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Four Master Storytelling Tips from Shonda Rhimes

Medios 10/22/2021

During this year’s PLAY 2021 event, I experienced one of the the highlights of my professional career (and personal life!), interviewing Shonda Rhimes about the future of storytelling.

Shonda's work has been celebrated through numerous awards, including induction into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. She is the CEO of the global media company Shondaland, which approaches innovative storytelling through branded partnerships, merchandise, and content for film, digital, audio, editorial, and streaming. Shonda’s work has shifted the entertainment industry's business model, and she has changed the face of television.

During my conversation with Shonda, she divulged her insights into how she and her team tell such amazing stories like Bridgerton, Grey’s Anatomy, and Scandal. Here are four tips from Shonda that you can use in your very own content creation.

  1. Be Authentic. “Audiences are very smart these days. They watch a lot. They read a lot. They are very well-versed, and they have a nose for what feels authentic to them and what doesn't, and you have to respect that. The simplest way to engage and connect with an audience is to be completely authentic. But pure honesty and vulnerability is surprisingly powerful for an audience in every medium.”
  2. Honor the Creative Process. “Sometimes I spend the morning in regency England, the afternoon in modern-day Seattle, and the evening in New York. It's a fascinating time with all the different stories that are being told. And so I’m jumping from area to area to area. It feels very important to me to compartmentalize. You have to live in the story that you're in. It is important to stick to the story and to make sure that you're following the lines of the story that you wanted to tell. Because the audience isn't jumping around. They're watching it all at once. They're watching it in a binge. So you want them to have that experience. “
  3. Be Inclusive. “Shows that have more inclusive casts, that showcase a bigger variety of types of people, make more money. They have a higher advertising dollar rate. They draw in bigger audiences.”
  4. Don’t Limit How You Tell Your Story. “The best way to really look at an idea when it comes to you and you're excited about it is to figure out where it belongs. We have stories that belong as documentaries. We have stories that belong as podcasts. We have stories that belong as simply just articles on our website. I always like to give an idea time to germinate and grow and see where it's going and make sure that it's placed in the right place for it to be successful.”

You can watch my conversation with Shonda in its entirety on PlayTV. And for more insights from our many speakers at Play 2021, check out our recap post.