Category Archives for Storytelling
Have you ever found out at a later date, that the history you experienced or believed, wasn’t exactly the truth? Or that the truth you thought you knew, wasn’t?
About 3 months of my recent history suddenly changed on me, and I was able to relive my past as it was, and not as I thought it was.
Confused? Here, have some muesli.
Music by Spatula, the song Minute Hand, from their album Even The Thorny Acacia.
In late December 2005, I went into hiding for a few days, to conduct a narrative experiment. I’ve only just had the time to finalise the written commentary. Note that the video is in a particular widescreen format, and will need to be opened outside of Ant or any other client which annoyingly scales enclosures.
Part of what I do, is teach storytelling, and recently I’ve become interested in master plots, or story templates, and how they’ve been changing in recent years. With the advent of business/corporate storytelling, and the expectations of a wired and more worldly generation of youth, big media are changing the way they tell stories, both in the presentation of news, and the narrative complexity of many recent TV series.
In many films, the high level plot can be quite obvious, and if you’re privvy to storytelling techniques, can often be distracting from the actual film if it is not directed and edited well. The structure of plot, is well known to movie studios, and every movie which is made, has been well vetted to conform to their expectations of what a story is.
I was drawn to The Matrix because I’d just recently watched it again on DVD, and was fascinated that the film has such traditional storytelling patterns within it, yet they’re mostly obscured at a conscious level, because the filmmaking is so exceptional. I figured it would be an interesting academic excercise to map out all the plot points, and see if the film, if reduced to just those plot points, would be as good, understandable and recognisable. Thus I embarked upon The Five Minute Matrix.
Before I jump into the actual breakdown of the plot, please be aware that this is purely an academic and educational excercise, and I’m publishing it here so that people new to storytelling may learn a little more about it. The film is published by Warner Bros., it isn’t free, so if you find this post useful please buy and watch the full version. You’ll get a lot more out of that with my commentary than this shortened educational version. Give the Wachowski brothers the income they deserve.
While the exact number of plot points in any story depends upon the level you’re looking at, my particular level of interest gave me 148 for The Matrix. A quick division shows that to come in under 5 minutes, each plot point would be just 2 seconds on film, giving it the feel of a video game speed run. So that’s what I aimed for.
But first, I set a few rules:
- Each plot point must be shown and understandable.
- Each trademark scene (not necessarily a plot point) from the film must be shown to some degree.
- The speed of the footage and audio must not change. e.g. a long scene must not be speed up in order to shorten it.
- The selected frames for both video and audio, must be sequential as they are in the film. e.g. if scene 5 is a shorter explanation of a plot device, but the device needs to be explained for scene 4, then scene 1, 2, or 3 must be used to explain the device.
- The film must under 5 minutes in length.
- The film must be as recognisable and the plot as understandable, as the original film. (What I discovered was that it is even more understandable in the 5 minute version)
Note that I have time shifted some audio and video, to reduce redundancy. e.g. some video segments contain audio from either before or after that segment. However the sequential ordering of the individual video and audio tracks, as in rule 4, is respected.
Sometimes several plot points turn up in a scene, and sometimes a scene isn’t part of the plot, but a cool effect which the film is known for. For this reason, instead of going through the plot points, I’ve numbered segments of the film, 72 in all, and the running commentary below corresponds with that numbering.
So here we go…
- First order of business in any story, is the setup, defining the main protagonist, and their journey. Long narratives, such as film and novels, include several sub-journeys, called sub-plots, when other characters may also maintain a viewer’s interest throughout the film. (This is even more common in recent TV series, where there can be up to a dozen sub-plots, and it isn’t clear which or whether there is a main one. This is mainly targetted at the DVD market, as complex multiplexed plots help sales of the box set, which is a big market for the TV networks at the moment. And you thought they were just in it for the narrative? But more on that in another post.) The film starts with some dialog which contains the two lines “You like him don’t you?” and “Morpheus believes he is The One!” This first line, spoken by Cypher, sets up the sub-plot that Trinity may have fallen for Neo (we’ve yet to learn his name), and as we learn later, her struggle with knowing that she’s supposed to fall for The One. Thus from the outset, we know that Trinity is the love interest, but at the same time she fulfills part of the mentor archetype, helping Neo go through what she’s already been through. The second line sets up the protagonist, Neo, and his journey, to find out whether he is The One. Basically, these two lines can be considered a summary of the two main plots in The Matrix. That’s pretty traditional stuff to have these introduced so early, and even posed as a question.
