Storytelling can sometimes feel so ‘subjective’ that it’s easier to avoid it all. It’s almost easier to make everything ‘abstract.’
But consider the that storytelling is like music, there are scales and structures that work best. Only when you know the rules can you begin to break them.
If you want to make better films – the number one key is learning story. You don’t need more gear, or a better camera. You need better story.
So let’s learn together – this battery method will add more energy to any film. This is based off a book by Robert McKee called Story. Robert McKee has major respect for his skills and expertise, he truly knows what it means to tell an amazing story (seriously, look him up!)
A lot of us our awful at structuring story. Even in our day-to-day life when sharing stories with friends, we have no idea what we’re doing. We look at comedians on TV and we think, wow these people are so amazing and brilliant. We seem to these jokes are just rolling off of their tongue as if they’re making them up on the spot.
What’s interesting is these comedians spent weeks months, even years preparing these jokes. The jokes are written with a structure and with intention. They are masters at energizing stories.
We can do the same with our stories. I would challenge you to become a better storyteller. That’s what I’m working on in my life right now. Sometimes I use ‘abstract’ as a crutch in my filmmaking. Even abstract pieces need to have some narrative structure.
So what is the basic structure of story?
The general overview is this:
STORY is made up of ACTS
ACTS are made up of SEQUENCES
SEQUENCES are made up of SCENES
SCENES are made up of BEATS
For the most part a master storyteller will polarize each of these. You will go from fully negative to fully positive with different emotions and values. To give your story energy – you literally need to apply The Battery Method.
Timid (-) to Brave (+)
Good (+) to Corrupt (-)
LOTR start (- a timid hobbit)
LOTR end (+ savior of middle earth)
Spiderman start (- a nerdy teenager)
Spiderman end (+ a super strong hero)
Breaking Bad start (+ a loving chem teacher)
Breaking Bad end (- a meth drug lord)
It’s a bit simplistic, but you get the idea.
Acts, sequences, scenes, and even beats need to experience this polarization. The more you polarize values and emotions better.
Let’s look at how to polarize beats of a scene.
Say a woman is insecure about a job interview putting together her resume (-). Her friend reviews it and says it looks amazing giving her confidence (+). She goes to print it out, the printer totally leaks ink all over the paper (-). She adjusts the jammed printer, and gets a crisp copy finally (+). She puts on her interview dress shirt, but notices that some of the ink spilled on the shirt (-). Her friend let’s her borrow her power suit (+).
Anyways, you get the idea – creating tension throughout this single scene with these beats. The scene as a whole can take on the tension too. An insecure woman (-) gains confidence for her job interview (+).
So take a project your working on. How can you start adding in more energy? How can you add in more tension using the battery method?
Comment and tell me your take away. I love learning from you guys and hearing your insight.