THE POWER OF NOW has brought a bit of Zen to the masses. Author Tolle is touring the world to spread the word and save our spiritual lives.
Zen may be the key to your well-being; it is the enemy of cinema.
Get your audience into the ‘now’ and your movie is dead. Storytelling for the screen is not about what is NOW but about what comes NEXT.
It is mind-boggling how many people still don’t get this. A couple of weeks ago I overheard a conversation between a major decision maker on government film financing and an eager filmmaker.
She was explaining to him what a wonderful movie she had seen. She also explained how the movie had bombed at the box office.
Wonderful style, fabulous photography. But she maintained that it was a “really good movie”.
It was “such a shame the stupid audience didn’t get it”. She didn’t literally say the last thing, but it was in the subtext.
Many writer/directors – and people outside the commercial reality of the film business – struggle with this essential aspect of storytelling for the screen. They want the audience to admire what is on the screen NOW rather than worry about what is coming NEXT.
This is exactly what sets film apart from other media. And this is exactly where disasters happen when visual art lovers meddle with movies.
Screen emotions are about ANTICIPATION.
Antipation means: hope for a good/better outcome, fear over what might happen to the hero, curiosity over how things will turn out. Nothing of this has to do with the NOW.
Once an audience starts enjoying the beautiful picture, the great music, even an amazing performance (“the actor was really in the moment”), your audience has stopped worrying about what is happening next – and you’ve lost them.
Zen is about being happy and content with what you have, NOW.
Screen story is not.
It’s rather about being UNhappy. About wanting to know, see, experience what will come next. If your audience is content about what’s on the screen NOW, there is no reason to continue watching. On the contrary, they will happily leave the theater and go home.
Karel Segers wrote his first produced screenplay at age 17. Today he is a story analyst with experience in acquisition, development and production. He has trained students worldwide, and worked with half a dozen Academy Award nominees. Karel speaks more European languages than you have fingers on your left hand, which he is still trying to find a use for in his hometown of Sydney, Australia. The languages, not the fingers.