quite scripted the way I would have liked to have heard it but it was just so much more authentic and flowing. And there was this moment where he, you know, he's talking to a high powered business owner who wants to get their life back by buying property in southwest France.

You know, somebody who's got everything in life but feels that something's missing. And he says he started going off and saying, "You're going from another meeting to another meeting", "You're going from a business trip to another business trip", "You're going from financial reports to another financial report." And he said, "Why don't you trade that for from one glass of wine to the next, from one sunset to the next, from one market trip to the next" You know, he just really slowed and it was just such a magical moment to watch. I never could have scripted that in my head. But I think theme telling him what to say for a little while and then letting him free flow afterwards in his own way. It was quite powerful.

Ryan Spanger: [01:01:42] Yeah. Oh, that sounds great. You know, I could imagine when he was saying those things he had that spark on his eyes. His tone changed. You know, he would have been quite passionate as he spoke. And that's really powerful, you know, that's even more powerful than the actual stuff that he was saying is the way that he delivers it.

Sam: [01:02:03] No, you're right, a hundred percent right. It was a quite emotional moment. And the camera crew was watching saying "Wow". You know, we all just looked at each other after he said that and said "Wow". And they said, you know, it was amazing - the work it took to get that out of them. But we finally got him from having his guard up is as you're saying where you're not flowing inauthentic because you're afraid of putting yourself out there to the point where he just dug deep and really led a part of himself out that I don't think he even knew it was there.

Ryan Spanger: [01:02:40] That's pretty amazing. And as a director that, you know, it feels incredible to help someone to achieve that and to create that content.

Sam: [01:02:48] Yeah. No, it's fascinating. Well, Ryan, that was just a fun trip down memory lane with you and thinking about all the little lessons. I really miss that interaction and those long talks in the car about that story.

[01:03:02] Now one of the things that we really bounced around a lot was this concept that I'm really going - putting it the centerpiece of the market the training we did as the hero's journey. And we talked about that quite a bit in our trips. And I read a little bit about it but you really kind of dialed me into how to make that into the filmmaking concept. What is your experience with the hero's journey and how do you think of it from a filmmakers perspective?

Ryan Spanger: [01:03:33] Well, I think pretty much everyone who studies filmmaking is introduced to this idea. I-- When I first studied filmmaking, I read a book by Christopher Vogler... I'm trying to remember the name. I think it was called... It was like a variation on the hero's journey which kind of simplified the concept for me. But basically, for people who are unfamiliar with it, there are certain story structures which people have used throughout history. And probably the most popular version is the hero's journey structure which, you know, you'll find in a lot of the big Hollywood films like Star Wars and... I mean is there-- Do you want to talk a bit about that actual structure is? Yeah? Yeah.

[01:04:16] So, talking about, you know, storytelling in general. This was the way that people would communicate to share lessons, to talk about where they'd be been and what they learned, to pass on knowledge, and [01:04:32] I guess it was kind of people talk about sitting in a cave around the fire and telling stories or doing the art on the wall.

It's something that humans have always done and it's had, like, a very important evolutionary process, you know, a function of sharing information. And the way that humans take in stories is based on structures were almost like set up to understand stories according to particular structures. And if you use that structure, it's a lot easier to tell the story because there's a familiarity there already.

[01:05:03] So, the hero's journey is basically a story about someone who started off in one place, went on a journey, and came back to that place but was forever changed. And, it starts off with someone who is living in their normal world, you know, getting on with their day-to-day life and then something called them to an adventure, you know. Something happened. They learn something or they're exposed to something. Maybe they were challenged and realized at that moment that life was never going to be the same again, you know. They needed to go and get some knowledge in order to overcome this challenge.

[01:05:43] And sometimes in the story it's an actual physical thing that they need to get. And other times it's learning. Sometimes the physical thing represents the knowledge. And at first they resist that's called adventure because they're happy with their life as it is, you know. They don't want to change. Your life is going along quite well. But they soon realised that they have no choice but to do this.

Maybe they are kind of, you know, thrust out, pushed out of the nest or, you know, maybe some terrible event happens that forces them out of their village or they have to run away or there's a natural disaster or something like that. But they pretty much have no choice other than to go on that adventure. And then, once they embark on their adventure, they go through challenges.

They meet people and get knowledge along the way. Sometimes it might be like a guide or a mentor. Other times it might be a trickster who appears to have your best interests at heart but doesn't. But they go through a number of challenges and usually at some point, things completely fall off the rails and it feels like the game is over.