- With science fiction, the setup also introduces the universe in which the story takes place, and the physics which constrains the plot, as we’ll see later on. Segments 2 through 5 introduce this universe, and several effects that will be used through the film. If you introduce them early, then you can use them when it is important that the viewer follow the plot, and they won’t be distracted.
- We are now introduced to the voice on the phone (Trinity) who may have fallen for Neo. The following few segments show that she’s able to fight and perform stunts beyond what is possible in a normal universe, including the slow motion rotation at the beginning of this segment. Again, it is important to introduce this effect now, so it doesn’t distract us later, and to show that she is talented enough to be a minor mentor figure for Neo.
- We are introduced to the concept of the phone. We don’t know why it is important, but we now know that it is.
- The phone is explained as a way out of this world, which in itself explains how she can perform those stunts. Time to introduce the antagonist. Like Neo, we don’t yet know Agent Smith’s name.
- The setup is all but done, we have our secondary characters, we’ve introduced the universe, and eventually the antagonist. Although there are a lot of pending questions, we can now start telling the story. And of course the final step in the set up, before the pace of the action slows down again, is to introduce the protagonist. Neo is in many ways what we’d call a catalyst protagonist. We never really learn enough about him to care too much, and he has few and far between moments of decision. His role is ultimately to carry the overall story, and allow the sub-plots to develop around him. Because he’s the one (no pun intended) that we’re going to follow, we need to know at least a bit about him, what motivates him, what’s his personal journey. That journey is set up here. You may notice that the number of Neo’s apartment is 101. Read into that what you will.
- Earlier, Neo was told to follow the white rabbit, but it is here that Neo realises that something is amiss, that someone was able to either see into the future, or at least see someone coming to his door, and then know where they will eventually end up. Neo’s smart, and so gives the message credance.
- Neo meets Trinity. We already know that Trinity may be in love with Neo, so we trust what she has to say, we know she’s on Neo’s side. The tension here is whether Neo trusts her. We root for Neo, because only by accepting Trinity’s offer will we get answers to the questions that have already been asked. We’ve been tempted with a story, and we now want to know more. This is the rising action. Secretly, we know he’ll accept, otherwise the story ends, but the pace and suspension of disbelief push those concerns out of our minds while watching. This is also the start of the love story sub-plot. A love story is usually one of either unrequited love, or forbidden love. In this case, it is arguably a mix of both, and you’ll see Trinity struggling with this sub-plot throughout the rest of the film. What takes it up a notch, is that if she really is in love, then he must be The One. Answering the question of who is The One, will decide Trinity’s fate, over which she feels and has no control.
- From all the unanswered questions, we now pick one to concentrate on, a mini-journey for our protagonist. We must now find out what The Matrix is, and the rest of the first third of the film, is dedicated to answering this question, and setting up plot devices for the middle third of the film.
- This is where the story of The Matrix begins. We are introduced to more of Neo’s life. I particularly like the boss telling him off. In the full length version of the film, this is a very slow paced and fairly long segment, and I’ve tried to keep it so in relation to the shortened film. This and the continually squeaking window cleaner, help to convey the fact that normal life is mundane and boring, which in effect makes Neo question even more, and more open to the risk of taking that next step with Trinity. The window cleaning platform is also reused later when referenced by Morpheus on the phone to Neo.
- We now meet Morpheus, the main mentor archetype in the film, and we’re also told that Neo knows of Morpheus, but doesn’t understand his full relevance to understanding The Matrix. As an audience, we don’t either, but we do know that Morpheus thinks Neo is The One (it was stated at the beginning of the film), and that Trinity trusts, if not believes, him. Therefore because we trust Trinity, Morpheus must also be one of the good guys. So again we root for Neo. Follow Morpheus’ instructions dude, we want to know what happens next!
