The Lab; Portnoy Media Group Blog

Stories Aren’t Life. They’re Better!



What is it that we love so much in the hero, the heroine or the monster?

A well told story inspires. It hurdles the fences of our segmented thinking. A well told story knows no boundaries in setting, genre, characters or structure. The entire process dances and bends to the delight of the audience – showing triumph and tragedy in an orchestra of life change. Tension and suspense, driving us to the unknown.
And we want to know what happens next. Does he vanquish the villain? Does he get the girl?

Story is what drives people to town meetings and public squares. Story has the power to ignite revolution and drive change.

It’s the convergence of life with art.


Portnoy Media Group uses the influence of social networks to expand your organization's voice and tell your story. We connect people with your mission and enable your brand to be shared, discovered, and connected. Work with us as we empower your organization to dramatically extend your online presence and increase donations.

Golden Globes Nominees and Picks


2013 has been a year of box office records and the year finished very strong. Here’s a list of nominees and who I’d pick to win.

Best Drama
12 Years a Slave
Captain Phillips

Best Musical/Comedy
American Hustle
Inside Lleweyn Davis
The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Director
Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity (A close second)
Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips
Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Alexander Payne, Nebraska
David O. Russell, American Hustle

Best Actress in a Drama
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks
Kate Winslet, Labor Day

Best Actor in a Drama
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Idris Elba, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyer’s Club
Robert Redford, All Is Lost

Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy
Christian Bale, American Hustle
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Leonardo Di Caprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis
Joaquin Phoenix, Her

Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Julie Delpy, Before Midnight
Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Enough Said
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County

Best Supporting Actress
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts, August: Osage County
June Squibb, Nebraska

Best Supporting Actor
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Daniel Bruhl, Rush
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyer’s Club

Best Screenplay
Spike Jonze, Her
Bob Nelson, Nebraska
Jeff Pope/Steve Coogan, Philomena
John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell, American Hustle

Best Foreign Language Film
Blue is the Warmest Color
The Great Beauty
The Hunt
The Past
The Wind Rises

Best Animated Feature
The Croods
Despicable Me 2

Best Original Song
“Atlas,” The Hunger Games, Catching Fire
“Let It Go,” Frozen
“Ordinary Love,” Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
“Please Mr. Kennedy,” Inside Llewyn Davis
“Sweeter Than Fiction,” One Chance

Best Score
Alex Ebert, All Is Lost
Alex Heffes, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Steven Price, Gravity
John Williams, The Book Thief
Hans Zimmer, 12 Years a Slave


Best TV Comedy or Musical
Modern Family
Parks and Recreation
The Big Bang Theory
Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Best TV Drama (So Tough)
Breaking Bad
Downton Abbey
The Good Wife
House of Cards (close second)
Masters of Sex

Best Actress in a TV Drama
Julianna Marguiles, The Good Wife
Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black
Taylor Schilling, Orange Is the New Black
Kerry Washington, Scandal
Robin Wright, House of Cards

Best Actress in a TV Comedy
Zooey Deschanel, New Girl
Lena Dunham, Girls
Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation

Best Actor in a TV Drama
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan
Michael Sheen, Masters of Sex
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
James Spader, The Blacklist

Best Actor in a TV Comedy
Jason Bateman, Arrested Development
Don Cheadle, House of Lies
Michael J. Fox, The Michael J. Fox Show
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Andy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Best Miniseries or TV Movie
American Horror Story: Coven
Behind the Candelabra
Dancing on the Edge
Top of the Lake
White Queen

Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie
Helena Bonham Carter, Burton and Taylor
Rebecca Ferguson, White Queen
Jessica Lange, American Horror Story
Helen Mirren, Phil Spector
Elisabeth Moss, Top of the Lake

Best Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie
Matt Damon, Behind the Candelabra
Michael Douglas, Behind the Candelabra
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Dancing on the Edge
Idris Elba, Luther
Al Pacino, Phil Spector

Best Supporting Actress in a TV Show, Miniseries or TV Movie
Jacqueline Bisset, Dancing on the Edge
Janet McTeer, White Queen
Hayden Panettiere, Nashville
Monica Potter, Parenthood
Sofia Vergara, Modern Family

Best Supporting Actor in a TV Show, Miniseries or TV Movie
Josh Charles, The Good Wife
Rob Lowe, Behind the Candelabra
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
Corey Stoll, House of Cards
Jon Voight, Ray Donovan`(so close)


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What’s Wrong With TED Talks?