[01:06:56] You know, there's challenge they went on. They're basically lost and they failed. And they go into this really dark place within themself or you know it might be physically-- they might be captured or depressed or they've lost all their money or things, you know, feel terrible and yet somehow they're able to pull themselves out of that situation and go through one dramatic change or battle or adventure or learning situation, and through that, get the thing that they're actually seeking whether it's knowledge or an object.

[01:07:33] And at that point they're able to return back to their normal life, you know, which may be the village but they return forever changed. And that thing that was always missing within themselves has now been healed or restored. But not only that, they can now bring that knowledge back to the world that they lived in.

So actually their life is gone in a circle and they can now, maybe, help to heal the other people around them or they have gone through healing themselves. So that's basically my understanding of that story structure.

Sam: [01:08:08] Yes. It's really powerful to think about it as you're talking.

[01:08:12] It's... Now that we've learned it and taught it so many times in our workshop, sometimes I take it for granted but hearing another, say, artist or filmmaker talk about it and your understanding of it's really important. And I think one of the things that I just picked up listening to you was this idea of coming back forever changed and passing that knowledge on.

And I think we all live a bunch of mini hero's journeys in our lives around health. You know, you have this story that you tell yourself that, "Oh I can never be as young or as fit as I used to be" and then you get called to adventure and you figure out there is a way to regain a lot of your vitality.

[01:08:56] One of the things that I did recently was going into fasting and other stuff that really helped me feel a lot younger and regained some health in my life. And I think we all have mini hero's journeys whether it's in relationship or fitness or diet or business or money or whatever your hobbies, passions in life.

All of these are little journeys that you're on and you just have to map out what part of the journey that you are on and what you need to do to get to the next step and understand that the foundation of growth is these little mini near death experiences that are the core of the hero's journey construct which is a challenge that feels so complicated and tough sometimes you don't know if you're gonna get through it.

Ryan Spanger: [01:09:47] Yeah. It's so powerful and you can use the stuff in your work but you can also use it in your life as a way of understanding yourself and your journey. And like you said you can have these mini hero's journeys like I did an endurance cycling race last year which was 245-kilometer ride with 5000 meters of climbing, going up a few mountains, and it was a big full challenging day.

And actually that was, you know, a hero's journey within a day and I probably went through all of those different stages, you know, where embarked on the journey and hit that low point. And if you can apply like that structure story to yourself, you can actually get an understanding of your process.

[01:10:31] But then the most powerful part is when you know that what you're going through in life is you're basically just telling yourself a story. You're writing that story and you're casting yourself in it. And if that story's not working, you can actually change the story. And that's basically what, you know, the hero does is they actually start telling themself a new and better story. And I think that's what we do in coaching or you know, in storytelling with the hero is start to realize that you're actually just living that story and you can change it.

Sam: [01:11:08] Yeah and that's really, I think the essence of what we've been talking about. Thanks for reinforcing that point from another perspective is if you can imagine a better story and in marketing your job is to help people imagine that story and see the exact steps they need to take to get there and that they might need a mentor and you can be that mentor for them.

I think that's where the power comes in and the way I learned filmmaking from you was to tell the hero's journey not in a perspective of the brand or the person being the hero but the actual testimony of cases.

[01:11:49] And that was, I think, hugely illustrative for me from what I learned from you which is let your customers tell your story for you rather than making it all about you. And, you know, stories have been all the rage recently and many different marketing teaching programs are picking up on it. Tell your story. Brand story.

You think Russell Bronson's expert secrets is talking about how to tell your story as an expert. And I think that they're missing a bit because these experts are saying it's all about you and your story. And the thing that I learned and really appreciated from you and I credit this to the South African or Australian style of understated is, "No, it's not your story. It's other people's stories - of people who've helped."

Ryan Spanger: [01:12:37] Yeah, sometimes I guess those experts can fall into the trap of becoming a bit arrogant and getting too fixated on their own story. And it's not always as interesting for everyone else as it is for them so it's important to approach things with a bit of humbleness. And, I was also just thinking, you know, with story structure whether it's the hero's journey or the sort of three-act storytelling structure. It's like, you know if you listen to a particular form of music like the blues for instance. There's a very particular structure there but within that you can improvise and freestyle and shift things and change things around so give-- you give something-- give people something that's in a format that they understand because then they know how to approach it.