- Neo fails for the second of several times throughout the film, and it is scenes like this which are intended to make him more human, more fallible, and therefore not The One. The first was failing to get to work on time, but there was not fall out from it. Failing in this scene, threatens his life. Neo thinks he is weighing up death by falling, against being caught by the police. In reality, it is the opposite, and Neo makes the obvious and incorrect choice. The main narrative device of The Matrix is the continuing and repeating successes and failures of Neo, such as this one, which make the rest of the characters struggle over whether or not he is The One. Incidentally, Neo only changes his mind on the matter a couple of times, it is everyone else who constantly flip back and forth. On film it seems trivial, but this is a key scene from the film.
- We finally learn more about the antagonist Agent Smith, however more importantly is that our antagonist and protagonist meet for the first time. Classic good/bad rivalry storytelling, and right on schedule. Interestingly enough, neither knows that the other is a principal character. Agent Smith’s objective is to get to Morpheus and take Zion. Neo’s objective is to find out what the Matrix is. This is fairly common in this type of story, and typically they will meet at least another two times before the film ends. In the middle of the film they will know their roles but neither will succeed against the other, and at the end, good will typically triumph over evil. In this segment we also learn a little more about Neo, his confidence and understanding of the law. The confidence is important, because later we are expected to believe that he would go from being a computer programmer to performing some fairly violent action, in the space of a few days.
- Whereas Trinity’s earlier stunts told us that she’s able to mess a little with the physics of Earth, we now introduce something that looks like the supernatural. As we learn more about The Matrix, we are given more questions to keep the balance. This is a science fiction film, not fantasy, so we ask ourselves, how will they explain the supernatural?
- Morpheus tries to arrange the third meeting of Neo and Morpheus’ people. Everything comes in threes, so this one will probably be successful, and later we find out that it is. Neo is also told for the first time that he is The One. After being threatened and scared by “the police”, and most likely ready to give up, The One is the next temptation he needs to get back into the journey.
- I included this segment about extracting the bug, because it was put into him earlier, and wouldn’t have made sense him not being able to be tracked by Smith. I could have just left out the initial scene, but it is the second one that shows Smith isn’t perfect either (the first was when Trinity escaped in the opening sequence). It shows that he needs devices like this to get the job done, and that even those can be defeated by people (Trinity for example) who aren’t the protagonist. Our heroes and anti-heroes need to be flawed, so they continually succeed and fail into a crescendo toward the end of the film.
- Neo meets Morpheus for the first time.
- The next few segments are a little confusing from a Five Minute Matrix perspective. Soon, Morpheus will offer Neo the red and the blue pill, where Morpheus refers to Alice and the rabbit hole. This sounds strange on its own, so this segment is included in order to justify why he would say it. This is a standard narrative technique, and is actually used throughout this and most films.
- Morpheus teases us by telling us in vague terms what the Matrix is. This just raises the tension for when Neo must decide whether the story continues.
- The red or the blue pill? A lot has been written about the meaning of this scene, so I won’t bother, but it is another key scene where Neo decides whether the story continues. Again, we have invested time in trying to find out what the Matrix is, and we root for Neo to take the right choice that will satisfy our want to know more. Amusingly, Morpheus says “take the blue pill, the story ends”. How true.
- “All I’m offering is the truth, nothing more.” Another line that’s had a lot of debate on fan sites. Here it is.
- Neo leaves the Matrix, and is welcomed to the real world. The images of the power plant are important, so that when Morpheus fully explains The Matrix later, we’ve seen at least some of the imagery, and can follow what he’s saying a bit easier. And again, we’re being teased with more questions, just as we have more answers.
- While we’re getting over the shock of what The Matrix partly is, we drop the pace a little and introduce the characters that will be used for the rest of the film. We find out we’re on a ship and we meet the crew.
