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Profile
Margaret Kerrison

The award-winning storyteller learned about creating absorbing worlds while at BRC Imagination Arts and Disney Imagineering. Now she’s written a book to share her expertise


In 2020 when the world was in lockdown, I set a personal challenge. If I were to pen a book about writing for themed entertainment and immersive storytelling, what would be the best way to teach it?

Writers hold the power and responsibility to share stories that get into the hearts and minds of every single guest. How to even begin to explain this craft? Is it more of a science or an art? What to include? How to use my experience to share some of the collective wisdom gained? How to tell a story about storytelling?

For the next year, I wrote from 6am to 8am each morning before starting my ‘real job’ as a Disney Imagineer. We’d just opened Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which took five years to complete and I was looking for my next great endeavour – ideally a new challenge – and this book was the answer. I called it Immersive storytelling for real and imagined worlds.

I had no idea whether anyone would be interested in reading it, but was determined to explain the important role of writers as champions of the story and the many responsibilities they have when working on complex, multi-disciplinary projects.

Creating a guide and roadmap
The aim was to write a guide, rather than a textbook, by breaking down the process and using examples of great storytelling. By using these tools and techniques, the book becomes a roadmap rather than a step-by-step instructional manual. After all, the field of immersive storytelling is changing by the day. What’s relevant today may not be relevant tomorrow and that’s what makes it such an exciting field.

There isn’t one way to tell a story – in fact, there shouldn’t be. There’s space for all of us to share our unique stories in differing and compelling formats.

While studying screenwriting at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, I’d never seen a book specifically written for immersive storytellers and writers – we’d only read scripts and books about writing for screen and TV. I had no idea the world of themed entertainment existed; I discovered it when our professor asked us to consider extending our work to other industries. It was the perfect storytelling niche for me, as stories are not limited by screens or pages, meaning they can be shaped in multi-sensory, multi-dimensional worlds.

Writing for immersive storytelling is an art form which combines talent, instinct and craft. Talent and instinct are something we’re born with, but craft can be taught. Even a naturally-gifted writer must continue to practice their craft to improve their skill. Writers must write. There’s no way around it.

This is a very rewarding industry in which to work as a writer. Those of us who are fortunate enough to create experiences that connect people often feel this isn’t work at all in the conventional sense.

Immersing the guest in the story
The key to bringing a narrative to life for the guest and moving from telling a story to creating a world lies in their emotional journey. In considering how to draw out the guest’s emotion, you have to put them at the heart of the action. How can they be the hero of your story? How can you make them feel as though they belong in the story rather than being a mere observer?

In immersive storytelling versus other traditional storytelling formats, you have to consider how the experience can be personal to the guest, as well as being multi-sensory, and social. In creating an experience that makes them the protagonist, the world around them must react to their presence. Immersive storytelling for real and imagined worlds describes how this can be done by asking questions that get to the right answers.

The social aspect of immersive storytelling is also considered. In modern society, we’re witnessing a breakdown of community and this has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Social media is incredible in that it connects people all over the world, but there’s also a very strong urge for us to meet in-person and in communities of like-minded people.

We can’t exist individually – our stories start, end and continue with one another and only by understanding our unique role in our community and wider society can we fully appreciate how important we are to each other.

Since the release of Immersive storytelling for real and imagined worlds, many people – from students and professors to working professionals in design, engineering, arts, music, live entertainment, technology and management – have reached out to say how useful they found it and to suggest collaborations. The most surprising thing is that non-writers have loved it as much as writers.

Ultimately, I believe we can all be storytellers and it’s up to us individually to decide how we use our discipline to share stories with the world.

Creating change in the guest
The most important aspect of designing an immersive experience is the change you create in your guest.

A great story changes the world, one person at a time. Think about the last exceptional book you read or film you watched, they stay with you, lingering and making you think and ponder. That’s the power of a good story. It makes you reflect on the human condition and feel less alone.

There are four ways you can increase your audience’s likelihood of feeling moved and transformed.

Firstly, tell an emotional story that embraces universal truths, secondly, make it personal, thirdly meet your audience ‘where they are’ to maintain the status quo and fourthly, focus on community – create a world where they can connect with others.

