When it comes to storytelling, there are two questions. The second question is: How can the story be told with maximum impact? This is where the dramaturgy for beginners comes into play.
The first question is that of the content of the story. What’s this about? What do they say?
- Dramaturgy is the how, while the content of the story is the was. Determining, how a story is best told is the task of the dramaturgy.
- The task of the dramaturgy is to tell a story better.
- There are six proven dramaturgical tools.
- Storyforming deals with the content (what is told). Storytelling with the question of how the story is told – and thus with the dramaturgy.
Dramaturgy for beginners
Birth and death may be highly existential for the affected person and his environment. If you were baptized Louis XVI., they even make history.
From the narrator’s point of view, however, they are only cornerstones for everything that happened in the phase in between. This phase should only be narrated as a fast motion story in exceptional cases.
Dramaturgy in film means: telling content (stories) better, stronger, more effectively.
And in between, pretty much anything can happen that the human imagination allows. That is why storytelling for film and video needs a framework and a structural principle with which life facts can be transported in a way that is comprehensible to a broad audience.
The dramaturgy of film today…
Today’s film dramaturgy offers such a framework, not only for advanced students, but also for beginners in storytelling.
The roots of film dramaturgy lie, from a theatrical point of view, not only with the ancient Greeks, but also, to a large extent, with the events surrounding the hapless Bourbon King Louis XVI: without the French Revolution, which was set in motion during his reign, neither the Corsican general would have been able to succeed, nor would there have been any restoration as a consequence of his empire.
… has its roots in the theatre
Exactly two hundred years ago, authors and theatre operators in a restored Europe realised that although they could recall the horrors of the past, this was only appreciated by the audience if, at the end of the day, good triumphed on stage.
The scenes required for this could always be arranged in a three-act structure: In the first scene, first the conflict of the film’s main character against evil, then the fight, and finally good wins. The classical film dramaturgy was born.
At the beginning of the last century, the film pioneers adopted this structural principle. It guarantees Hollywood and the gaming industry billions in sales to this day and has made a worldwide career as a happy ending.
What can be deduced from this for storytelling in image films and for commissioned productions, without having to attend a seminar with experts in storytelling? So dramaturgy for beginners also means being aware of the roots.
Beginning, middle and end
It is true that the Greek philosopher Aristotle is repeatedly credited with the authorship of the statement (often quoted by beginners in film dramaturgy, but nevertheless rather silly) that every story has a beginning, a middle and an end.
That’s double nonsense!
On the one hand there is no such quotation in Aristotle. And on the other hand, the beginning and the end are undisputedly relevant to every story. But they are far from being history in themselves.
The thing with the height of fall
Not the beginning and the end, but the before and the after, and thus all things in between, give the characters and the story its value in a script. They have to be in the foreground for the communication with film and video.
This insight leads straight to one of the most frequently used and technically extremely powerful tools: contrast.
Television makers like to talk about drop height in this context.
The greater the loss for the characters, the more insurmountable a problem for the audience, the more the plot captivates the audience.
That’s why in the feature film the heroes defeat larger-than-life villains all the time.
On the way to the happy end, even with a simple dramaturgy for beginners, surprise, delay and knowledge advantage are welcome guests in the narrator’s toolbox. They all guarantee the fascination of the moving image in the canon with the cinematic tools of the trade. Thanks to them, situations become stories.
Without the right dramaturgy, the most beautiful video calculation is for the foxes, even subjective perception can’t change anything and not only does the storytelling in the image film go down the drain.
Without dramaturgy, the viewer is sitting in the wrong film, so even with off voice and excuses, the cinema in his head can no longer inspire.
One could go so far as to say that without a skilful approach to dramaturgy, the future of commissioned films is in jeopardy. Skilfully bypassing, that also means: bypassing the compulsion for history (more about this here).
Dramaturgy for beginners: 6 dramaturgical means
Dramaturgy, like storytelling (and much else in film and video), is a craft with the potential to become art. Without talent, the road leads to a dead end.
The following elements, among others, have proven themselves as tools of film dramaturgy for communicating with film and video, from which you can also benefit as a beginner:
- Advantage in knowledge
The above list is neither a recipe nor an exhaustive enumeration. It does not guarantee successful films on its own.
The dramaturgy is the way a story is told. What the story is, story forming answers.
For storytelling, both storyforming and storytelling are of utmost importance. The difference between these two terms is explained here .
Story forming and storytelling can be different as in “Shallows” or, as in Mr. Robot and “Son of Saul”, they can run almost synchronously.
Test for beginners in dramaturgy: the Bourbon test!
The next time you see a TV spot on television, please try what is said to be the “Bourbon test” in memory of the unfortunate descendant of the Sun King:
Ask yourself if the film that wants to change your feelings and thoughts in little more than twenty seconds is just a guillotine that rushes down your wallet? Or if there’s more?
And please do not argue with limited budgets and the dramaturgy for beginners! Cinematographers, directors, casting agents know
The universe can be reflected in the eye of a single talented actor. Also in commercials, Bullet Time recordings anyway, or even, but then please without actors, in CEO videos.