- The Matrix is fully explained to Neo.
- While we’re getting over the shock of what The Matrix fully is, we drop the pace again and introduce the physics that will be used for the rest of the film. I’ve left out some of the fighting and stunts, because we’ve already seen it with Trinity at the beginning of the film. There’s also a short scene of the computer screen and Neo learning Tae Kwon Do. This is important to introduce here, because it is used later when Trinity learns to fly a helicopter.
- Having proved himself in the fighing, Neo fails at the jump. Another one of those “is he or isn’t he” scenes.
- The set up is that if you die in the Matrix, you die in the real world, which needs to be the case otherwise the film would fall apart. Morpheus could have said anything here to justify it, so long as the setup is made: even though The Matrix is a fake, you can still die there.
- This is the start of the second part of the film. The Oracle is introduced as possibly knowing whether Neo is The One, so this is our next step in the plot, to find the Oracle. In the second scene in this segment, Morpheus sets the stakes for the rest of Neo’s journey. If he is The One, he can virtually do anything. A lot to lose, a lot to gain. This is what rising action is all about.
- During the climax for the film, Sentinals threaten to destroy the ship, preventing Neo from completing his journey. So that time isn’t wasted and tension is not lost in the climax, we introduce them here, so they don’t need to be explained then.
- Our next destination for Neo is to get to the Oracle, in order to find out whether he is The One. We need some obstacle to his getting there, so we introduce a traitor, Cypher. In fact, Cypher seems to have just decided to turn traitor, which is a sub-plot in itself, his personal struggle with The Matrix and Morpheus, and his decision to take action. And by making a deal with Smith, we thus bring him back into Neo’s journey as well.
- Neo geos to the Oracle.
- Cypher sets up the double cross.
- At the Oracle, Neo meets others who are hopeful of being The One. This is also the first of a few scenes throughout the film where supernatural phenomena in our world are explained by The Matrix, the first time we as an audience have been teased with the thought, could this be a real story? Could we all be really in The Matrix? The spoon is also brought back later as a mantra of Neo’s when he and Trinity are on top of the lift. There is no spoon!
- Neo meets the Oracle. The vase smashing is required to prove that having only just met her, the Oracle’s word is believable. Thus it is more frustrating that she goes on to imply that Neo is not The One. Enough’s been written about this as well, so I’ll leave it at that. She also gives him his prophecy, that he will have to decide between Morpheus and himself, which is a classic “hero or mentor” choice plot point. e.g. Mentor Ben vs. Antagonist Darth in Star Wars IV.
- All this intrigue and set up of emotional risk, could simply be avoided if Neo would just talk to Morpheus, so we need a way to make sure that won’t happen. Again, Morpheus the plot device saves the day by simply saying they’re not allowed to talk.
- Returning from the Oracle, we know there’s a double cross about to happen. We also see the second supernatural event, the black cat, which is a nice idea. People start getting killed, Mouse dies, the tension starts to rise.
- Neo thinks he’s not The One, but Morpheus believes he is. Unfortunately, the entire film now rests on this premise, and the only way to resolve it is to get Neo and Morpheus to talk, that’s what most people would do. But this is a film, so let’s separate them so they can’t talk. The capturing of Morpheus also satisfies Smith’s current objective. Essentially this collection of scenes does three things: it creates Neo’s next objective, to get Morpheus back; it makes Smith succeed in his current objective, setting him up for his next one, to get the codes from Morpheus; and tests Neo’s prophecy for the first time, as he questions whether he should go after Morpheus through the wall. Everything depends on Morpheus being taken, and it comes down to Trinity to save the day with the arguably innocuous reply to Neo’s suggestion that they can’t just let him get caught: “You have to!”. Of course we do, otherwise the story ends.
- Cypher escapes back to the ship, to complete the double cross.
- Not overly significant to the plot, but this is the first time Morpheus meets, or even finds out about, our antagonist, Agent Smith.