They're not too challenged, you know, like that's the difference between, say, art and marketing film where art is all about challenging you. Usually, it's about breaking the structure and sometimes you are confusing people or encouraging to, you know, work it out for themselves. What we want to do in storytelling films to do with business is give people a structure that they can readily understand and settle into it. And then within that structure, make it your own.

Sam: [01:13:50] Yeah, and I love that emphasis on the musical equivalent of jazz because that's definitely... As a marketer you have to maintain that flexibility. And as I like to say I give these rules for copywriting and the last will breaks all of these rules. Whenever you feel compelled to do so but just provide your reasoning for, you know, consciously break rules and experiment. 'Cause that's what renovation happens.

Ryan Spanger: [01:14:17] Yeah, and if you follow the structure too slavishly and people can see through it, it's like, "Oh OK there we go. That's the, you know, there's the call to adventure. OK, let's take that one off." And the other-- you know, there's a trickster. It just becomes too obvious. So, it's important to have a sense of that structure but then to shift it around a bit.

Sam: [01:14:36] Well, Ryan, just to close things out. If you could give tactical advice to a business owner or just a couple tips as they're thinking about storytelling or filmmaking in the business. What would you, for someone listening to this episode who wants to go out and implement storytelling their business, what are a couple things, insights that they do right away? Whether it's, you know, doing a video on their iPhone or some kind of thought process or editing. What are some of the biggest takeaways that a business owner listening to this that could be used to go advanced this idea of storytelling through film in their businesses?

Ryan Spanger: [01:15:15] The first is to identify what is the story or stories that need to be told and then work out, you know, what is the first story that you need to tell. And, so that's all the research side of things where you need to do some exploration and find out, you know, what's an important story. Why should the story be told? Who's interested in that?

What effect can that story have? Because, you know, we're talking about stories to advance our business, to help our customers, to communicate with a purpose. So, the thing that you really want to avoid is getting caught up in telling the wrong story or telling a story that no one is going to be interested in or something that you're far more interested in than anywhere or anyone else. So, you know, telling a story is quite time consuming and energy consuming. So fiercely work out what is the right story to tell.

[01:16:09] Once you've done that, then it's really important to tell one story for one particular purpose. So sometimes, when I talk to clients they say, "Oh we want a video for our home page. But, you know, we also want to use it for recruitment and it would be great to show at a conference as well." And that's usually when the power gets diluted because you're trying to do too many things so think about their story. If it's a video, what is the one main thing that you want to achieve with that?

[01:16:36] And, sometimes people put too much emphasis on one video. They want a video to make a sale. But often the job with a video might just be to get someone on the phone or it might be something to get someone to sign up to email list. So be really clear on what the action is that you want people to take and it's a good chance that the purpose of the video is only kind of one step in the whole funnel. Then, you know, it might be a series of short videos which may move people step by step. So the first thing is identify what the right story is and then identify what the main action is that you want people to take.

Sam: [01:17:16] Yeah, those are two great takeaways which we also love to emphasize in our training is get that story right.

[01:17:27] Because if the story doesn't work, the best cinematography and editing and music and everything else will not do anything for you. No amount of post-production can solve that story. The other point in that I love is the video doesn't have to do everything all at once. Just make it get people to the next step with whatever that is.

That's one of the big breakthroughs we've had in studying filmmaking was years is understanding the clarity of who you are speaking to and what they need to do next. And I've really enjoyed exploring that with you through the projects we did together and some of the professional observations of you and what you do and still. So, finally, Ryan, the Story Matters podcast has a lot of listeners from all over the world and Europe-based in Australia.

[01:18:17] Tell us about who you work with and if any would be interested in reaching out to you - how they might go about that and, you know, maybe, for the reach out. Tell them what type of people you enjoy working with.

Ryan Spanger: [01:18:31] Well I work with businesses to help tell their story in the context of either a video for your website or it might be a training video. It might be a video to communicate internally. We make some TV commercials as well so we basically make videos for businesses.

We do a lot of work with medium-sized and larger businesses and we also work with ambitious fast-growing smaller businesses too. So, we are sometimes approached by businesses who are in, like, a real growth phase and they want to have marketing videos that are as good as, you know, videos that we've done for clients from, you know, IBM to BMW to your large insurance companies. And now we sometimes work on those projects as well.

