A Dreamer Walking

Invisible Ink- Simplicity

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on April 12, 2011

In Invisible ink Chapter 2 we are introduced to the Seven easy steps to a better story.  In this post I will not be repeating the “seven easy steps”. To hear about them please buy the book. The underline point Brian McDonald was trying to make in the chapter however was a good one. He expressed his frustration with writers who usually try to create a overly complicated story.

What makes for a overly complicated story is when the writer tries to bring more plot into the story then what is actually needed. Simplicity is usually key when developing a story. Your job is to not lose the audience on the ride you are taking them on. You entertain the audience not through creating a twist at every corner but rather digging deeper into the story you do have no matter how simple it might be. You can have the most complicated plot imaginable, if you do not create a connection with your characters to the audience however, nobody will go along for the ride.

One of the masters at creating a connection between audience and character was Walt Disney. Hardly any Walt Disney movie was heavy in plot. He had simple beginnings, middles, and ends in almost all his movies. What Walt cared about was the connection between the audience and his characters. Walt was one of the first to push the cartoon industry into developing character personalities. In some of Disney’s first full length animated films, such as Pinocchio and Bambi, the first half hour involves hardly any plot at all. He just allows us to be introduced and get connected with his characters.

At the beginning of Pinocchio we are introduced to the cynical Jiminy Cricket and see him observe Pinocchio being turned to life. The whole movie is character driven. Walt does not do anything without the purpose of helping us understand Pinocchio more. The story line is simple; a toy puppet who wants to become a real boy. The first act consists of us understanding the toy maker Geppetto’s wish to have a real boy and seeing Pinocchio come to life to potentially fulfill that wish. The second act consists of Pinocchio’s wrong turns in his pursuit of becoming a real boy. The third act is about Pinocchio finally realizing his mistakes and setting out to save his father from Monstro, the whale. As a result Pinocchio sacrifices everything. The blue fairy comes and revives Pinocchio and turns him into a real boy creating the happily ever after ending.

Let me break it down for you. In the first act we are introduced to the environment and the characters. As Brian McDonald puts it, “It tells the audience everything they need to know to understand the story that is to follow”. In the second act the story actually begins. Everything should be cause-and-effect based on what happened at the end of act one. In Pinocchio the end of act one was hearing Pinocchio’s ambition to earn the right to become a real boy. The second act consists entirely of the mistakes Pinocchio makes in his efforts. If you are thinking it in visual terms, the second act consists of the climb to the top of the mountain.

The third act is when the character makes it to the top of the mountain only to find out he needs to face a dragon in order to survive. In Pinocchio’s case it was a whale. The third act begins at what ever point sets off the chain reaction for the climax of the picture. In Pinocchio you can say the third act begins when Pinocchio sets out to find his father. After defeating Monstro the whale and saving his father there is one scene showing Pinocchio being turned into a real boy and Jiminy Cricket closing the book to a happily ever after ending. As McDonald says, the key is to not have too much story after the climax of the film, just enough to let us all know life goes on.

The Pinocchio story was not overly complicated. As I said before, Walt was an expert at simplicity in his plots. However this does not mean the movie was easy to make. Disney and his artists worked very hard to figure out the meaning behind the stories he was telling. Creating meaning is actually the hardest part of storytelling. We as storytellers need to have something relevant to say.  I will touch up more on this subject in my next Invisible Ink post.

Instead of putting extra time into making a story more complicated, find ways to simplify it. Simplicity is key. What the audience wants is an interesting world to explore and characters to get to know. Understanding this is crucial. Plot can often get in the way of these things.

Just like the drawing on the top of the post, you must get rid of all the lines that are not necessary for telling the story you want to tell. With the medium of animation in general the filmmaker’s job is not to create a realistic replica of life. The filmmaker’s job is to simplify until all we see is a few lines that describe the characters and environments on screen. This simplicity allows the audience to follow the characters’ movements more easily and not get distracted by the backgrounds. Storytellers could learn a lesson from the medium of animation. All animation is, is a few lines that move creating the illusion of life. All storytelling is, is a few words put together in order to let our imaginations run free. Too many lines or too many words can ruin it all.

Clint Eastwood – An Observation – Faith in the Craft

Posted in Film and Filmaker Studies, Observation Series, Uncategorized by Jacob on February 6, 2011

Clint Eastwood 1I appreciate Clint Eastwood as a director just as much, if not more, then I do Martin Scorsese. I chose to take a break from Martin and look into a few interviews of Clint Eastwood. I ran across a fantastic interview of him on Charlie Rose (click HERE to see it). I would recommend anyone studying film to watch the interview.

After watching many of Clint’s films it seems very obvious he is a classic filmmaker in the sense he does not try to get too complex with the way he moves about the camera or the way he cuts and expresses sound. Back in the old days filmmakers were simple because the medium forced them to. Clint stays simple because it is the best way he expresses his stories.

For Clint’s films everything seems to be done in a very clear manner and usually the meaning of his pictures are glaring at you in broad daylight. Clint is not one to beet around the bush or have some kind of meaning hid deep inside one of his pictures. The points and meanings of his films are usually obvious. Most of Clint’s movies seem to be about relatable characters going through tense situations. He first lets us get to know and care for his characters and then takes us on a ride with them.

Clint’s “simplicity” is one of my favorite qualities of his films. The simplicity we see in Clint’s films comes from the confidence he has in himself. He has taken the term “go with your gut” to heart. This is also one of the reasons why I and many critics say that Clint’s movies have gotten better with his age. Now in his 80’s, Clint seems to be at the top of his game. He has more experience than almost anyone in film business. The farther along he goes the more he learns and his instincts become better and better.

Eastwood’s way of directing needs to be studied. He has talked often about not thinking too much about how he chooses to go about creating a shot or editing a scene. He has explained many times the filmmaker ends up talking himself out of something that would have worked best because he or she keeps on second guessing themselves. Filmmakers overwork their material to the point they ruin any magical quality that was originally there. But, before we go with our gut we need to figure out what this “gut” instinct actually is.

The term “go with your gut” can easily be misleading. I think Clint has the right to say it because he has developed his philosophy on film to a strong enough point his “gut” is a reliable source. Clint also does a good amount of research into the story he is trying to tell. His choices on how to go about shooting a shot or editing a scene are usually strong because his choices are built on strong foundations. The reason why we as filmmakers should go with our gut is because we feel in tune with our technique and the story we are wanting to tell. The more we develop our philosophies and technique on filmmaking the more reliable our first instincts will be.

One of the reasons why Clint has a simple film style is because he thinks simplicity is the best way to tell a story. Clint’s simplicity represents his confidence. He does not want us to marvel at a camera shot, he just wants us to be consumed by the story. In another interview with Charlie Rose in 2003 Clint explained his filming process like this, “I keep everything as quite and subtle as I can. At the same time punctuating the points I need to punctuate”.

Movies don’t always need quick cutting and huge sweeping camera shots. You will see hardly any of these things in Eastwood’s films. The filmmakers job is to get the story across in the best way possible. Sometimes, maybe even most of the time, we do this through avoiding complexities and just allowing the story to unfold. Clint has trust in his instincts. He has trust in his actors and crew. And, most importantly Clint has trust in the story he is telling. Because of the trust Clint has put in his medium he has become one of the great artists for his medium.

Light on Leaf

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on October 29, 2010

Sorry for the lack of written papers on this blog. I will try to finish my Joe Ranft blog in the next few days. This is actually a picture that you can obviously tell I did a lot of editing with. It really is cool how much you can do with editing now a days. I think what really appealed to me in this picture is the streams of light and the simplicity of the material. I made everything very soft, trying to have the colors stick out rather then the details.