- Cypher comes back on board ship, shoots Dozer and Tank, pulls the plug on Apoc and Switch, and is about to pull the plug on Neo. At this point, we remove all the characters who are no longer needed, and who would just get in the way of the climax. It is also when Cypher officially becomes a conscious minor antagonist, because Trinity and Neo now know he is a traitor. Now Neo’s first obstacle in getting to his objective to save Morpheus, is the defeat of Cypher.
- This is another one of those is he or isn’t he scenes. Cypher poses the question, is he or isn’t he. There’s a scene with him asking Trinity the question as well, but with only 5 minutes, we’ve already had enough to establish the “does Trinity love Neo” sub-plot.
- Tank saves the day, and tips the equation back towards Neo being The One. Oh I don’t know, will someone just make up their mind already?! 🙂
- Morpheus is tortured, and Tank introduces us to what is at stake, the information in Morpheus’ head. Tank proposes killing Morpheus, to save everyone else. Sounds like a prophetic Neo moment hey? The beginning of this segment also includes some dialog from Smith implicating his hatred of The Matrix, one of the key setups for the sequels. But aside from making him slightly more determined throughout the remainder of the film, its not that important to this film. There are some interesting questions about humans being a virus later on, but that’s been written about a lot already as well.
- Neo steps in and talks about what the Oracle said. If only he’d spoken sooner, damn it, we’d be done already. Trinity also speaks more openly about her prophecy of whether she loves Neo. Go the sub-plot!
- Neo and Trinity fight their way to Neo’s next objective, to free Morpheus. It isn’t really explained how they found out where he was, but no matter. At the beginning of this segment, I included Tank’s response to Neo’s request for “guns, lot’s of guns”, while in the construct, as I think its one of those Matrix moments. Morpheus introduces the construct earlier in the film, when he fully explains The Matrix to Neo, but I had to take it out due to time constraints. Anyway, you can see the construct here, and isn’t that important to the plot. It may even be there just for the gun gag and as a clinical backdrop for Morpheus to explain the Matrix. The rest of this segment is quick snippets of this fairly popular fighting scene. It also marks Neo’s successful return to his journey, after his last defeat.
- This is a rather weird bit, and makes you wonder whether they edited out some other scenes which were relevant, or they were just stuck on how to get them to the roof. Basically Neo and Trinity set up a bomb in the lift, Neo stops the lift half way up, they climb on the roof of the lift, Neo utters his amusing “there is no spoon”, he shoots the lift cable, sending them up and the lift down. When the lift hits the ground, it destroys the floor and the lift, preventing reinforcements from cluttering the narrative. How Neo and Trinity then get to the roof is a mystery. As you can see, I’ve gone to great pains to accurately recreate this mystery. The end of the segment also shows that Smith is now alerted to Neo’s presence, and Agents Brown and Jones are sent to investigate, but this is never actually shown.
- Most of the remaining scenes are repeated rising action, so I’ve put them all in a single segment. The classic bullet dodging effect is introduced. We’re already familiar with the slow motion rotation, so we can concentrate on remembering that Morpheus referred to the dodging of bullets earlier in the film. Trinity questions whether he is The One again. Go the sub-plot. Neo effectively dodges the question, in order not to draw too much attention to himself, like all good humble heroes do. If I had more time, I’d put back in the scene where Trinity asks Tank to download a helicopter program, but I couldn’t spare the 3 seconds.
- Rising action for the rescue of Morpheus. Morpheus gets up and looks like he’s about to be saved, but gets shot.
- Neo jumps out and saves Morpheus, but the chopper gets shot. This series of segments is all about Neo et al on the offensive, and each new obstacle they face and defeat in the rescue of Morpheus. This is sometimes referred to in plot parlance as “approaching the innermost cave”.
- At this point, the tables turn. They have Morpheus, and each new obstacle is about them being on the defensive, defending themselves against each mishap, sometimes referred to in film plot parlance as “returning from the innermost cave”. Morpheus is about to fall, but Trinity manages to get closer to the ground. Neo is hanging from a tether, but manages to get to the ground. Trinity saves the boys, but loses control of the chopper. Neo is on the ground, but is dragged toward the edge by the chopper. Trinity jumps from the chopper, but is too close to the explosion. This is the traditional rescue or adventure story, first we are on the offensive, beating each new obstacle on the way up, then we try to defend ourselves from antagonism on the way back down.
