Screenwriting and emotional Rhythm

Documentary may seem as an un-structured genre of film, appearing to directly present the truth of a reality to an audience. Although this to an extent is true, as exploring unmediated topics/situations relies on the information provided by the subjects of the documentary, much organisation is conducted pre-filming in order to create a film which has the ability to grip the audiences attention. The spontaneity of documentaries are usually reflected through the footage of film, as it is the closest form of film which presents reality. However all films have a narrative, a planned narrative which takes the viewer through a journey, an emotional journey which aims to draw the viewer into another world, to the point that they are so immersed in this world that they begin to engage with either the plot and characters. David believes ‘the experience of watching a ‘bad’ film is often a matter of being painfully aware of the passing of time; of observing the passing parade of colour and movement without getting involved. In effect, the emotional rhythm has dried up.’ David:2014,p50).

Davids essay ‘Screenwriting and Emotional Rhythm’ explores the theories and methods behind attaining audiences attention through the form of screenwriting. One main scientific fact which really caught my attention was the importance of surprise. Jonah Lehrer suggests that recent discoveries in neuroscience reveal that the human brain is ‘designed to amplify the shock of mistaken predictions’ (2009: 43). (Lehrer cited David:2014) Therefore if a narrative is too simplistic or predictable, neurologists have found that the observers loose interest as it doesn’t challenge their expectations. This statement seems obvious to viewers, as predictable story lines tend to evoke quite dull reactions, however when decoded as to why audiences feel like this, it clarifies the strong relationship between the emotion and narrative. Audiences need to be kept on their feet and feel the urge to know more in order to sustain their attention. Typically, these predictable narratives can be found in linear narrative- the beginning, middle and the end of a plot all set out in a the timely order. I have decided that as my documentary narrative will not be constructed in a linear sequence. My intentions are to film footage of conversations between families, whilst also record interviews of each member of the family and perhaps overlay them over other scenes of transition shots. The reason I want to organise my documentary like this, other than for the purpose of visual aesthetics, is to maintain the audiences interest by keeping them curious along to the sequel of events that are revealed. I believe that If I just structured the narrative in a linear mode of ‘A family from Iran left because of a revolution, now they are here and this is what they think of it, the end’- informatively it may be interesting although it would not encourage the audience to empathise or build a connection with the characters- which is vital for a successful film.

As the director/producer of this documentary, my duty is to determine the emotional rhythm within the narrative. The main emotions I aim to evoke empathy, shock and concern. Thus whilst constructing my narrative and story- boarding it is essential to constantly acknowledge my intended audience reaction/emotion as it is a main factor which drives the success of the film.

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