The Story’s in the Telling

You’ve probably already heard loads about the FI Video Collective from Molly B., but today I’d like to touch on an aspect of production that tends to go under-appreciated by most folks who work in that world. Maybe “under-appreciated” is the wrong word… “under-estimated?” “unnoticed?” Neither of those work either. It’s a sort of nuanced thing, what I’m trying to get at.

Most people who consider themselves creatives remember themselves as ALWAYS being such — as children, playing pretend in imaginary worlds with a knack for theatrics and storytelling through artwork, sounds, or other means. I certainly remember playing out (needlessly overcomplicated) story lines with plastic toys from Happy Meals — I don’t ever remember a time when a simple creative activity wasn’t touched by a story in the background. There was always pretext, context, and a greater structure or system that guided my creative decision-making.

This is already sounding kind of pompous, but bear with me. I guess what I’m trying to say is this: in my most recent project, I had to adopt the position of someone who isn’t used to making “creative translations,” or connecting one form of creative expression to another. Creatives are generally well-acquainted with conceptualizing ideas while dipping in and out of the possibilities of one art form to another. (For example, a videographer like Max can be told an idea for a story, and his brain will naturally generate ideas of composition and staging while also considering potential audio and graphic components, and he can visualize how all those things would synthesize into one final product.)

Since embarking on the scripting phase of the FIVC, it’s become clear that we need to provide participants with an idea of how to adapt words into visuals — specifically, visuals that propel a narrative. I took on the task of making this educational tool, and it really forced me to reflect on habits that I take for granted.

I wrote a script for myself that breaks down a split-script document into its separate parts, and then goes on to explain how to use those separate parts to construct a piece of sequential art — namely, a storyboard. Over and over again I found myself back-tracking over what I’d written, imagining a student that wouldn’t know what “shot,” “frame,” or “beat” meant. I left those words out, would I still be clear enough? How much can you expect someone to know off the bat? Can you expect anything?

I understand why some production artists come off as snobs (and some people totally are snobs), but I think at times, there’s also a weird language barrier that develops when people get engrossed in their craft — they forget that most people don’t understand the special codes and words and inside jokes that come along with a specialization. For some disciplines this might not matter as much (I used to work at an HVAC office and felt really OK not knowing ventilation-speak)… but when it comes to creative processes like filmmaking and music-making, it can be a very negative thing. The last thing you want to do as a collaborative creative (or collaborative anything) is make people feel intimidated or discouraged to participate before they understand what’s going on.

That was a big tangent, but hey — this is my blog post!

Long story short, making this latest piece of educational media made me very conscientious of the privilege I have as someone who gets to work creatively the majority of the time. Overthinking aside, I really enjoyed the process of breaking down scripting and storyboarding into something a beginner could understand. Saying you’re “turning words into pictures” is so vague and contains such a broad range of possibilities… it’d be easy for anyone to get overwhelmed. I’m hopeful that this video will help FI students wrap their heads around how to “turn words into pictures” in a more defined way that’ll help them develop their own storytelling voices.

As I think about it, “creative translations” might just be another way of wording the idea of multimodal learning. The steps of acquiring or creating material, analyzing it, translating it, and synthesizing it into something that expands its original significance into something bigger, or better, or different are all so important to becoming a better learner. Without the ability to translate an idea into a different perspective (or in this case, a different medium), your ideas stay stagnant. Or worse, dormant.

Uh oh. Is this blog post turning into a connected learning soapbox session? (;

I’ll leave this stream of consciousness at that. Take a gander at ‘Script to Storyboard 101’ for an introduction to creative translations. More updates to come as the FIVC rolls on!




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