- Time for another one of those is he or isn’t he moments, this time with Tank and Morpheus. At this point, Neo actually talks to Morpheus, conluding his current objective, to talk to Morpheus. However Morpheus dismisses the claim that he’s not The One, by spouting his usual philosophical rhetoric that has been written about to death elsewhere.
- Time for everyone to regroup. Smith wants Morpheus back, Neo needs a way to show Morpheus he’s not The One. Trinity is still struggling with her love for Neo, and Morpheus and Tank are just glad to be back. So what better time to start the climax to the film. We find out that the agents know their location, and are sending Sentinals, and Neo, Morpheus and Trinity need to find a way out. They need to find a way out before the Sentinals get to the ship. This is the final big objective, and the climax of the film.
- They find the phone that will take them out. So much for a climax. Where’s the obstacle?
- Trinity tries one last time to tell Neo she loves him. On her current success rate, she should have probably just answered the phone, and ended the film. We still need a climax, so this is a great way to stall for time, in order to create another obstacle to them getting out.
- Here’s the obstacle, Smith arrives and Trinity gets out, with her hand movement being a reprise of the opening of the film when the phone was first introduced.
- This is one of my favourite scenes, the beginning of this segment is a big nod to spaghetti westerns, even the music adds that Clint Eastwood feel. Amusing, until you remember that this is a traditional start of climax kind of scene, the protagonist vs. the antagonist. Neo even flexes his fingers, giving the impression that he’s a little nervous, making him the underdog. Nice.
- The end of the first shoot out, and both are out of bullets. Again, a nice scene.
- They move to fists instead, like they’re reaching the end of things at their disposal, and it all comes down to just the two of them. Neo looks like he’s had it.
- But saves the day. The opening line to the segment is important, “the name is Neo”, which was in response to Smith’s “goodbye Mr Anderson”. This is the first time he’s referred to himself as Neo, and actually has confidence in the role. Up until this point, he’s always turned to the other characters (the mentors) for help and knowledge. Its been building up over the last few segments, but here it is fully realised, he is not Mr Anderson, but is in fact The One. Neo’s main objective in the film is now concluded, and he turns his focus to cleaning up the various sub-plots.
- Only to find that he hasn’t killed Smith after all. The climax continues.
- With the fight against Smith seeming as though it will go on forever, we need to introduce a time limit, to both raise the stakes, and end the film before people start walking out. Finally, the Sentinals find a useful role in the plot. Not only that, but we’re told that the film finishes in just over six minutes. Nice one.
- The final chase sequence, sees Neo enter the building containing the phone. Well, there’s actually another building containing the phone, but the chase is effectively the same. Anyway, work with me here, as Neo enters the final building. I left in the line “Mr Wizard, get me the hell out of here”, for several reasons. For starters, its amusing, secondly I’ve heard it used elsewhere, but more importantly, this is Neo overstating his confidence in being The One. He is so confident, that he can now joke about his situation. Plot device. And you thought it was just a gag. 🙂
- Cut to the Sentinals, showing that the clock is still ticking.
- Back to Neo finding the room with the phone, bursting through, and being killed. Hang on a minute, being killed? Yep, oh gee we weren’t expecting that were we? Just when we thought Neo was going to end the film for us. By the way, the number on the door is 303, strange considering Neo’s was 101. The Oracle’s door wasn’t a number though, and is too difficult to make out. Anyway, 303 as you probably know is a WWI allied rifle, made famous in the film Breaker Morant with the line “We shot them under rule 303.” Read into that what you will.
