Since the dawning of time, people have been telling each other stories. Stories surround us everyday, from the films and television that we watch, to the books that we read, the photographs that we see and the music that we hear. Even in our day-today lives, we are telling stories when we recall a funny incident with our friends at a bar, or repeating a bit of gossip we’ve heard about so-and-so. Our world is built around stories, they educate our children, terrify our parents and amuse our friends.
It is film, among many other forms, which posits itself as one of the most impactful and accessible ways to tell a story. It is in the editing process where we see a story grow and develop…it’s often said that if production is where the film is conceived, then post-production is where it is born.
In fact, film is a relatively new way to tell a story; it’s only a little over 100 years since the pioneering experiments of Eadweard Muybridge and Thomas Edison at the turn of the 20th century changed the way we tell stories forever. In that time, film, it could be argued, has evolved more rapidly than perhaps any art form in history (if we are to include the advancements in CGI). It has become a complex and sophisticated medium, allowing audiences across the world to see and experience everything from heavenly dreams to maniacal nightmares.
Like never before, creating film has been democratized. Access to editing software is getting more and more easy, cameras are getting cheaper and more people are willing and eager to learn the craft. Today, each day, filmmakers from all over the world, from every social-class, from practically every country, of all abilities and of all ages, share and upload new video content on a unprecendeted scale. Never before has artistic output being so readily shared and available to watch. Never before have there been so many stories accessible to digest.
Nonetheless, many themes of dramatic work, tragedy, comedy and revenge for example, we still see in cinema today. There are several fundamental components about how to construct films with these themes: character arcs, key plot points, character depth etc, and these elements can be studied ad infinitum, from books and by watching films, however, I want to recognise that, aside from these things, film has the awesome power to affect.
I’ve always felt that the strongest stories are the ones that say something, about life, about society. Stories have the ability to make us look inwards, and to discover things about ourselves that we might not have had the chance to otherwise. It can challenge our preconceptions, and give us new perspectives, on both an individual scale and a societal level as well.
As an editor and filmmaker, I try to follow the Free Cinema Manifesto which, in part, states that: “An attitude means a style. A style means an attitude.”In essence, this means that your own attitude to a subject should inform your style and visa versa. Similarly, the The Free Cinema-ists also wrote that “No film can be ‘too personal’” meaning that there is no limit to the amount of “yourself” or your personal experience that you inject into the film. This makes films uniquely personal expressions, and on several degrees connect us in our common “human” experiences of life.
So for me, telling a good story is about putting ‘oneself’ into a film emotionally or psychologically. In addition to this, I think using film’s power to connect to people, it’s a good way to say something unique, to make a critique or to voice an opinion.
So here’s the Free Cinema Manifesto (abridged), as written in 1956 by Lindsay Anderson and Lorenza Mazzetti:
As filmmakers we believe that
No film can be too personal.
The image speaks. Sound amplifies and comments.
Size is irrelevant. Perfection is not an aim.
An attitude means a style. A style means an attitude.
An article by Nick Jones.