What The Ocean Can Teach Us About Storytelling


This Week’s Episode:

I’m being recruited by colleges throughout the country as a high school softball pitcher. The NCAA rules say I can go on up to five paid recruiting trips. So I have to pick and choose - it’s a tough decision!

The first school has an incredible coach... but I’m not sure if it’s really a great fit for me. The second school I visit has a really strong team (and skiing which I love almost as much as softball)... but it’s very different from my SoCal roots.

Then I get approached by the University of Hawaii. They don’t really have a top five team, I know nobody there, and it’s really far away from home. But hello! It’s a paid trip to Hawaii! I’ve never been there, and I’m not about to turn down an opportunity to spend a weekend in the islands.

So off I go, and when I step off the plane, the smell of the air just hits me. The ocean view from my hotel room takes my breath away! It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before, and I make my decision then and there. I sign on the dotted line to play softball for the University of Hawaii.

As it turns out, I’d end up spending almost eight years living in Hawaii. And it probably never would have happened without that magnetic ocean view that captivated me.

My guest today has made a career of documenting and telling stories about the ocean and its challenges. Michael Hanrahan has such a love affair for the ocean that he’s spent 25 years involved with documentary films about it, working as an underwater camera operator in it, and even writing a fictional book about it!

If you’re curious to know:

What two elements at the center of storytelling develop trust between you and your audience? What critical role does research have in storytelling? And why is upsetting people not an effective path to inspiring them to act for change?

Then tune in as Michael and I discuss stories of Japanese bottle-nosed dolphins in distress, shark fin shenanigans and other perils of a Polynesian fisherman (past and present), and how it all ties into one of the main purposes of storytelling!

What you will learn in this episode:

  • How to tell stories about the environment that’ll drive people to act
  • How to approach sensitive topics in your storytelling
  • Why an emotional response isn’t necessarily the last thing you want to leave your audience with

Who is Michael?

Michael Hanrahan displays a respect for the ocean and combines it with his desire to communicate the challenges it faces. He double-majored in marine science and motion picture film at the University of Miami and has been involved with ocean documentary films for the last 25 years. He spent the early part of his career traveling to every continent (except Antarctica) working as a lecturer and underwater camera operator for Jean-Michel Cousteau.

Next, Michael went on to mentor with Mike deGruy, a legend in the underwater and natural history documentary world. Together, they developed a filming strategy for a Discovery Channel production of the first video footage of the giant squid.

They were also involved in the production of a short film series for the National Science Foundation about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and its environmental impacts in the Gulf of Mexico. A proposed film project in the works between them and James Cameron in 2011 was indefinitely suspended with the untimely death of deGruy in a helicopter accident in Australia.

Currently, Michael is the author of the environmental thriller The Last Extinction. It tells the story of an ancient table discovered in the Amazon rainforest that reveals the truth of the relationship between humanity and nature.


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