- Time to take stock on what’s still pending on the story, so the film shows the current state of each plot and sub-plot. Morpheus finally considers that maybe Neo isn’t The One. Considering that his whole raison detre is to find The One (the Oracle stated this earlier), this is quite a blow to ol’ Morpheus. He starts to question the point of the last 2 hours of screen time. Agent Smith has killed Neo, but he’s still after Morpheus, so his objective hasn’t been satisfied either. Trinity has lost Neo, so with him not being The One, she now questions why or if she was in love with him. With the Sentinals closing in, we are now at an impasse, with so many pending sub-plots, and no obvious way to end them before everyone dies. Welcome to the real climax.
- Trinity saves the day. In what could arguably be called a love story, Trinity finally states her love for Neo, which in turn is requited by the dead Neo. While this is illegal in most states, it doesn’t stop Neo from waking from the dead. Trinity’s love story sub-plot is finally concluded. I particularly like the cliched sparks flying at the end of this segment when she kisses him. Only a film like The Matrix could have gotten away with this so well.
- Neo rises from the dead, and defends off yet another attack by Smith. By now Neo’s defensive behaviour finally turns to the offence, as he picks out a bullet from mid air, and perhaps questions what else he is now capable of.
- Morpheus sees confirmed what he already knew for most of the film, that Neo really is The One, thus concluding his sub-plot.
- Neo continues his The One experience, by being able to see The Matrix while in it, as opposed to outside of it, as all Morpheus’ crew seem to be able to do. He finally kills Smith, and in the process showing him by fighting with one arm behind his back, that he is now way way more powerful than him. The antagonist is dead, so Smith’s sub-plot is concluded.
- Now that all the character sub-plots have concluded, we need to turn off that damn timer, so Morpheus let’s rip the EMP. Luckily we’ve already been introduced to all this stuff, so it doesn’t detract us from everything that just happened. Now a final question is posed. Did Neo make it back to the phone in time?
- Yes he did, and to be traditionalist, fully concludes the love story by not only requiting Trinity’s love, but by initiating the kiss. Textbook stuff.
- The final segment shows the outcome of the film. This is the feel good moment for the audience. With all the sub-plots resolved, we need some time take it all in, and revel in Neo’s success. By being The One, Neo is able to finally mess with machines, and actually threatens them, leading nicely to the sequels. And as an added bonus, spins a most charming leftist agenda as well.
The Matrix. Classic storytelling.
In any novel, play or film, every scene, every movement, every word, is there for a reason. And in film, especially when every frame is so expensive with respect to dollars and time to tell a story, every frame is there for a reason. Whether it be required by the narrative, to construct characters, motive and objective, or for emotive, themic or artistic reasons, every frame has its purpose.
Throughout history, we as an audience have been treated to content carefully manufactured for us, and as such we are trained to subconsciously accept every frame as part of a grand design by the director or artist.
Compare this to amateur video, or videoblogging, where people untrained in the art of editing for profit, are producing videos which challenge the way every commercial audiovisual medium we’ve ever seen, has been created.
It is partly* through this conditioning that I believe we are able to tell the difference between amateur and professional content.
You could argue that videobloggers are the same, in that every frame is selected by the creator. But with amateur editing technique, poor storytelling ability, limited understanding of frame by frame selection and no requirement for profit making**, videoblogs more often than not break the mould of what we expect and are used to, because they include segments of content which we feel has no reason for inclusion. Perhaps this is partly why people are quick to dismiss videoblogging as boring, monotonous, and home videos on the Internet, and why it is still content makers, artists, and people less conditioned, that are the majority of the audience.
Is it a surprise then, that the videoblogs we find interesting or entertaining, such as Chasing Windmills, Human Dog or Ryanne’s Video Blog, are either produced by experienced and/or professional writers and editors, and are more often than not scripted or planned in a fair amount of detail.
We keep saying to ourselves (as videobloggers) that we are different to big media, because we are showing real life. The problem with this is that real life is predictably linear in time, and unless you shoot a single scene without any edits, you’re not shooting real life, you’re making editing decisions based on your time limit and what you think is good art or narrative. In effect, you’ve already started down the path to creating content for a conditioned audience, who now expect you to complete your journey “to the dark side” and compete with other carefully constructed content for attention.