The future of immersive storytelling should involve blurring the lines between digital/virtual and physical, reducing friction for guests when they attend your experience, creating jumping-off points for further stories and developing opportunities for more meaningful connections. The immersive storytelling landscape is ripe with possibilities and it’s up to each one of us to create stories that are meaningful to the world and transformational for each guest.

My goal is to have every guest walking out of an experience believing they’re stepping into a better world. After all, isn’t a great story one that creates empathy and compassion for other people?

My hope is that every guest can take their emotional transformation and carry it with them for the rest of their lives.

Immersive storytelling for Real and Imagined Worlds – A Writer’s Guide by Margaret Kerrison is out now

Excerpt
Immersive Storytelling for Real and Imagined Worlds

“We’re given an incredible opportunity to create stories and spaces for people to play together. As storytellers, we strive to create experiences that are moving, compelling, and meaningful. We design spaces so visitors can escape and leave their ordinary lives behind. We make places where the audience can see themselves and feel a sense of connection and belonging. We make experiences full of magic so that we are reminded that our lives are magical in themselves.”

Buy Immersive Storytelling for Real and Imagined Worlds

More about Margaret Kerrison
Kerrison set herself a challenge to write a guide to immersive storytelling /Photo: Foster Kerrison

Following time at BRC Imagination Arts and Disney Imagineering, Kerrison joined Airbnb’s experiential creative product team in 2021, working under former Imagineer, Bruce Vaughn.

While at Imagineering, Kerrison worked on projects including Avengers Campus at Disney parks in California and Paris; National Geographic HQ; Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind; Storyliving by Disney; and Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.

Kerrison was a Disney Imagineer and is now senior experiential creative lead for Airbnb Credit: Photo Disneyland Resort
To draw out a guest’s emotion you must put them at the heart of the action Credit: Photo: Ty Popko/Disneyland Resort
Kerrison has worked on projects including Avengers Campus Credit: Photo: Kent Phillips/Disney
Consider how the experience can be personal for each guest Credit: Photo: Preston Mack/ Disney
Kerrison shares what she’s learned from working on projects including Disney’s Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Credit: Photo: Matt Stroshane/Disney
Immersive storytelling should blur the lines between the digital and the physical Credit: Photo: Matt Stroshane/Disney
Kerrison’s work includes Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Credit: Photo: Kent Phillips/Disney
COMPANY PROFILES
iPlayCO

iPlayCo was established in 1999. [more...]
Red Raion

Founded in 2014, Red Raion is the CGI studio specialized in media based attractions. [more...]
Holovis

Holovis is a privately owned company established in 2004 by CEO Stuart Hetherington. [more...]
Sally Corporation

Our services include: Dark ride design & build; Redevelopment of existing attractions; High-quality [more...]
+ More profiles  
FEATURED SUPPLIER

Behind the Scenes of IAAPA Expo 2022 with Michael Shelton
There is no place like IAAPA Expo, it’s the place to take in the most exciting sights, smells, tastes, and sensations that will take your career and attraction to new heights! The excitement, energy and opportunity are palpable. [more...]
VIDEO GALLERY

Red Raion TV - Testimonial: Leolandia
When you work in the Attractions Industry, there’s nothing better than seeing that dreamy look in the eyes of the people who have just tried your attraction. Find out more...
More videos:
Red Raion Showreel 2021 – Red Raion
ProSlide's all-in-one waterplay entertainment center – Proslide Tech Inc
Red Raion TV - Opening Event: FICO Eataly World – Red Raion
+ More videos  

CATALOGUE GALLERY
 

+ More catalogues  
DIRECTORY
+ More directory  
DIARY

 

01-07 Dec 2022

World Leisure Congress 2022

tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
05-07 Dec 2022

East Cape Futures

Hotel Palmas de Cortez, Los Barriles, Mexico
+ More diary  
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©Cybertrek 2022
Jobs    News   Products   Magazine
Profile
Margaret Kerrison

The award-winning storyteller learned about creating absorbing worlds while at BRC Imagination Arts and Disney Imagineering. Now she’s written a book to share her expertise


In 2020 when the world was in lockdown, I set a personal challenge. If I were to pen a book about writing for themed entertainment and immersive storytelling, what would be the best way to teach it?

