I have been thinking about ¡Story! and how/what to write about it for months. Today my brain finally formulated concrete, latch-on-to-able state-able concepts that can represent both my beliefs about story and basic principles that I practice every day in my work as a filmmaker.
My first epiphany was about moments. Stories are a series of moments – defined 1., as “a very brief period of time,” and 2. as “importance.” In other words, the beginnings, middles and ends of stories, as well as the plot points and, of course, the details, are all moments. This epiphany was so unburdening and such an “Aha” or “Eureka” personal event. But my next epiphany was jarring and almost shocking: Is story about what I want to express to other people and engage them in, regardless of whether I believe they will be easily engaged and understand (without any difficulty) what it is that I’m showing on the screen?; or is it about expressing events (real or fictional) in my own voice (from my own point of view) in a manner in which both the subtext and my intention in telling the story is accessible to other people.
Obviously, there have been a lot of writers who told stories that they themselves wanted to tell regardless of whether those stories would be understood, would resonate with the writers’ contemporaries. On the other hand, there have been storytellers like one of my bipolar peers whose real name probably was not Jeff, who live as if the world was inside their heads; and who either aren’t concerned with being understood or who presume any stories that they tell will be understood by everyone because the world is inside their heads.
And then, on the other hand (or, probably, one of a number of other hands) there are storytellers who tell stories that everyone knows already – and that’s exactly what they want to hear; as well as storytellers who tell stories based on archetypes with which all of us are familiar, even if those stories arc or resolve in unexpected ways or have unpredictably disturbing endings.
I care how people feel. But I find it difficult to care what other people think. Opinion, even when formed on an emotional foundation, is not emotion. And there is a grayscale of skewing along which each of us forms opinions. The more limited our direct experience in – or even, interest in or engagement by – one or another sphere of human endeavor, the more skewed our opinion (and point of view) is likely to be.
As a storyteller I try to create archetypal characters with whom any other human can empathize. The environments I create for those characters, however, are skewed. I place archetypes alone in minimal landscapes with limited, stripped down references to society.
As a storyteller, I am interested in the individual’s experience of his/her own existence regardless of society.