This year, I want to focus on storytelling. What it looks like; how we perceive it; how to produce it; what’s good; what’s bad, etc. More specifically, I want to focus on short-form storytelling. Rule 17 in one of the most respected rule books of writing (arguably, and if there can even be such a thing) Strunk & White’s Elements of Style says: Omit needless words. This is probably the easiest rule to comprehend and hardest rule to accomplish – and, if you take it more generically – omit needless <insert thing here>, it works for any number of mediums and is always good advice.
As this is the beginning, here are a few video pieces I think establish great storytelling, all 5-ish minutes or less.
BREWER directed + edited this music video for Passion Pit’s “Carried Away.” It starts out simply as a clip spot capturing the seemingly hysterical female antics and arguments as they are no doubt experienced by the hipster, straight-guy boyfriend, who’s constantly apologizing or being modestly freaked out. In between these scenes however, are several cuts of their better times – laughing in bed, going for walks, jointly combatting the consequences of her actions in a way that makes her seem less hysterical and more eccentric. A little over a minute in, things start to get fantastical – Michael Gondry-esque fantastical – the two running from the collapse of their subtitled arguments. Ultimately, maybe it’s the story of any relationship, as echoed in the lyrics “We’re all having problems and we’ve all got something to say.” You can accomplish a lot of storytelling in a clip spot – especially with only two main characters, but BREWER does it really well. Running time: 4:01.
Edson Oda produced “Malaria” – a veritable short-film the tells the story of a young mercenary who is hired to kill death. According to Oda, the spot combines “origami, kirigami, time lapse, Nankin illustration, comic books and western cinema” and to be honest, I didn’t know if I’d like it at all. But, this piece is amazing. From the illustration, to the varied use of media, to the voice over artists and sound design – this spot not only told a great story, but it did so in an unconventional way. Oda is currently working on an MFA at USC and if this is any indication of his talent in work, I can’t wait to see what comes next. Running time: 5:33.
Made By Hand, an off-shoot of the Bureau of Common Goods – a Brooklyn-based film and digital content studio, produced this piece “No. 5 – The Bike Maker” as part of a series of spots celebrating people who make things by hand. In fairness, this is not the whole piece – this is the trailer. But in my world, the story in the trailer needs to be just as compelling as the larger story – or you’ll struggle to get attract viewers. The cinematography in this piece is really great, each shot almost more beautiful than the previous, with just the right balance of color and mystery and sound design to rope you right in. Running time: 1:41.
So, what takes an everyday story to the next level? What makes us holdfast to the stories we love and consumed by vitriol for the stories we hate? There are a lot questions at this point, and some may not have answers because storytelling can be incredibly subjective. But there’s no doubt that there are stories out there that resonate within a lot of us — stories that make us fall in love, that make us appreciate, that compel us to action -and it’s only the beginning, but hopefully we’ll find a few more.