2016 is the year of the moving image, but how do you make the most of them? The third and final part of our special film issue is all about messages and storytelling. Our expert is David Stavenow of Pophunters Film & Television, sought after director and scriptwriter, who knows how to tell a story in film and how to get the message out. Let’s gets started!
Hello David! Can you tell us about your work?
“I’m a director and scriptwriter with 30 years’ experience working in film. A common misconception is that the filmmaker is primarily a technician. That’s not quite true. A filmmaker is someone that understands people and knows how to tell a story. So I see myself primarily as a storyteller.”
Why is it so important to make use of storytelling?
“Simply because we are not made to remember the facts. We are much more comfortable with experiences and stories. It does not matter how many times you read: ‘Sunsets are beautiful.’ You’ll still never truly understand until you have actually experienced a sunset.”
Here are two films that have the same purpose, to inform people about disabilities. Which film do you remember best?
(For non-Swedish speakers: In this film the seeing woman encounters a world that is completely adapted to blind people. She wants to get urgent information about something, but is constantly referred to information in Braille characters. The man offers her to come to an information meeting for seeeing people, that is fully booked months ahead. The viewer gets to experience how people with disabilities are left out. The opposite of hearing facts about being disabled like in the first film.)
What is successful storytelling according to you?
“It is really about four things. First, you must have a story, something worth telling. Why? Well, as human beings we are not fully as rational as we like to think. Our decisions are very much guided by our emotions. Then you need to arouse feelings. What you want to tell should touch people. The third thing is about insight. What should the viewer feel, think and do? That insight leads to the fourth and final point: You want to change the viewer’s state of mind in such a powerful way so that the message becomes the viewer's own. The viewer wants to act in accordance to that message.”
What is the most common mistake when trying to tell a story in film?
“A common mistake is that many want to give it all away. They want to tell it all but the results are much better if you hold back a little. That is if you want to activate the viewer in any way. Be brave and end before all has been said. Watch this film, it’s a great example of this.”
“If the last movie would have had a happy ending, as viewers we may have felt satisfied and not compelled to act. However, with this ending we are not satisfied. The film has changed our mindset to the point that we feel compelled to act. That’s how our brains work. The last bit of a famous tune has to be played, and a happy ending must resolve an unhappy situation. Otherwise the ends of the rope are not tied together.”
So where to begin?
“We often hear: ‘We want to put out a small video snippet on the web’. It suggests that the important thing is the actual video format, not the message. If you have a message, it will often suggest why you want to communicate something. Always start with asking yourself why. When you know WHY you are saying something, then follow up with WHAT and the HOW will fall into place.”
That’s how to create a good film that reaches out.
This is David Stavenow’s reliable recipe:
• Focus on ONE story at a time.
• Talk like your target group. Get to know them!
• Don’t make the film longer than you can hold the viewer’s interest.
• Let the experiences bring forward the facts.
• Donâ€™t say what you mean, show it instead.
Why not like this?
Thank you David Stavenow of Pophunters Television & Film for sharing your knowledge with us! Please visit Pophunters’