Why situations are not stories!

For kings and beginners

Film Dramaturgy for Beginners Situations Are Not Stories! Film Dramaturgy for Beginners.

It is not Aristotle’s fault. Although the Greek philosopher is ascribed the authorship time and time again of the dull statement that every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. Undeniably, the beginning and the end are relevant for every story. But they are not a story.

Birth and death may be highly existential for the affected person and his/her environment. If you are born as King Louis XVI, your birth and your death will write history. Yet from the point of view of the narrator these are only key points of what happened in the phase in between. And in between a lot can happen when human imagination allows it.

That is why storytelling for film and video requires a framework and a structural principle where life facts can be transported in an understandable way for the wider public.
It is not about the beginning and the end, but rather about the height of the drop.

Film and video dramaturgy

Dramaturgy offers such a framework. Its roots lie in the theater studies and events around the unlucky Bourbon king Louis XVI: without the French revolution taking place during his reign, neither would the Corsican General have succeeded nor would the result have been  the restoration of his empire. Exactly two hundred years ago authors and theater operators in restored Europe realized that they could summon the horrifying memories of the past but this was only appreciated by the audience when the good one finally won on stage. In the beginning of the last century film pioneers took over this structural principle. It guarantees Hollywood billions in sales up to today and made a world-wide career in the form of the happy end. What can be derived from this for storytelling in a sponsored film?
Having ideas is heaven. Developing them is hell.
It is not the beginning and the end but rather the  before and  after and all other things that happen in between that give the story its value. This insight leads directly to one of the most often used and most efficient tools from an excitement technical point of view: Contrast. Television producers fondly refer to this as the height of the drop. The higher the loss, the more insurmountable a problem, the more the story casts a spell on the audience. That is why gigantic villains always have to be defeated in movies. On the way to the happy end surprise,  delay and  lead in knowledge are also happily seen guests in the toolbox of the narrator. In the canon of film making they all ensure the fascination of motion picture. Thanks to them situations become stories.

The Bourbon test

The next time you see a commercial on TV please try what I wish to refer to in remembrance of the unlucky descendants of the sun king, the “Bourbon Test” : Ask yourself whether the film that wants to change your way of feeling and thinking in less than twenty seconds is only a suddenly dropping guillotine. Or is there more. It is possible.

Conclusion

Don’t talk about limited budgets to me! Cinema lovers, film directors, casting agents know: The universe can be reflected in the eye of a single talented actor. Also in the commercial.

About Kristian Widmer
Kristian Widmer (49) is Executive Producer and CEO of Condor Films Ltd. He has been advising customers on film and video for 23 years.

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