During one of his his workshops the famous script writing guru Robert Mckee stated:
There are two keys for an audience’s emotional involvement in a story:
Authenticity = Is your story credible & authentic, does the audience believe in the world of that story?
We’ve all had the experience of watching a movie we didn’t believe. Why is it that we can watch some movies and easily suspend disbelief? Why, with certain films, can we easily lend our belief system into fantastic, death defying situations while other films lose credibility portraying everyday situations?
Part of the answer is genre. Each genre has rules based on historic practices that audiences have come to accept and expect. As long as you stay within the genre rules, you’re on solid ground.
The films story itself establishes rules. An example of this is, a super hero movie is believable as long as the super hero doesn’t obtain or lose super powers at the will of the writer. If the super hero gained a new power just in time to save the world the film would lose credibility. But, if the superhero plays by the rules of the story and cause and effect unfold according to these rules, the situations are believable and you’re safe. The authenticity I’m talking about includes this and a much subtler level of believability.
As a director you must be an authority of the world your characters live in.
As a director you must be an authority of the world your characters live in. http://t.co/kqyhQEZIPa
— John Holser (@JohnHolser) March 6, 2015
While the audience doesn’t actively decipher our films for cause and effect, the screenwriter and the director must. http://t.co/36B4179aFM
— John Holser (@JohnHolser) March 5, 2015
This is one of the reasons screenplays go through several rewrites and why experienced directors do a thorough script analysis. Believable cause and effect unfolds with the plot points. When this is done well the story is engaging and gains momentum. When a director fully understands the film’s world, it’s sub-world and the back story, He can use cause and effect to manipulate the audience’s expectations and set them up for an unexpected outcome.
Have you seen a film that you think excels in this area? Leave a comment and share your insights. You’re participation will help us all. I just saw THE DALLAS BUYERS CLUB and I think Director Jean-MarcValle’e nailed it. It was raw, very uncomfortable at times and believable through out. The only moment I had to extend my disbelief a little was when Ron (Matthew McConaughy) spiffs up for a date and it turn’s out to be with the doctor. This felt a little forced to me as I wasn’t convinced that he had captured a slice of her romantic heart. It wasn’t a poke in the eye moment, but is was a bump in the road.
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If you liked this blog I’ve got few more that focus on understanding story form a directors POV. Check out these links.