Monday, February 9, 2009

How To Tell a Story - Class Feb 9

Since this represents the class’ midway point we began with a summary of what we have done so far. We have learned of the power of social technology and experimented with sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. We have done an ethnography of Entourage. We have been inspired by the stories of Sameer and Vinnay, and Kiva; and in the case of the former we have been heartbroken as well.

The lesson for today was to learn how to tell a story and our guests were Oren Jacob from Pixar and Justine Jacob, a former lawyer turned independent movie maker. Oren spoke first, besides having a really cool name he also spoke really fast because he had a lot to say in a relatively short amount of time.

We used Casablanca as a spring board to discuss effective story telling. Oren said that almost all movies begin by introducing us to the main characters and their world. Then an interceding event occurs which changes the world in which the characters live at which point our protagonists must address this change by taking some form of action. In most movies this interceding event occurs near the beginning. But in Casablanca this happens at the 34th minute mark when Ilsa reenters Rick’s life which leads to the famous line “of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine”. It is at this point that Rick’s world shifts, and he must now decide how he will respond.

We also discussed sub-plots and the idea that while the main plot must have all elements of a story, sub-plots can do away with certain segments of the story and let the viewer infer the remaining pieces.

Justine Jacob spoke next and told us a bit about her career, and how she shifted from a career in law to one making movies. Her movie “Paper or Plastic” ( about the National Grocers Association’s Best Bagger competition was recently released and she is currently working on a new movie about how chocolate can change lives (shocking but true).

Finally we discussed three key insights to telling a story:

1. Arcs
- Story structure is critical but chronology does not matter (think Pulp Fiction). You just want your story to follow an interesting pattern.

2. Start wide, cull many stories before cutting
- Don’t bore your audience with superfluous information that doesn’t add to the story.

3. Know when to shut up
- Don’t explain everything. Let the audience draw their own conclusions and interpretations.

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