Cameron MartinShreveport Film Connection

Creating Audience Involvement in a Makebelieve World Posted on 2014-11-06 by Cameron Martin

A major problem in many science fiction/fantasy films is the use of a narrator to explain how the world works or important details of the plot. This is something you can do in a novel, but not always in a movie. It takes the enjoyment out of seeing everything for ourselves and being involved as detectives figuring out the rules of the world for ourselves. We are visual creatures. We gather more information from what we see than from what we hear. Some films, like "Pacific Rim" and "The Road Warrior" solve this problem by introducing images along with the narration so you can understand it better. But, I think there is still a problem in doing this. When the film starts, we know too much. We're no longer invested in discovering the world along with our protagonist because we already know everything about it. However, a major risk you can take as a writer is to introduce a world so complex the audience is completely lost. "The Matrix" with such a controversial idea, benefited from having the character Morpheus spell everything out for us, so we can become invested in the characters and understand what they're doing and why their doing it. So, having a narrator can help. But, what if there was a better way, where you can have the best of both worlds: you increase audience involvement and not leave them confused about what's going on. I believe, with a little ingenuity, you can have your audience involved as explorers of your world, as well as help them understand how the world works. 

At the start of the second draft, I made a rule for myself to have a character explain as little about the world as possible, and to have their dialogue be strictly in the context of the conversation. I needed my characters be real, which didn't necessarily mean they could never talk about the world they inhabited. They just couldn't talk about it unless it was provoked. The dialogue also had to be realistic, and couldn't overstay its welcome. Following these rules to the best of my ability, I was immediately faced with a problem. My world had some very complex elements to it. How do you solve this problem when a character can't talk about how the complicated world works unless provoked? Well, film is a visual medium isn't it? Thinking about what you show in a shot can help you not only explain how the world works, but also make it believable and more detailed. For example, lets say your film takes place after an apocalyptic event. Ditching the idea of telling your audiance how it happened, you then have liberated yourself to tell the story of how it happened in the scenery or in a camera angle. Some may call these easter eggs. I call them audience involvement. These little touch ups to the environment or expressing a complicated idea using the camera can both help you tell the audience how the world works, as well as increase their involvement, leaving them to decide in their own minds what an image means. And, these don't have to be secret or hard to find. A poster can be in a shot as the characters walk by it, you can have a close up of the poster, or it can just be a part of the envorionment. Whatever helps you tell a story, really. Rules like these can make you work harder at being imaginative, which is what we should be doing as storytellers. We shouldn't take the easy way out, but be flexible, and see if we can express the workings of our world in a new and creative way. What kind of movie would "The Matrix" or "Pacific Rim" have been if you didn't have a major character explain everything to you? Would it be better or worse. Would you be more or less involved in the world or characters? Does having a narrator benefit your story, or does it take away from it? There's only way to find out.

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Action: Cling, Clang, Thwack, SnorePosted by Cameron Martin on 2014-11-19

Last night, I finally saw the second "Hobbit" movie. Seeing as how this blog needs another entry, I thought I'd make today's subject about the action sequences in "The Hobbit" and other films, including "300," the other "Matrix" movies, "Akria," and the first "Captain America" movie... Read More >>