[01:19:23] So what I love doing is telling great stories but creating videos which will look great as well and are going to compliment the best graphic design, the best web design. If you've gone in and invested in creating a great website and you've invested money, it's easier to bring people to that website and you've worked on conversion rate optimization, then you need to have a video which is going to be on par with that. And it breaks my heart when I see a website where, you know, it obviously is amazing and people invested a lot in it and then they've got like a video that they've shot on their iPhone which might be fine for a quick how-to video on YouTube or Facebook or something like that but just doesn't put the business in its best light when it's up there front and center, you know, on their website.

Sam: [01:20:10] All right. So Ryan I know you do really high-end work and I would just personally vouch for anyone especially if you're in Australia would be remiss if they didn't consider you for high-quality video work. I think it's very important to work with someone who can come on location and really do their art and understand whose business owner.

And Ryan has a special blend of being an entrepreneur but also a great storyteller and someone who's comfortable making it about the client's story rather than his own and his own vision for that story. It's very flexible but also exacting in trying out the right message to tell your story's business.

[01:20:54] So if you have a business or you're a marketing professional and have clients, especially in Australia, Ryan is a fantastic resource to do really top level building work. And I know, Ryan, you work with some big corporations and brands. But I also know that if someone has a bit of a budget and is willing to pay for top quality work, your passion also is in the small scrappy experts or businesses that, you know, have a real passion for what they do like when we were on that trip together.

Ryan Spanger: [01:21:25] Oh, thank you, Sam. This has been great. It's almost like we've been back on that road trip driving through the Deep South, stopping at Arby's. It's like a great expanse of gas stations and convenience stores and, you know, kind of the, you know, highway after highway and staring out the road and having conversations that really brought back like, you know, the excitement and adventure of that trip so thank you. It's been great.

Sam: [01:21:56] And, hopefully, that trip through the Deep South off the beaten tourist path gives you a little bit of perspective to understand all the events going on in America right now.

[01:22:06] Ryan, so that you can explain or translate to everyone out there. Grasp it. What's going on in America. You can give them a little bit of insights from your trip through the Deep South.

Ryan Spanger: [01:22:19] Well, perhaps, I don't know, but what I've always experienced from the couple of trips that I went to in the States as well as just being able to enjoy all the culture and film and music and writing and philosophy is just that.

Sam: [01:22:35] Well, Ryan, it was a great trip down memory lane with you. And I know that the listener definitely benefited from hearing your insights because as I say over and over, it's amazing to be able to take someone like you and your insights where you apply documentary filmmaking to marketing and be able to integrate that with some of the things that we've done well in my business in terms of developing funnels and software and funneled technology.

Definitely, like to give you a lot of credit for showing me the past that James Cook Media has taken. And really understanding the listener to understand the power of mentorship in this realm of storytelling.

[01:23:20] It's not easy to tell great stories. It takes time to practice your craft and your art. But in a way, it is easier than you think if you apply this honest storytelling that Ryan talked about. So it's both harder and easier than you think. I think it's good and the bad at once. So thanks, Ryan, for bringing that to us and the listeners on the podcast.

Ryan Spanger: [01:23:48] Oh, thanks, Sam. It's been great talking to you. I love talking about this stuff and I'm also really cool to see your journey. You know, it was in terms of your-- the work you do in storytelling. I was able to be there at a fairly early stage and work with you. And, you know, I now see where you've taken your business to and the success you've had. So, that's awesome.

Sam: [01:24:10] Well, thank you, Ryan, and I hope that you're proud of the role that you played in helping us get here and hopefully continued collaboration going forward. I look forward to possibly inviting you to some of our future filmmaking workshops and events.

And also, you know, maybe some future podcasts if listeners liked this episode. I want to go deeper into the storytelling I'd love to have you back on to talk about filmmaking in more detail.

Ryan Spanger: [01:24:35] Yeah. Loved it. It sounds good.

Sam: [01:24:37] Thanks, Ryan. And thank you, Story Matters podcast listener, for being a member of this community, following us all the way to the end of this journey. And if you enjoyed today's podcasts, please do take a moment to go like, comment, and share this podcast. Go to iTunes. Leave us a review.

It helps us help other business owners and marketers learn the power of storytelling with integrity. And it's also great to hear your feedback if you have any. Also, if you're interested in joining us to help us with your funnel, we have a number of options to help you turbocharge your path towards mastering storytelling in your business.

[01:25:20] So if you want to learn more about that go to and look at our options for helping you learn how to tell better stories in your businesses. So, thanks again and we'll see you next time.

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