Introducing Andrew Morrison: an environmental scientist turned travel filmmaker who knows more than a thing or two about meaningful travel stories that sell.
Our LEARN speaker took to the main stage to impress upon PUREists the importance – and impact – of a single story, which, if told to the right audience, has the power to be a life-changing force for good.
Annie Maddison caught up with him in the wake of MATTER, brought to you by Tourism Australia, to get better acquainted with the man behind the video camera.
You were raised on a farm in Minnesota. What impact do you think your upbringing had on your world view and life path?
When you grow up on a farm, you see how man uses land: you see the balance between conservation and economic development. I think exposure to that balance in my childhood was what motivated me to study environmental sciences. I was this emotional kid growing up who had to help on the farm, but I also really cared about the environment. It made me realise that I really wanted to understand how to take care of the world around me.
Plus, even from an early age, I’ve always had this fascination with travel. And luckily, my dad had the travel bug as well. It runs through every generation on my dad’s side of the family – my Swedish side. They passed down this book to me called The Marvelous Wonders of the World, which is all about the explorers of the world. I used to read the stories, and dream of someday going to all of these places. Every year, my dad would save up money and we would go somewhere – it would be my only birthday gift. That was kind of all I knew growing up: I was this science nerd with short-cropped brown hair, and I just knew that I needed to get out and explore.
Your educational background in environmental science has enabled you to foresee the need for sustainable standards within tourism and travel as a whole. In your view, what worrying ecological issues are being overlooked in our industry at the moment? And what first steps could PUREists make within their own sphere of influence to help tackle these issues?
It’s not so much about the plastics filling the ocean; or about the fact that we’re running out of fresh water; or the issue of climate change. It’s that so many of those issues can be addressed if, first, PUREists look intrinsically at their business, and figure out how to capture it into a story. Many haven’t taken a step back in such a long time to ask themselves: “Why did I choose to do this work? Why am I here?” In the travel industry, some people get so fixated on sales, sales, sales. They forget about the importance of really looking at the entire ecosystem, or the entire culture and community connected to their business. It’s an entire web of people and animals – and so many aren’t telling that story effectively. To the PUREists out there: if you can connect with the right people and bring them over, those people will then go out and tell your story to the world – the people will do the marketing for you.
You call yourself a ‘nudist beekeeper’ – can you explain?!
Everybody loves that. There was this documentary made around the time when I was an undergrad and working with Marla Spivak on a massive project on the impact of pesticides on honey bees. In the documentary, there was this story about a guy who was this nudist beekeeper: he was this bald, old dude who was a beekeeper, and he would just do it nude, with no veil, which is super dangerous… Basically that led me to try it. I did it with a veil, but I did this nude beekeeping session with some of my friends, and then we just coined the term, “nudist beekeeper”. But to me, it goes back to just my roots: everything I do when I present myself has to be something to do with humanity and our dependence on nature.
Once a PUREist has found a story worthy of their audience’s attention, what, in your view, is the most important thing they should bear in mind when transforming that story into prime content marketing material to help promote their brand?
Once the PUREist is committed to telling a story, the thing that is important for marketing is simplification. So often, you have these amazing people that have done so many things and have worked so hard… But they just have too much to tell. When you bring a story to market, it has to be clear and concise: it has to capture who the people are and what they do very, very simply. As an editor, the hard part is telling people to refine it down to that one plotline. They are horrified by the idea of a story involving just one character and maybe one supporting character – but you have to do it that way. Otherwise there’s too many people, and you’ll get comments like: “I don’t get it”, “It’s confusing”, or “I’m losing interest”.
Congratulations on GLP Films’ winning first place for the second year in a row for ‘Best Adventure Travel Film Nomination of 2017’! The award-winning film tells the story of a Chilean, “The Man at the End of the World”. Could you tell us a little more about the film’s narrative? And why, in your opinion, does it epitomise the power of good storytelling?
The film is about Don German, this guy who almost stumbled upon working in travel – like so many PUREists, he didn’t plan it. He was just a guy who grew up in the remote wilderness of Tierra del Fuego. It was his home – he didn’t ever imagine it becoming this global hotspot for travel. And he didn’t really understand what differentiated his home from any other open-forested place in the world. But he knew it was beautiful, and he knew he liked it.
I think it’s a good example of storytelling because the film shows that what worked for him was that the people who showed up were showing up voluntarily. They went home to wherever they were from and more people came. Good hospitality is all about taking care of your guest. He hasn’t tried to do any other marketing beyond being attentive to his guests. He is unapologetic, he doesn’t go out of his way to please: he just is who he is. I feel that we need more of that right now, rather than just, “We have ‘x’ and ‘y’ features, and it’s so bespoke, and blah blah blah.”
For those who missed your talk at MATTER, “THE POWER OF A SINGLE STORY: How to inspire travel through storytelling”, what was your key takeaway?
My big takeaway was all about the impact that video marketing can have: PUREists all have these incredible stories and legacies, and they need to capture them. Because before they know it, they’re going to be on their deathbed, looking back and thinking that all they did was work to fill rooms, cabins, or whatever – they will regret not capturing their life’s work in a meaningful way.
The moment when I realised that video marketing is way more powerful than we give it credit was after questioning people who had watched our films at GLP. I found out that this really close friend of mine from high school was really impacted by the film we’d produced about the Salkantay Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. She suffered from this freak attack – she never left her town after that. But when she saw that film ten years later, she felt inspired. It triggered her to buy a ticket to Peru, and she left her home town for the first time since the attack and flew all the way to Peru to climb Machu Picchu.
PUREists have the opportunity to do what that video did for my friend: they can transform people’s lives and heal them. A lot of people need that, especially in the US right now. If people are going to be spending their money on anything, it should be on experiences that will change them for the better. That’s why I told people to ask themselves why they chose to work in the travel industry – I think we all have to remember that.
Annie Maddison is Junior Content Executive for Beyond Luxury Media Ltd. She is a lover of dance, sausage dogs and immature jokes, and is a self-confessed serial wine-and-diner who lets her tastebuds guide her travels.