Movies Lie. So Do People. That’s What Communication Theory Says About It.

4 types of lies Red Black Grey White
Why not every lie is bad | © Photo: A Lie to Die For (TV series)

Not only movies lie. People lie too. That’s nothing new in this world. Yet many people don’t know that there are four kinds of lies. Knowing them makes sense in the media industry – which, as is well known, includes video producers – and not only there.

Imagine you are at the shoot and your actor is not very motivated. You can already see without a camera that he or she is far from the usual top form today. What do you do? Praise? Or criticize?

You should know:

  • There is no such thing as a lie. There are four different kinds.
  • The four types, which must not all be lumped together, are: the white, the grey, the black and the red lie.
  • Anyone who thinks he can do without lies does not understand how the human brain works and how we deal with the truth.

Four kinds of untruths

The actor with poor daytime form mentioned at the beginning is a good example of the conflict you can have as a film producer, director or cameraman on film and have in a video production. After all, actors in particular are paid for something that is difficult to determine with a yardstick.

Artistic achievements have a lot to do with one’s own state of mind, but also with motivation. If you have only known your actor for a short time and think you know that he is a delicate plant, you might want to praise him despite his low form. You are lying with that. How is that to be evaluated?

Not only moral standards help you with this question, but also four categories of lies, which are distinguished by communication theory.

The criterion for differentiation is the question who benefits from the untruth.

1 The red lie

There are untruths that are not only hurtful, but simply destructive and completely unnecessary. The liar often does not even consider whether he is harming himself with the lie. Motive for such a lie, from which nobody profits, can be revenge or the joy of destroying an actual state.

Red lies are therefore always and without exception a No Go. Those who use them expose themselves and do not belong on a film set or in human society.

2 The black lie

With black lies, there is a party that profits from the lie. So it deliberately doesn’t tell the truth for its own benefit.

If you do a casting with amateur actresses and, despite #MeToo, are out to cross borders, you will in this case, for example, give great praise to an attractive but completely untalented actress and promise her the blues from heaven. Coincidentally, this is combined with the offer that the girl would have a good chance to get the role in question with some private tutoring.

If she wants to, the casting assistant would teach her these tips and tricks himself, if necessary, completely unselfishly. This, although he himself does not believe for a second that the woman has more talent than a kitchen chair.

3 The grey lie

Here we come, for example, with the actor having a bad day. Of course, the same applies to cameramen, directors, assistant directors and other film-makers.

If you praise a performance here that is not very praiseworthy, both parties might benefit. The actor gains self-confidence and thus finds his usual form. Or even to an undreamt-of peak performance. As a producer, the lie saves you from having to repeat the scenes, which helps the budget. Or even worse, thanks to the lie you no longer have to consider replacing the actor who is next to his existing actor with another person.

You see, the grey lie is not as easy to classify as red or black lies are. It requires a differentiated view. A moral lightning condemnation falls short here.

4 The white lie

If only the liar profits from the untruth, but not the liar, communication theory speaks of a white lie. The extreme case of white lies occurs when a person damages himself with a false statement just to protect another person from harm.

In our example for the illustration of the four types of lies, who certifies a good performance of an actor on the film set, although this is not the case, just to spare the actor a humiliation although there is little chance that the performance on that day will improve, has resorted to a white lie as a producer. The actor doesn’t lose face, but someone has to pay for it. This is not the person in question.


Regardless of what kind of lie it is in a particular case, you can learn from it: it behaves with the untruth itself in the theory of communication as with many other things. Usually things are not black or white, they are somewhere in between.

Therefore, knowing the four types of lies will help you.

Whether things are black-grey or white, the four categories will help you find your way. Because one thing is certain in the video and film business and for storytelling: you will not realize a single project without getting into situations where you encounter at least two of these four types.

This article was automatically translated into English using AI. If you would like to help us improve the quality, we would be happy to hear from you.

About Carlo P. Olsson 84 Articles
Carlo P. Olsson accompanies the production of films, videos and TV series on behalf of companies, agencies and production companies. In his spare time he plays ice hockey and is engaged in baroque sound drama.

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