Watched this TED talk and it’s got me thinking today. Is it cynicism, skepticism or a healthy dose of not playing nice with others? What do you think?


Last Call!



10 Days ago we announced the first course in Non-Profit Story Training Series. This first class will be at a discounted rate of $247. (Regular price will be close to $500). Several organizations have signed up – from small to large in annual fundraising. All seeking to tell a great story, engage their audience and change the world.

In the Non-Profit Story System you’ll find:

  • How the Narrative Story Framework applies to your non-profit.
  • How to acquire and cultivate an audience while telling a compelling story.
  • Strategy to determine Your Best Audiences
  • The Top 3 Storytelling Principals
  • The Step-by-Step guide to Audit and Assess Your Social Media Presence – Turn the Social “Me” to a Social “We”.
  • How to Execute Your “Why” in Your Communications – The “Why” is the most important piece and will inspire your audience to action and support.
  • Ideas to help your team know what needs to be adjusted to transform your current site into a cultivation and acquisition tool.
  • How to Create a System to Measure Success (Key Performance Indicators)
  • The guide to determine your primary and secondary audiences and define the Ideal Behavior for them – Defining what you need will help staff and audiences know what they’re being asked to do.

Here’s what you need to do to secure your discounted spot:

  • Enter the coupon code PREORDER to get the discounted price (case sensitive)


Introductory pricing will end this week. Don’t miss out, enroll in the class today!




First Look: Artist Profile – Macha Suzuki

This past week, I spent some time with Macha Suzuki. He’s an artist based here in Los Angeles and pretty swell guy for an upcoming project. Here’s a few stills from our time together.

Check out his website










The McChristmas Show

Here’s a few pictures from our shoot with Justin McRoberts at his annual McChristmas Show. Check out Justin and his latest project – CMYK




13 Choices To Inspire You With a Great Story

Christmas Holidays are great. Seeing family and rehashing old stories and catching up but sometimes it’s a lot. Make sure you make time to connect with family and loved ones this year but after the food coma kicks in and naps are prevalent and the puzzling ends – take a break and experience something new together.



I’ve been watching a lot from the PBS/BBC partnership of late. I don’t have anything against American TV or the producers but British television tends to leave out the hype. Instead theses shows are full of surprises because the conventions for these shows are different. Most of these shows will be found on Masterpiece Mystery! (Set your DVR’s) I’m also partial to my local KOCE-TV for all the awesomeness!

Here’s a few options for some great storytelling on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video




File Under: Unexpected Brilliance

Recommended If You Like: Elementary, my Dear Watson; The Usual Suspects; Firefly; Ripper Street.

If you haven’t watched this incredible take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters then this is a great time to start. I’ve written about it before here. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are excellent! Plus, the new season starts just after the first of the year!



File Under: Brooding becomes him

Recommended If You Like: Tough Guys, Complicated ladies.

Idris Elba’s title character is put through the wringer. A little bit of swagger and a serial killer character you won’t soon forget.



The Fall

File Under: The Ex-Files

Recommended If You Like: Silence of the Lambs, Insomnia

A dark crime thriller that definitely for adults. Set in Belfast, the series stars Gillian Anderson as Stella Gibson, a senior police officer investigating a string of murders. Not sure if this actually aired on TV in the states.




File Under: Robing room

Recommended If You Like: Atticus Finch, Boston Legal, LA Law

An interesting and captivating look at the world of the British legal system. It’s like Law & Order with wigs minus the “doink doink”.


Bletchley Circle

File Under: Puzzlers

Recommended If You Like: Smart Ladies, Post War Intrigue, Tweed

A female dominated cast that shines brilliantly. Equal parts intrigue and code breaking. I’ve talked about this show before here. Notice the lack of floral prints on any of the ladies, it’s all geometric patterns.



File Under: Classic Branagh

Recommended If You Like: Swedish Meatballs and Architecture, Catch Me If You Can, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Kenneth Branagh is a Swedish detective, chasing bad guys and dealing with emotional issues. Plus a pre-Loki Tom Hiddleston.



