A Dreamer Walking

Invisible Ink-Beginnings

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on April 4, 2011

I just started reading this insightful book by Brian McDonald called Invisible Ink (Click on the title to go to the Amazon page). In a effort to understand the book to a fuller extant I am going to start a series on what I have personally gotten out of reading each chapter. So each one of the posts that come from me studying this book will start with the title “Invisible Ink”. However, my goal is not to copy and paste from the book. My goal is to use this blog as a testing device to see if I am able to own the material I am reading and give you my personal perspective on what Invisible Ink means.

I have found most of the lessons in this book, so far, are not new to me. However, Brian has expressed them in such a structured way that I have found them easier to understand.

As Brian McDonald puts it, “Invisible ink is the writing below the surface of the words”. It is crucial before we get too far into the facts of the story we are creating, we think about the meaning behind it. When we are able to figure out the meaning of our story everything else starts to fall into place. Film is not just made up of duologue and the dialogue we do see can never be taken at face value.

All the obvious points of a story need to have a greater meaning that are not obvious to the audience. When we look at a movie like Pixar’s Up, we don’t just see a story about a old man flying his house with balloons. We see a story about a man who wants to go on an adventure and flies away in his house because he wants to get away from the rest of the world. In essence the flying house represents a need to be alone along with a need to uproot oneself from tradition in order to experience the world or life in general in a new way. The grand adventure the old man Carl and his neighbor Russell go on is only a story device to make them, along with the rest of the audience, understand the beauty of the quite moments in life.

The underline meaning of a story is much more difficult for one to figure out. But here lies the key to great storytelling. The true beauty of a story comes from the invisible ink. It comes from the things that are not necessarily said but are communicated through the foundations of the story and characters you have created.

You as a person might be able to talk the smooth talk and have all the right looks on the outside. However, if what you say and what you do does not ring true with others on the inside you will quickly be forgotten. The same concept goes with storytelling.

Make It REAL!

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on March 10, 2011

Film is such a interesting medium. Most of it consists of the filmmakers trying to create something that feels real to them. The ironic thing is that usually the more work you do in creating something that feels real the more inherently surreal it actually becomes. Filmmaking is a complete illusion. We need to compress life into two hours or maybe, if we are lucky, two hours and a half of film.

Each director has his or her own unique style because each director has a different point of view. All directors are trying to tell a story and need to use the camera, lenses, sets, and sound to help tell that story.  As soon as you change something in order to help tell a story in film you are in essence stylizing your film. The kitchens, the bedrooms, and the offices we see in film do not come from experts at making kitchens, bedrooms, and offices, they come from experts at making sets for film.

Everything is made for the sake of telling to story. If the filmmakers want to have the movie feel claustrophobic, they make sets that feel claustrophobic. If the filmmakers want the scene to feel romantic, they use lights and lenses that romanticize the moment. The great point of the filmmaking process is to create a film that does not look real but rather feels real. If we had a film that looked completely real we would be in trouble. James Cameron’s Avatar wouldn’t have worked because there is no such thing as big blue aliens. Star Wars wouldn’t be possible because there really is no such thing is the Force or ships that could go light speed. Pixar’s Ratatouille wouldn’t work because lets face it…….rats can’t cook.

As filmmakers we need to look at our subject matter and ask ourselves, “how can we get our audience to buy into this?”. Sometimes we are called to go completely abstract to buy into something. A great example would be the Pixar movie Up. Pete Doctor the director of Up realized from the start that it would be hard for the general audience to buy into a flying house. In reality it is not possible for a house to fly by tying a few thousand balloons on the roof, yet that was the premise of the story. So, Pete Doctor decided to make it clear right away he was not making a film that had it’s physical rules grounded in our reality. We saw the main character Carl had a head that was one third the size of his body and we saw his body was way more square then anything we would see in actual life. The boy scout Russel was extremely round with hardly any neck. The environments seemed to be more like locations you would see in impressionists paintings then anything you would see outside. Pete Doctor created an environment where everything was abstract so the story elements that were abstract, such as a house being carried in the air by balloons and dogs talking, could make sense. Yet, the movie was kept real to us by how it resonated with eternal realities in our lives. The movie Up dealt with fundamental truths in all our lives, such as the need to get away from every day life at times, the need to think outside of the box, and the idea that adventure is just as much about the personal moments as it is the action packed moments.

Our job as filmmakers is to hit on inner truths. When we get to the end of a movie the question shouldn’t be, “did we surprise them?”, or “did we make them laugh enough?”. We need to ask the question, did we hit on something real with them? Did we touch the audience a foundational way? It does not matter if we do it through blue aliens, ships fighting in space, or rats cooking. We have an unlimited amount of ways we can make film real for the audience. The key is to have the foundations of our films come from the inherent truths we as humans all have.