the stories the thing…

02 Feb

And may Shakespeare forgive me for that unbridled paraphrasing of the immortal Hamlet in a blog title, but like so many things in life, it had to be done.

See I just got back from a weekend of rummaging through youtube, hulu and several other video outlets for amateur videos out there and I was amazed, amused and befuddled by how many really talented people there are out there making videos.  I was also feeling a bit like Simon Cowell after a bender with Paula Abdul at how many talented people there were making videos that really didn’t need to be made.  Kind of reminded me of my mothers sage advice that “Just because you can do something… doesn’t mean you should.”.

I began this quest because for some time now, I’ve said I wanted to get back into doing at least some small projects with film.  Nothing fancy but some good stories.  So … I stated out by seeing what others had done.  I won’t slam anyone out there for making an amateur film.  Anyone who does get to the point of where they’re actually shot something deserves props. 

But I will say that before I even shoot a frame – I’m going to have a good story. 

Not a good script… because there are a lot of really great scripted videos out there that, well let’s be honest here, they are not going to win any awards.  Actually I’ll take that a step farther there are a lot of great videos out there that have won awards that really are almost painful to watch – and all the awards on the planet won’t change that.

What every great script / bad film out there seems to be missing is a good story.  I don’t mean they aren’t well written or clever or artistic.  I mean to say they have no story.  A 3 minute film can have a great story.  A epic length movie may have no story at all. 

The story is the key.  It’s what it’s about and it doesn’t matter the genre or or the words.  It’s what is happening.  Does it grip you?  Does it make you care about the character (no matter how bad the acting is)?  I mean, look at “The Happening”.  Really its not bad acting on the part of Wahlberg and company and the script … well the script is horrid but where the real horror started was with the story itself.  There isn’t one.

See most people will say the story is about Wahlberg and the world having to survive mother nature’s culling of the evil humans on the planet.  No… that is the plot of the movie.  The story – would have been about the relationship between Wahlberg and Zoe Deschanell, or the story would have been about some other character.  But to say that any of that existed beyond even the most anemic form is to give credit where there is none.

A plot, and the dialogue support the story.  But the story needs to stand on it’s own or everything is just window dressing.  To make a great little film or a great epic film… one needs a good story or you’re just wasting video.  So… before I start this little project of mine… I need a good story.


Here’s my story short list of what I need to keep in mind while I work on it.

  • I have a really limited budget.
    (Not gonna be able to rent equipment, locations, or people.)
  • I have a really limited shooting schedule that is impacted by environmental conditions. 
    (Rains here a lot, I work a 40 hour week, and I can’t guarantee who I’ll have available.)
  • I have a very limited cast.
    (Depending on the story – it may even only be me).
  • I have a very limited amount of quality equipment.
    (One – two cameras, lights are very limited, going to be hand held or limited amount of boom and stationary shots.)

Now that I have that list … I can file it under “NOT IMPORTANT”.  Because none of that will affect a good story.  A good story … doesn’t need a budget.  It doesn’t need to worry about schedules.  (See: American Graffiti – for decades it held the record of dollar for dollar being the highest grossing film ever made. Lucas shot it for next to nothing, on a schedule that no one would have considered.)

And cast frankly – doesn’t matter.  A great story makes up for bad acting.  In fact, a great story often covers up bad acting.  Limited equipment and a lack of shot choices… pfffaw.  Look up the Seventh Seal some time.  Look up anything by Hitchcock or Howard Hawks.  Look up Treasure of the Serria Madre or the Maltese Falcon or Casa Blanca. 

And then … go hit Yutube… and Hulu… and Atom… then sit down with a big cup of coffee and a empty note book, and a clear head… and think of great stories. 

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Posted by on February 2, 2009 in video


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