Writers hold the power and responsibility to share stories that get into the hearts and minds of every single guest. How to even begin to explain this craft? Is it more of a science or an art? What to include? How to use my experience to share some of the collective wisdom gained? How to tell a story about storytelling?

For the next year, I wrote from 6am to 8am each morning before starting my ‘real job’ as a Disney Imagineer. We’d just opened Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which took five years to complete and I was looking for my next great endeavour – ideally a new challenge – and this book was the answer. I called it Immersive storytelling for real and imagined worlds.

I had no idea whether anyone would be interested in reading it, but was determined to explain the important role of writers as champions of the story and the many responsibilities they have when working on complex, multi-disciplinary projects.

Creating a guide and roadmap
The aim was to write a guide, rather than a textbook, by breaking down the process and using examples of great storytelling. By using these tools and techniques, the book becomes a roadmap rather than a step-by-step instructional manual. After all, the field of immersive storytelling is changing by the day. What’s relevant today may not be relevant tomorrow and that’s what makes it such an exciting field.

There isn’t one way to tell a story – in fact, there shouldn’t be. There’s space for all of us to share our unique stories in differing and compelling formats.

While studying screenwriting at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, I’d never seen a book specifically written for immersive storytellers and writers – we’d only read scripts and books about writing for screen and TV. I had no idea the world of themed entertainment existed; I discovered it when our professor asked us to consider extending our work to other industries. It was the perfect storytelling niche for me, as stories are not limited by screens or pages, meaning they can be shaped in multi-sensory, multi-dimensional worlds.

Writing for immersive storytelling is an art form which combines talent, instinct and craft. Talent and instinct are something we’re born with, but craft can be taught. Even a naturally-gifted writer must continue to practice their craft to improve their skill. Writers must write. There’s no way around it.

This is a very rewarding industry in which to work as a writer. Those of us who are fortunate enough to create experiences that connect people often feel this isn’t work at all in the conventional sense.

Immersing the guest in the story
The key to bringing a narrative to life for the guest and moving from telling a story to creating a world lies in their emotional journey. In considering how to draw out the guest’s emotion, you have to put them at the heart of the action. How can they be the hero of your story? How can you make them feel as though they belong in the story rather than being a mere observer?

In immersive storytelling versus other traditional storytelling formats, you have to consider how the experience can be personal to the guest, as well as being multi-sensory, and social. In creating an experience that makes them the protagonist, the world around them must react to their presence. Immersive storytelling for real and imagined worlds describes how this can be done by asking questions that get to the right answers.

The social aspect of immersive storytelling is also considered. In modern society, we’re witnessing a breakdown of community and this has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Social media is incredible in that it connects people all over the world, but there’s also a very strong urge for us to meet in-person and in communities of like-minded people.

We can’t exist individually – our stories start, end and continue with one another and only by understanding our unique role in our community and wider society can we fully appreciate how important we are to each other.

Since the release of Immersive storytelling for real and imagined worlds, many people – from students and professors to working professionals in design, engineering, arts, music, live entertainment, technology and management – have reached out to say how useful they found it and to suggest collaborations. The most surprising thing is that non-writers have loved it as much as writers.

Ultimately, I believe we can all be storytellers and it’s up to us individually to decide how we use our discipline to share stories with the world.

Creating change in the guest
The most important aspect of designing an immersive experience is the change you create in your guest.

A great story changes the world, one person at a time. Think about the last exceptional book you read or film you watched, they stay with you, lingering and making you think and ponder. That’s the power of a good story. It makes you reflect on the human condition and feel less alone.

There are four ways you can increase your audience’s likelihood of feeling moved and transformed.

Firstly, tell an emotional story that embraces universal truths, secondly, make it personal, thirdly meet your audience ‘where they are’ to maintain the status quo and fourthly, focus on community – create a world where they can connect with others.