Inspector Lewis

File Under: Leathal Weapon goes to the U.K. minus the saxophone

Recommended If You Like: Downton Mysteries,

Buddy cop drama set in Oxford. Classic meets new, young meets old – it’s all in there. Great characters and good drama.


Additional Adventures to Take

A smattering from the rest of my viewing pleasure. Great characters, far away lands, imagination and whimsy!



File Under: Wally Pfisters and Tarsem Singh’s Love Child

Recommended If You Like: Thomas Harris, Thomas Harris and Thomas Harris

I can’t say enough about this show. The art direction, the cinematography plus a killer cast lead by Mads Mikkelsen


Almost Human

File Under: 

Recommended If You Like: The next big thing, Terminators gone good,

Sci-fi shows are a tough nut to crack but this show has been great for the first 6 episodes. Since the completion of Fringe, there really hasn’t been a great sic-fi show. I think Almost Human could fill those shoes. Sure it’s still finding it’s legs but the ride so far has been entertaining.


Walking Dead

File Under: End of the mad world and I feel fine

Recommended If You Like: The footsteps of George Romero,

Don’t call it a zombie show! It’s a show about the best and worse of the human condition.


Top of The Lake

File Under: Peggy Post Mad Men

Recommended If You Like: New Zealand Sundance Channel, Holly Hunter’s accent, IFC

Top of the Lake is a slow burn and the first ever series to screen at Sundance. A mysterious pregnancy from a 12 yr old girl, shady characters and an outsider detective (Elizabeth Moss) bring  this series to life. Created, written and directed by Jane Campion (The Piano, Portrait of a Lady).


House of Cards

File Under: Inconceivable

Recommended If You Like: Love/Hating Kevin Spacey, Dark and Stormy DC.

I consumed this whole season in a week when it first came out. This multi-Emmy award winning series has thrown the idea of TV on it’s head. David Fincher made DC look despair laden and powerful in a way that sucks the life from the West Wing.



File Under: Dramatic Family Time

Recommended If You Like: Hugs and crying

I really dig this show. It can be hokey, sappy, and simple but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun.


Things to think about when watching:

  • Define the hero and the villain.
  • Is there a character caught in grey areas?
  • What conventions are being used so that you’ll fill in the blanks and be drawn further in?
  • What story dynamics are involved to keep you from jumping to conclusions about any character?
  • How can these conventions and story tropes be used to help your marketing/branding/story creation process?

When I got the call from the United Way of Los Angeles, they were frustrated and worried about the steady decline of their fundraising dollars over the last several years. Even with a lot of hard work on their part, it wasn’t getting any better.

Their executives knew that everything wasn’t right but they couldn’t put a finger on what the exact problem was. They knew that their social media and digital impression needed help but didn’t know where to start with getting their story out to a wider audience

I immediately evaluated their situation, developed a new strategy and created a campaign to bring in over 60 Million Dollars in the following 12 months. All of their key goals were achieved and the new strategy brought new life into the office as well as the interactions they had with long-time donors.

In the past 5 years I’ve helped non-profits raise over 120 Million dollars. In many cases turning around organizations that have been in steep decline. I’ve also helped discover entirely new audiences that were easily cultivated into new donors.

And now I’m putting together something brand new that can help you do the exact same thing.

  • After working with so many non-profits, I’ve noticed the same problems keep showing up over and over.
  • Lack of understanding their core audience
  • No plan to grow their primary and secondary audiences
  • No time to coordinate effective campaigns
  • No digital marketing strategy to capitalize on social media, blogging and other tools

But here’s the good news, I can help you with all of these problems

I love working with non-profits and helping them connect with donors and raise more money. I’ve coached many of them to work through these and many more roadblocks that exist in reaching their goals.

In fact, let me share two quick ways I have helped a non-profit recently.

First, I helped them focus on the reason they started working at a non-profit to begin with. They wanted to gather people together to change the world, not beat their audience over the head with appeal letter after appeal letter.

Second, I helped them clarify and understand what action they would like their audience to take. Is it to give a donation? If so, how much? Did they want them to join their monthly donor group? What is the process of behavior they’d like their donors to go through?

Once you have these two things established, now you can make some progress!

Here’s my question to you. Are you ready to stop begging people for money and start inspiring change? Are you ready to have a plan that will connect and engage your donors?

I’m working on a new project that will help you, for the first time, actually accomplish these goals.

