The medium of movies is visual – it’s show, not tell.
Movies are a visual experience, the audience isn’t sitting by a radio nor watching a play from the stalls of an old Victorian theatre. They are either witnessing events on a huge cinema screen or (nowadays) a huge TV screen.
If it’s show, not tell, what does that mean for you as a filmmaker?
- This means conveying a story without exposition.
- Learn to tell a story without lengthy dialogue explaining what is happening to characters.
- The way you shoot, the angles, the lighting, the pacing all help tell the story without using words.
Emotional responses of characters to surroundings tell us a lot about their mindset.
- If your world is post apocalyptic, futuristic and violent, show it e.g. use darker colour palettes, grimy streets and stormy weather e.g. CHILDREN OF MEN.
- If your movie is a romcom, it’s likely to be feelgood and therefore full of sunshine, clean streets and fancy houses. CRAZY RICH ASIANS.
At times conversation between characters needs to convey detail for the audience and is unavoidable. However, what the character is DOING is more important because the viewer will learn from that behaviour.
- If characters must talk to one another, make it whilst they’re doing something – sports; driving; arguing on the phone etc.
- This doesn’t mean there has to be dramatic & costly action sequences:
- i.e. if Sam walks into a room, covered in mud, rushes to wash his blood covered hands and dumps his clothing into a black bag …. we can make a few assumptions about what he might have just been doing without hearing a single word.
Why don’t audiences like the talking heads approach in Cinema?
Because that’s now how we talk in real life. We tend to talk around what we want to say or show our feelings through emotions.
- Think about what you are trying to say in the scene – each scene should be progressing your story.
- What does the audience need to know about this character.
- Think about how can you show the same thing without using dialogue.
Movies – it’s show, not tell.