Is there a way to make video content which does not conform to the constructed content norms? This is why Adrian Miles‘ work is so exciting.
The question that I keep asking myself is, are we as an audience changing what we will accept as interesting content, thus validating the call for citizen media and videoblogging to take over the media, or are we stuck in a short term fad where the excitement of producing content and posting it on the Internet to an equally fad driven audience, has blinded us to the fact that we still make amateur and uninteresting content? If you will, we are blinded by the fad itself.
And in closing, will the still conditioned majority, ever see past the fad and embrace videoblogging as a mass audience? Unfortunately I tend to think not, and in fact as cream usually rises to the top, so will those videobloggers who have both the narrative and technical skills which bring them closest to the idealism of every frame has a purpose. I’m already starting to see the trend, as the vlogs I regularly watch, are higher up the experience and quality chain than Joe Blow on the street uploading home videos to the Internet.
* There are obviously other reasons as well.
** At least in theory, because I think the majority of videobloggers are secretly hoping their content will eventually bring them income.
By STEVEN JOHNSON
Nobody thinks that it will happen to them. That is, until it does. Break and Enter.
Note: This is a 39MB file, but I think well worth the wait. But then I’m a little biased, and don’t really care how much bandwidth you’re chewing up. Regardless, bring on the fat pipes.
Note: This video is at 640×240 resolution, so if you’re using Ant or a similar client, then drag/save the video to your desktop, and open it in native QuickTime. Otherwise you probably won’t be able to read the text. I’m told they’re working on it. 🙂
This is the first of what might be a series of videos about storytelling. I say might be, because it took 5 hours to make, my third longest to make so far.
Some people are natural storytellers, and some aren’t. Neither typically have any conscious idea what makes a good story, and how much a well constructed story can hold attention. In fact storytelling is a big fad at the moment in the corporate world, but I’ve yet to see any really good theoretical stuff from storytelling for business consultants. Anyway…
Hopefully I’ve also redeemed myself with Chris, from when I didn’t include him in my Video Killed the Radio Star video from earlier this year. Chris is a great story teller, and along with Josh and Ian, are masters of the Setup, as you’ll soon see.
Not the storytelling video, but a piece on art and story.
This is also the first video that isn’t included in the feed as blog text and an enclosure. When I started videoblogging, 117 videos ago, a lot of friends didn’t have readers that supported enclosures, so I embedded them as HTML in the text as well. By now they should be using Ant or some enclosure capatable reader.
I’ve been fairly dissatisfied with the content coming out of the videoblogging community recently. They’re mostly home video style pieces, which tend to get boring once you’ve seen the first dozen they’ve made, or these people tend to just stop making videos. I have no problem with the home movie style, because it is interesting getting to know people, but once you get a bit of what they’re about, for me at least, they then tend to blur into a single contuing stream of tedium.
I think I also hit my second wall of idea block for the year, and because culture feeds on culture, I think that’s partially why I’ve run out of ideas, there’s nothing innovative happening in the videoblogging space.
So here’s a rant about podcasting, which I haven’t done for over a year, and a cry for more innovation and storytelling.
Amusingly, I happened to be wearing my “CRASS – Destroy Power Not People” tshirt, but you can’t really see it in frame, and please don’t ask me what biodirectional means. 🙂
Singleton is the biggest threat to the music industry.
I just realised that this shows what happens to white pillows in my house. I don’t always sleep with white pillows, but this is what happens when I do. Although if I hadn’t just mentioned it, maybe you wouldn’t have noticed. Oh well, too late now.
I’ve had some comments from people who haven’t seen my earlier videoblogs, about the history of Singleton. If you want to see what else he’s gotten up to, then my site actually has a Singleton archive (and a video archive if you’d like all my videos). But don’t show him too much attention,
he’ll get a bigger head than he already has. HEY I SAW THAT YA BASTARD PEOPLE LIKE ME SO GET OVER IT! JUST CAUSE YA GOT YOUR OWN VLOG YA THINK YOU CAN SAY ANYTHING. STUFF YOU RICHARD, JUST STUF YOU.