Our first feature film, 64 minutes in length – how do you possibly make 96,120 frames all say the same thing?
Every story you tell will come with a million decisions.
We can turn our backs, hide under the covers, or close our eyes. None of that will make them go away.
Think about something fairly straightforward like an interview. You’ve got your aperture, iso, shutter speed, camera height, focal length, white balance, picture profiles, lighting ratio, location, eyeline…okay, you get the point.
When I started filmmaking, I’d make every single one of those decisions with the same thing in mind ‘just make it look good’. But what is ‘looking good’? And it’s probably safe to say that not every story should look that way.
It’s tough business. A million decisions, all hitting you at once, while you’ve got to stay on schedule, get the shots, and find time in all of that to eat and breathe.
So we get overwhelmed and It’s easy to miss or dismiss so many of the decisions. For so long I didn’t know how camera height affected story, that shooting down on somebody could diminish them, or shooting up could give them power and authority.
But guess what? Every time I setup my camera, I was still saying something with my camera height, whether I knew it or not.
Our challenge then, as filmmakers, is to take those million decisions and make them with intention – harness their power to drive your story.
We need a rhythm, a resonance, a way to have them all point in the same direction.
Realistically, it’s impossible. Let’s just get that out of the way. No amount of pre-production will let you make every single decision with intention when met with the realities of bringing the story to life.
Our goal as storytellers shouldn’t be to chase the perfect story. Just take one more step forward. Listen more deeply this time.
We do this by creating keywords; 5 words that will be a filter for all of our decisions.
We come to these 5 words by listening. By immersing ourselves in the story. It’s why we believe that the best storytellers are the best listeners.
These 5 words represent what this story really is, what it means, and what we want it’s impact on people to be.
Ever heard the parable of the sculptor that when asked how he came to his masterpiece said that he listened to the marble? As opposed to showing up with your hammer and diving right into the rock with mighty force, we listen, let the story be heard, and then allow it to come through us.