Tech And Storytelling: A Question Of Definition.

Many events and discussions dealing with “Tech And Storytelling” like the previously mentioned talk in the “Future Dimension Of Production” leave the impression that it is necessary to be very clear what we mean with “storytelling” in the digital era. “Storytelling” has gone a long way from campfire tales to complex fabrications in the digital era.

Traditionally, we think of a writer telling a fictional story in a novel or the writer of a screenplay developing a storyline and a script when it comes to storytelling.

But storytelling as a term is now used in a much broader sense. “Storytelling” is now used in meanings were there isn’t any longer any connection with some written material or even fiction.  It appears in context with 360 video or virtual reality for example.

Therefore it seems crucial that we are very clear about what we mean by storytelling in a specific context. We need to use and understand terminology in context.

It becomes particularly important when it comes to “Tech and storytelling”. In the traditional ways of filmmaking “tech” doesn’t play a big role in the creation of a story(idea) or in script-development. Even more, writers were not supposed to think about too much about camera angles, equipment or what kind of digital effects will be involved.

We think of development and production as a linear process: creating an idea, concept, storyline, treatment, script, packaging, pre-production, production, postproduction and submission.

It is indeed difficult to think there are other options exist because film-making is a controlled process with a differentiated structure in financing.

Looking back a few years “storytelling” in the TV and in the Movie business was all about “development” when books beginning with Syd Fields “Screenplay” came out and a whole development industry with consultants, classes, workshops etc. emerged. The development people were concerned about dramaturgy, three acts, character-arcs and psychology became a religion.

There was a belief that by watching and analyzing films some sort of “natural laws” could be derived. The result was often predictable, formulaic films with too much psychology. Even today the development process is often ruled by consultants or developers without technological awareness.

However, there is indeed a change in workflow. Independent filmmakers work in news ways and the availability of cameras and software like editing software is fundamentally changing the way of creating.

Today it is indeed possible to try things in a technical way before the writing process is finished. What we need to be careful about is in what kind of context it does happen. Traditional production workflows for a bigger cinema film and TV-fiction-projects will always need a solid script, simply because it is necessary for any further planning like the calculation.

In the alternative filmmaking, we see that it is possible to figure out new ways due to the availability of equipment and also the broad access to knowledge. If we want to try some simple compositions we could do a test run with little effort and perhaps some help from YT-tutorials.

Here it is also possible to get into a “feedback process”: technical simulations of a scene or an effect could actively stimulate storytelling and improve the creative process.

In some cases, it can be interesting to do something without the typical script-development process and learn a unique “film language” where things are expressed, which can’t be put into words. In good cinema films and also video productions there was always a level which wasn’t on the paper.

Thus the new development of “tech and storytelling” is a chance to revive filmmaking by exploring the medium’s own and unique language.

This is not about finding a new success formula since we have seen the problems with a narrow-minded formulaic development approach.

The best way might be not an “either-or” thinking but an open-minded approach to filmmaking.

In any way the “terminology in context” is crucial: we should know first what storytelling exactly means in our specific project and what is the role of “tech” in our creative process.

Furthermore also traditional film and TV-production should benefit from strong awareness about the “tech-side”: productions can be much more efficient if there is not only a script-evaluation but an early consideration of VFX and further on. Shot-List can be sent to the VFX-supervisor for a first evaluation. This can be also a creative process with considering potential alternatives.

Endurance Entertainment GmbH has experience in both traditional storytelling and the technical side of filmmaking. When it comes to non-traditional film production we can help to identify what exactly the storytelling process in a given project means, for example, audiovisual content for platforms like social media.

Further posts will be dedicated to being helpful in understanding “terminology in context” in different fields of production.

Peter Engelmann