It’s the Non-Profit Story System and I’m making it available to just 10 organizations today. Keep reading to learn more.

Since the release of my book, The Non-Profit Narrative, I’ve been working on new ideas to help non-profits be successful in their funding campaigns. I used the book to share the frame work of story based fundraising that helps development teams succeed, but I want to go deeper. This opportunity is right for you if:

  • You’ve been frustrated trying to connect to your audience.
  • You’re active on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc but can’t get them all converting consistently.
  • You’re experiencing a steady decline in funds.
  • You’re consistently putting out fires and launching last minute appeals.
  • Building your communication system is overwhelming.

I’m putting together the Non-Profit Story System that combines what I’ve learned through building campaigns from scratch and successfully launching all types of funding campaigns - from under 100K to tens of millions of dollars.

In the Non-Profit Story System you’ll find:

  • How the Narrative Story Framework applies to your non-profit.
  • How to acquire and cultivate an audience while telling a compelling story.
  • Strategy to determine Your Best Audiences
  • The Top 3 Storytelling Principals
  • The Step-by-Step guide to Audit and Assess Your Social Media Presence – Turn the Social “Me” to a Social “We”.
  • How to Execute Your “Why” in Your Communications – The “Why” is the most important piece and will inspire your audience to action and support.
  • Ideas to help your team know what needs to be adjusted to transform your current site into a cultivation and acquisition tool.
  • How to Create a System to Measure Success (Key Performance Indicators)
  • The guide to determine your primary and secondary audiences and define the Ideal Behavior for them – Defining what you need will help staff and audiences know what they’re being asked to do.


Here’s a few things people have said after reading just the content in my book:

“If you work for a nonprofit or are on the board of a nonprofit, buy this book.” Ken Mueller

“This is a fantastic book for non-profits and for-profits alike…storytelling is the best to connect with your supporters and customers and Dan’s book offers a simple, step to step guide on how to achieve storytelling success. I highly recommend it.” Kat Krieger

“You should buy a copy of The Non-Profit Narrative for yourself and everyone that you know that works at a non-profit.” Tim Grahl

If that’s what people learn just from reading the book, imagine what you’ll learn during this in-depth video course.

How is the course going to actually work?

  • Long term access. I’ll be releasing the content as I build it, but you’ll have access to go through it at your own pace.
  • Strategy then How-tos. Each section will end with homework… exactly what you can do now to start putting the ideas into practice.
  • Live Webinars. I will do at least two live webinars that will be heavily Q&A so you can ask questions as we go.
  • Learn on the go. Each session will be available in video and mp3. It will also be mobile optimized for any of your devices.
  • 6 weeks of training. The course will officially start the first week of the year and then run for 6 weeks with new content available each week.

What’s the investment?

I normally sell coaching at $500 per hour.

When this course is done, I’ll be selling it for at least $500.

However, I’m looking for 10 people to be a part of this course as I build it. Not only will you get a huge discount, but you’ll get to provide ongoing input on what goes into the final course and ask your questions along the way.

I’m opening the pre-sale of the Non-Profit Story System to just 10 people for $247. As soon as the ten spots are sold, it’ll close and not be available until after the course is built.

Here’s what you need to do to secure your discounted spot:


  • Enter the coupon code PREORDER to get the discounted price (case sensitive)


If you have any questions, feel free to hit reply to this email and ask. I’m happy to answer them.

I can’t wait to help you build your platform and raise more money in 2014!

How to Write the Perfect Opening Sentence



The beginning of any project, a book or your next campaign, needs to start well. If you’d like a master class… look at the works of Charles Dickens. But as for advice – Stephen King knocks it out of the park.


Stephen King’s classic craft memoir On Writing addresses almost everything the master storyteller knows. But one key topic is not covered in that book: how to write a perfect opening sentence. King shared his thoughts, developed over many years of writing, on how books should start and why beginnings matter.

“A book won’t stand or fall on the very first line of prose — the story has got to be there, and that’s the real work. And yet a really good first line can do so much to establish that crucial sense of voice — it’s the first thing that acquaints you, that makes you eager, that starts to enlist you for the long haul. So there’s incredible power in it, when you say, come in here. You want to know about this. And someone begins to listen.”


Taken from ‘s article in the Atlantic. Read the rest of it here