What to Leave In, What to Leave Out

Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom, movie, poster, Idris Elba

Mandela movie poster

When it comes to storytelling material, how much is too much?

We’ve all faced the question many times. And it’s not a bad problem, having tons of rich, compelling and relevant content. But it presents another series of questions about focus and editing.

“Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” struggles to squeeze a magnificent (and long) life into a single film. Two lives, actually, since Nelson and Winnie Mandela’s stories are profoundly inextricable.

The movie covers decades of history, barely touching on many episodes and relationships that could have been given much more time. It goes for sweep, and delivers to an extent, in the old-fashioned Hollywood biopic way.

But is it too much? Would Mandela’s story have been better told by taking a more narrow approach? For instance, the one favored by “Invictus,” which told a specific episode from Mandela’s later years? Or maybe a longer approach – say, a TV miniseries?

It made me think of challenges I’ve faced working on corporate communications or mainstream media projects, either print, digital or some combination.  How much information to share with which stakeholders? How much background? How many examples? Here are a few things I try to keep in mind.

5 Things to Consider

1. Brevity’s hard. Mark Twain once wrote, “Hello, my dear friend. Forgive me for writing such a long letter, but I didn’t have time to write a short one.”

2. What’s your main purpose in telling your story?

3. What can be pulled out for a sidebar or later update?

4. What’s the best channel for your story and any other components?

5. Kill your babies. Shake the tree. If it doesn’t really have to be there, then it doesn’t deserve to be there.

One last question: Why aren’t the stars of “Mandela,” the spectacular Idris Elba and Naomie Harris, in more movies? Hollywood – hello?

My Photos from Robben Island; Video of Mandela’s Cell

Nelson Mandela was held on Robben Island for 18 of the 27 years he spent imprisoned. For hundreds of years, the island off Cape Town was used to hold mental patients, lepers and political prisoners like Mandela and others who fought apartheid. I recently visited South Africa and toured the notorious facility. Here are a few pics and a video of Mandela’s cell that I took with my iPhone.


1 thought on “What to Leave In, What to Leave Out

  1. Pingback: 15 Reasons We Love Dishing on the Oscars | StoryCroft

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