Once a month, through email, I share a video behind the scenes of our film. I show some of the work, but also share experiences, stories, and antecdotes along the way.
If you missed the last video, here is a fun and informative look at a question raised by a fan.
"How do the scenes of the story come together?"
Every story must have a protagonist which meets forces of antagonism. Without these two counterpoints, you do not have a story. You may have a portrait, but without conflict, there is no story.
When we refer to "character," we are not referring to traits, but to the resulting effect of the protagonist's (or antagonist's) actions. For example, a supposed "bad guy" could wear Batman's costume throughout a film and perform villainous acts. He may look like Batman, but his choices tell us he is not Batman.
Therefore, the costume is the characteristic, the choices are the character.
For this reason, we should use the word "protagonist" in place of character.
The story begins when the protagonist's life is thrown out of balance. Something happens that creates a crisis, which must be resolved. He or she now has a desire, and that desire drives the action. This is why an assistant director yells "Action." Stories told on screen are not told by telling an actor to go ahead and "Think." We know the character through action only.
An incident forces the protagonist to start making choices. Each choice is met with more antagonism, creating rising action through turning points. These choices do not resolve the conflict, but they bring us closer, as each choice rasies the price of a final decision.
This final choice must be an unavoidable truth, which we call 'character.' In a successful story, we don't know the character until that final, unavoidable choice. And this final choice must resolve whatever threw their life out of balance at the beginning of the story.
Character is a residue of action, it's the truth we discover only after the story has been told.
Often, up to that point, the character is either lying to himself/herself, "wears a mask," or he or she has yet to fully realize what the story has been telling us all along. Once the protagonist makes that final choice, the story has resolved itself.
The musician is creating patterns of harmony that result in an inner world, which frames up an experience for the audience. It's very similar for film.
And a story is told and complete, and successful, only when we arrive at final character, or final truth.
Acts are a way of organizing story. Their existence should be almost invisible to the audience.
The Act is composed of scenes, which flow together in sequence.
I define a scene by it's transition. Somewhere, within the rising action, a transition occurs between two polar opposites. For example, a situation may be good for the protagonist in one moment. When it shifts to it's polar opposite, a scene has just occured. The best scenes end immediately after this transition, which carries us into the next scene.
The scene is composed of beats of action. The storyteller uses beats the same way musicians use notes - to carry the movement. Not to show how great an actor is at his characteristics. Each beat must be building into a scene.
Fundamentally, we may understand camera direction with a few simple concepts that may be combined endlessly, with a variety of results in the composition of story:
Although this can be a simple way of looking at shot design, these are the fundamentals from which a film story may be told successfully on screen. A musician has only a range of what we call 12 notes, but through those twelve notes, Mozart composed his greatest symphonies, and with those same 12 notes, Justin Bieber composed his worst.
The Journey Continues