Never before in the history of cinema has there been a greater opportunity for people to make movies. Technology has enabled individuals all over the world to contribute their creative voices and tell their stories. In many ways, the technological and logistical barriers to enter this field no longer exist. Now, more than ever, it comes down to the art of storytelling. Everyone has a video camera, but not everyone can tell a story. The camera is merely a tool. As far back as the days of the caveman, people would sit around a fire and tell stories. The storyteller was revered within the tribe and respected for his skill. Now, instead of a fire, we sit in front of a silver screen. The essence and the spirit of the storytelling art remain the same as they were thousands of years ago. The difference is, today we have the advanced tools of technology that enable us to have different ways to tell our stories.
It is easy to get caught up in the technical side of filmmaking and forget the greater importance of the art of STORYTELLING. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what camera you use, how great the VFX, or how big the explosions; if the story doesn’t connect, move, inspire, or effectively give the audience a desired experience, it becomes mere disposable entertainment. The technology will always change, as will the tools that become available to filmmakers, but there will always be the need for the solid fundamentals of storytelling. This is inescapable. No matter how many lenses, green screens, rapid cutting, soundtracks, or dollars that are invested in a movie, one cannot avoid this requirement.
As an organism, the human body only knows emotion, not a films budget. It is either moved emotionally or not. A no-budget independent film shot on a consumer video camera has the same capability of effectively telling a story as a film with a budget of one hundred million dollars. Regardless of format, the human brain processes the visual and audio input that may, or may not, stimulate human emotion. The principals of storytelling technique are the same, no matter what the film’s budget. The techniques are simply applied to different platforms and scales. Once directors study, learn, train, and master these storytelling techniques, they can apply them to any film regardless of scale. Quality storytelling is the director’s foundation. In addition, this skill can attract opportunities to direct films with larger creative resources.
When superb storytelling becomes the ultimate goal, technology is merely a tool to serve that end. If the final film is a failure, it doesn’t matter what new tools or elements were utilized in its creation. As a director, this hierarchy is important to remember and respect. Directors should ask themselves, “How do these tools of filmmaking enable me to better tell THE STORY?”. Many times films are produced that serve particular elements rather than the story, particularly movies that focus more on VFX. This decision exemplifies the limited achievement of the visual impact of the VFX alone as being enough to satisfy or entertain the audience. This may be successful in the short term, but ultimately the effect is temporal. Great films have longevity because they connect with the audience on a deep, emotional, and psychological level that transcend the tools and elements that built it. Regardless of technology or resources, through studying and mastering the classical storytelling techniques, a director will be skilled in the most important tool in the craft.
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