Stressing the Story

Years ago, a colleague wrote an article about me for a trade magazine and entitled it “Gail Mooney – Past and Future Storyteller”.  Before that was written, I had never really thought of calling myself a storyteller, even though I had lived my entire life pursuing “the story”. In fact, it was because of my infatuation with people’s stories that I became a photographer and filmmaker. The pursuit of the story is what has driven me in making my own choices in life

But having a love for the story is far different than being able to tell a story. Regardless, if the story is told through still images, movies, songs, poems or books, the story must come through in order to resonate with an audience. I’ve been reading a lot about screenwriting lately, and how a story is written and structured for the movies.  Certain things must take place within the structure to make a story work.

  • Characters should be well defined and developed in the first third of the film.  The audience will need to get enough information about the characters in order to care, one way or another.
  • Stories should have conflict and contrast – just like life.  In every good film there is usually a low point right before a character prevails or a situation turns itself around.
  • Cinema has a language all of its own in how it tells and drives the story. The choice of lens or the way the camera is moved and from what angle, conveys to the audience a feeling. Make conscious choices and decisions as to what cinematic tools you use and why.
  • They say editing is the last line of defense for the story.  Every cut an editor makes has a profound effect on how the audience will feel.  An editor is able to tell a story in a hundred different ways, based on what clips they choose, how they cut them together and their selection of music.

I was very fortunate when I first started learning video.  I took the Platypus Workshop with PF Bentley and Dirck Halstead and they always stressed  “the story”.  I remember that I couldn’t even begin to shoot my project until I got my “commitment” (story) ok’d by Dirck or PF.  In order for them to commit to my story, I needed to commit to it first and they knew I wouldn’t be able to do that until I knew the story well enough to tell it.

Knowing and communicating your story in any medium simply means always being present in what your doing.  When the choices and decisions become obvious and effortless, then you know that you are telling the story you meant to tel

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