Here are three definitions that I love. What is a story? Well, it's the way we explain the world to ourselves or the way we explain ourselves to ourselves or the structure we use to create meaning for our lives. Now, what do those three definitions have in common?
Ourselves, right. This applies to everybody, everybody here, everybody out there, it's a universal human experience. And what else, what's the other thing that those three definitions have in common?
There's some sort of interpretation, explanation.
Interpretation and meaning.
Yes, storytelling is such a huge part of our existence, right, that we require it to interpret life. We actually end up thinking and relating to other people in terms of stories and our brain is wired to interpret the world in terms of stories. I read this quote in the New York Times by a professor named Drew Westin. I think it's really instructive because he makes this point, our brains evolve to expect stories. Our species...
existed for more than 100,000 years before the earliest signs of literacy and another 5,000 years would pass before the majority of humans would even know how to read and write. Stories were the primary way our ancestors transmitted knowledge and values. Think about that for a second. We're so used to living in the modern world. We go to school, we learn to read, everybody does this. That's not the history of humanity, like it's just the past few hundred years, really. The history of humanity is a process of cultures communicating, individuals communicating in terms of stories. Think about the Bible or the Quran. They're all stories, think about fables, right. Aesop's Fables, they're all stories. How many of you have kids? Okay, what do they say to you when it's time to go to bed, every night?
Read me a story, tell me a story. Do you think that's an accident? That every kid asks for the bedtime story? Wants to be read to? Right, when they're hungry, they say, I wanna eat, but when they're hungry to feel something or to be stimulated, they say, tell me a story. So we have the opportunity as filmmakers to take this universal human trait and feed what people are already craving. Like, it's an easy job really, when you think about it, because everybody wants it. So all we have to do is find a way to deliver it to them. You're already a storyteller because everybody dreams. What are your dreams? What are they? They're stories.
Yeah, they're crazy stories sometimes, right. (all laughs) I mean, think that everybody in here has had like a dream that was just like, wow, where did that come from? And yet, for whatever reason, psychologists debate this, but for whatever reason, we need the process of dreaming and telling stories to ourself, for our own psychological health. So if you have the ability to come up with these kinds of stories in your dreams, then you have the ability to do it consciously. It's built in, don't ever doubt your ability to tell a story or tell it effectively because it's innate. If you're breathing, you can tell a story. So I just, we keep on trying to make this point. You can do this. When we put together our outline for this program, the very first sentence to start out today was you can do this. And that means everybody out there too. You have to believe. You have to know that because you are alive and you are sentient, you have the ability to tell stories and connect with people. I wanna make this point. The purpose of filmmaking is storytelling. And a lot of people don't get that. A lot of people don't like, understand that if I'm pressing record on my camera, the reason I'm doing that is to tell a story. It's not to record what's happening. And I think that's the first mistake a lot of photographers make. They're like, okay, well let me press record because this is happening. No, you should never press record on your camera until you first know what the story is. Otherwise, what's the point? You heard me reference Ross earlier, when he said, when he made the wedding film that we saw earlier, he knew what the story was before going in there. He knew that faith, commitment, kindness, love and family were all gonna be discussed by people that the bride and the bride loved. And so he knew what his story was. And then when he went there, he set himself up for success, so that it wasn't just randomly running around, trying to capture everything that was happening and hope that the brides liked it later on. And normally I would make you do another oath here, but you know, I think we made the point earlier, never press record. Can you promise me that you will never press record on your camera until you know what the story is first. Alright, thank you. So let's talk a little bit about the process of storytelling. We create the stories, make no doubt about it. Like we just saw, we're always working to create stories, to interpret our lives, in terms of stories. What we do is we link events into some sort of plot that then creates meaning for us, where that plot is watching a bunch of random clips and remembering times in our own lives or a loved one's. And then somehow feeling meaning or because the storyteller has led you from this, to this, to this, to this, in the process of having a story unfolding. The whole point of all that is to create meaning. Moving images force you to pay attention to the action, alright, you're pay attention to what is happening. So people, instead of telling me what a clip meant, started to say, what was happening in the image, opening a letter, sitting down, grandma's using a camera, but you didn't talk about emotions. You didn't talk about the meaning of the clip. You talked about the action of the clip. Time unfolds, and you don't have time to reflect. You have to pay attention to what's going on. And so, because your attention is focused on the unfolding of time, there's no time to actually create meaning from the individual clip. So with filmmaking, what you have to do to create meaning, is arrange all of the individual pieces together, to control the message and tell a story. You end up building a story across time, kind of like, by connecting the dots. It's storytelling, it helps the viewer to connect, and why do you really want to tell a story? Cause you want your viewer to anticipate the next shot, like the moments video and not the end of your film. How many of you've been watching something on YouTube, you press play and you're like, what's the point? What's the like, you're sitting there,
How much time is left.
you're gonna give it 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 30 seconds and then you're like, God, how much longer is this going to continue? You've failed as a filmmaker if that's happening. You want your viewer to anticipate the next shot and not the end of your film because you want them to be that engrossed. So with storytelling, you wanna constantly establish purpose, for what you're showing. You have to realize storytelling is a collaboration between the filmmaker and the viewer. It's the viewer's role to put the story together and understand it. But you know that's gonna happen. We've talked about how we're all sitting there, just waiting for the filmmaker to feed us. If they're pressing play, they've done their job because they're gonna go into autopilot and start trying to extract meaning. So what's your job? It's your job to give the viewer the proper pieces, in the proper order, so that they reach the conclusion that you want them to reach. Don't leave it up to them, because you know, it's kind of like connecting the dots. Everybody can connect the dots in different ways. I mean, a lot of times there'll be a one, two, three, four, and you're supposed to connect them this way. But with films, people will start connecting things that they see in ways that are different from what you want them to, if you don't purposely and have a purposeful storytelling approach.