The future of immersive storytelling should involve blurring the lines between digital/virtual and physical, reducing friction for guests when they attend your experience, creating jumping-off points for further stories and developing opportunities for more meaningful connections. The immersive storytelling landscape is ripe with possibilities and it’s up to each one of us to create stories that are meaningful to the world and transformational for each guest.

My goal is to have every guest walking out of an experience believing they’re stepping into a better world. After all, isn’t a great story one that creates empathy and compassion for other people?

My hope is that every guest can take their emotional transformation and carry it with them for the rest of their lives.

Immersive storytelling for Real and Imagined Worlds – A Writer’s Guide by Margaret Kerrison is out now

Excerpt
Immersive Storytelling for Real and Imagined Worlds

“We’re given an incredible opportunity to create stories and spaces for people to play together. As storytellers, we strive to create experiences that are moving, compelling, and meaningful. We design spaces so visitors can escape and leave their ordinary lives behind. We make places where the audience can see themselves and feel a sense of connection and belonging. We make experiences full of magic so that we are reminded that our lives are magical in themselves.”

Buy Immersive Storytelling for Real and Imagined Worlds

More about Margaret Kerrison
Kerrison set herself a challenge to write a guide to immersive storytelling /Photo: Foster Kerrison

Following time at BRC Imagination Arts and Disney Imagineering, Kerrison joined Airbnb’s experiential creative product team in 2021, working under former Imagineer, Bruce Vaughn.

While at Imagineering, Kerrison worked on projects including Avengers Campus at Disney parks in California and Paris; National Geographic HQ; Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind; Storyliving by Disney; and Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser.

Kerrison was a Disney Imagineer and is now senior experiential creative lead for Airbnb Credit: Photo Disneyland Resort
To draw out a guest’s emotion you must put them at the heart of the action Credit: Photo: Ty Popko/Disneyland Resort
Kerrison has worked on projects including Avengers Campus Credit: Photo: Kent Phillips/Disney
Consider how the experience can be personal for each guest Credit: Photo: Preston Mack/ Disney
Kerrison shares what she’s learned from working on projects including Disney’s Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Credit: Photo: Matt Stroshane/Disney
Immersive storytelling should blur the lines between the digital and the physical Credit: Photo: Matt Stroshane/Disney
Kerrison’s work includes Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Credit: Photo: Kent Phillips/Disney
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+ More news   
 
COMPANY PROFILES
iPlayCO

iPlayCo was established in 1999. [more...]
Red Raion

Founded in 2014, Red Raion is the CGI studio specialized in media based attractions. [more...]
Holovis

Holovis is a privately owned company established in 2004 by CEO Stuart Hetherington. [more...]
Sally Corporation

Our services include: Dark ride design & build; Redevelopment of existing attractions; High-quality [more...]
+ More profiles  
FEATURED SUPPLIER

Behind the Scenes of IAAPA Expo 2022 with Michael Shelton
There is no place like IAAPA Expo, it’s the place to take in the most exciting sights, smells, tastes, and sensations that will take your career and attraction to new heights! The excitement, energy and opportunity are palpable. [more...]
VIDEO GALLERY

Red Raion TV - Testimonial: Leolandia
When you work in the Attractions Industry, there’s nothing better than seeing that dreamy look in the eyes of the people who have just tried your attraction. Find out more...
More videos:
Red Raion Showreel 2021 – Red Raion
ProSlide's all-in-one waterplay entertainment center – Proslide Tech Inc
Red Raion TV - Opening Event: FICO Eataly World – Red Raion
+ More videos  

CATALOGUE GALLERY
+ More catalogues  
DIRECTORY
+ More directory  
DIARY

 

01-07 Dec 2022

World Leisure Congress 2022

tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
05-07 Dec 2022

East Cape Futures

Hotel Palmas de Cortez, Los Barriles, Mexico
+ More diary  
 


ADVERTISE . CONTACT US

Leisure Media
Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2022

ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
LEISURE MEDIA MAGAZINES
LEISURE MEDIA HANDBOOKS
LEISURE MEDIA WEBSITES
LEISURE MEDIA PRODUCT SEARCH
ATTRACTIONS MANAGEMENT NEWS
ATTRACTIONS HANDBOOK
PRINT SUBSCRIPTIONS
FREE DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTIONS