always be closing, always be closing
Coffee's for closers.
Glengarry Glen Ross
~ David Mamet
Now, not everyone's crazy about this book, but it's a short enough read for you to dedicate a few hours to reading it and deciding for yourself if it's worthwhile. I, for one, got a lot out of the book and would recommend it. As with most things in life, you take what works for you and you leave the rest...
Ok. One tidbit I gleaned from my read today really made sense to me, so I'm sharing it with ya!
In Georgi Tovstonogov's book "On the profession of the director," he talks about how a director may fall into one of the deepest pits by rushing immediately to visual or pictorial solutions.
This got me thinking about my process of filmmaking. It got me evaluating whether or not I was spending enough time and putting in a solid amount of effort into the script itself, and into designing my shots in a way that in putting them next to each other, sans dialogue and all the other stuff, they tell the full story.
Thing is, I am huge on story.
And, as it turns out according to Mamet, "story is the essential progression of incidents that occur to the hero [of the story] in pursuit of his[/her] one goal." He goes further on to explain that according to Aristotle, the point of this whole dance is "what happens to the hero, not what happens to the writer," therefore the logic to me in constructing every scene, and in turn your entire story should be:
-- What does the hero want?
-- What hinders him/her from getting it?
-- What happens if s/he doesn't get it?
While creating a pretty picture, cool shots, and "wow" moments is certainly fun and not at all technically bad things, the focus should be the story. Should be me asking myself at every turn, what is this whole dance about?
Once that is figured out for each scene, and can be translated simply in uninflected shots that are juxtaposed to string together an engaging tale (with a hero, a want, a through line, etc.) and without any of the excess material (or as most might call it: fat), then I think you can say with a certain level of confidence that you've got yourself a decent story.
Don't rely heavily on dialogue to tell your story.
Don't dump the weight of telling your story on your actors.
Wave the magic ward of vfx and catchy, glittering things later (as in much later, if at all, as the cherry on top. Your story should work, i.e. stand on it's feet, without the cherry.) Think about it, when you're telling your "so a rabbi walked into a bar" joke, or your "well, grandma decided to drive the Hummer to Walmart today" story, there's usually no vfx and whatnot, involved...
Lastly, I'll leave you with this: as Hemingway suggested (and I'm paraphrasing) "write the story, take out all the good lines, see if it still works." If it does, I'd say you probably are well on your way to telling a fantastic story.
Know where you are and where you're trying to get to in your story.
Always ask what every scene is about, what each beat in that scene is about.
And, remember that more often that not, less is more.
As always... Yup, sharing is caring :D