Five films, six highly personal stories this week (one film actually has two distinct plots). Yes, even our one big-name Hollywood film is really just about a regular guy (who happens to look just like Harrison Ford) trying to do right by his wife. This is what storytelling in film is all about. Which leads us to…
Sandra Bernhard is performing at Joe’s Pub in New York City this week, and if you’ve never had a chance to check out her work, either RUN to The Public or grab one of her many performance DVDs, asap. She’s brilliant – and as I was sipping my Chardonnay shoulder to shoulder with fawning New Yorkers in the jam-packed club last night, I pondered a point she was making about live storytelling.
Screen direction – one amongst many rules in visual storytelling. This one dictates the direction in which people look at each other, or the direction in which they walk, implying that on the two- dimensional screen, the characters are engaged by their looks, or walk away or toward one another.
I’m editing a film right now, and okay, some mistakes were made on the set. Not many, granted, but a few. In other words, we thought an actor should have been walking or looking right to left and as it turns out, when we cut it together, there’s a jump where we’ve crossed the 180 degree “line” – the actor should have been looking or walking the other way. In the last week, I’ve asked myself, in this age of very sophisticated film viewing, does it even matter anymore? Should we just sort of, get over it?
Last weekend I saw the delicious DRAG ME TO HELL, Sam Raimi’s celebrated return to his roots in fundamental gore. The great thing about the film is that along with Hollywood-powered special effects, such as protagonist Christine Brown being whipped around a room like a paper doll in a tornado, Raimi uses extraordinarily simple elements, such as, er, big shadows, to scare the living daylights out of us.
As I watched, I was reminded of an art project inspired by Raimi’s EVIL DEAD 2 by New York artists Jennifer and Kevin McCoy.
Read more about the experimental works of Jennifer and Kevin McCoy
Transwhat? Transfat? Transgender? No, transmedia. Have you heard of it? It’s one of the latest buzzwords from media guru, Director of MIT’s Comparative Media Studies Program, and Convergence Culture author Henry Jenkins. Jenkins has strong opinions on the future of screen-based storytelling.
In his 2007 article “Transmedia Storytelling101,” he outlines this theory:
This is a weekly column written by Annie Howell and Lisa Robinson, two filmmakers and film professors who are wondering where modern storytelling is heading.
What’s the shortest film you’ve seen that’s been satisfying as a story?
In turn, what’s the longest screen story experience you’ve ever sustained?
I’m flashing back to my long long movie-going experiences … a five hour documentary on Cassavetes, A CONSTANT FORGE—THE LIFE AND ART OF JOHN CASSAVETES, dir. Charles Kiselyak, at SXSW in 2001. (After the movie, my husband Michael and I bonded with the five other people in the theatre, including Blaine Thurier of The New Pornographers, a Cassavetes fan and the winner of that year’s Best Narrative Feature for his film, LOW SELF-ESTEEM GIRL.)
The work of Hungarian director Béla Tarr. (Okay, that wasn’t me that endured the 7.5 hour SATAN’S TANGO, it was Michael again, and he stayed for the whole thing at Brooklyn Academy of Music — even after Gus Van Sant left.)
Sundance Channel salutes David Lynch this month with a series of screenings every Thursday, beginning this week with INLAND EMPIRE. See screening times and more.
Last week I was talking to a student about his screenplay and the “rules” of screenwriting, basically the formula that most stories get plugged into (you’ve got your “normality” and then “disturbance” in the first few pages and then the “first act turning point” … and so on). If you’re not familiar with it, please stay blissfully ignorant. It can make movie watching a little less fun when you can too easily predict exactly what is going to happen and when.
My own writing experience using this structure has run the gamut from… get-down-on-my-knees-thankfulness for the backbone it provides especially when you have a bunch of ideas that felt like loose body parts…. to feeling like creative choices have been reduced to something akin to the choices you hear parents give their kids… you can either eat your asparagus or go to bed (i.e. you can either do a strong first act turning point by page 30 or risk alienating your audience). But story structure is hard to knock, as a well structured movie moves and moves well.
“What about Lynch?”
Editor’s note: this is a new weekly editorial column from filmmakers Annie Howell and Lisa Robinson that will primarily focus on the evolution of film storytelling in this age of inexpensive, ubiquitous digital cameras and computer-based media. Watch for it every Wednesday. Welcome to our column! We are two filmmakers toiling away in the trenches,…
Filmmakers discuss the importance of documentary films in the festival and the refreshing perspectives they reveal as a storytelling medium.