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Creating Interest Within Strict Limitations | John M Morelock: Storyteller
September 13, 2020

Creating Interest Within Strict Limitations

By In Blog, Narrative Structure

The Short Story

I’ve always found some of the most profound work I’ve done has been under severe restrictions. One would think that working on projects which are open-ended and without limitations would allow for the most creativity, but I find that the opposite is often true. When working within narrow guidelines, I often find I have to try new and different things to work.

Flash fiction is a great example. How can you create something intriguing within a few hundred words? You cannot ignore basic story structure, such as introducing the characters and their stakes. You would lose interest of the reader, even in that short amount of time. Raymond Carver, a true master of his craft, demonstrates in “Why don’t you dance?” and in “Popular Mechanics” that, in fact, fewer words are often more. These stories are timeless, and I would argue they are so poignant because they are so short. Hemingway’s shortest novel, “The Old Man and the Sea”, I would argue is his greatest.

It is not by virtue of being short alone that these stories are so great, rather it is the author’s ability to create impactful and memorable experiences in such a short timeframe that demonstrates their mastery.

The Art of the Short Film

Many people miss out on a great many short films every year. Rarely reaching a wider audience, short films have become the niche genre appreciated only by filmmakers and festival goers. It’s a shame these short works of art don’t receive more attention in mass-media. YouTube channels such as Omeleto demonstrate how popular these short films can be. As with the short story, or the novella, short films often more difficult to make interesting then their longer counterparts. They force the filmmakers to try new creative techniques, paying close attention to every single line of dialogue, ever single frame of the film. There is no time for sluggish scenes or drawn out sequences.

But we can take it a step further. Most short films are less than 10 minutes long, to comply with festival rules. Under 3-5 minutes, and the filmmaker can start to feel a bit claustrophobic. But what if you were to make a film on only 60 seconds, with a locked off camera, and no sound. Suddenly, a vast world of possibilities is narrowed down. Without sound, you can have no dialogue, forcing the filmmaker to come to terms with perhaps the most core truth of film making – it is a visual medium. If the film maker is unable to work within such restrictions, their fundamental abilities are flawed.
The Lumiere brothers did exactly that in the late 19th century. The two brothers invented the earliest versions of motion-picture cameras, as well as a projector to work with it. Because the technology was so young, they didn’t have the option to include sounds, and they worked with rudimentary tripods. Yet, despite these restrictions, they made approximately 40 films, establishing the most basic fundamentals of film making.

As I move forward in my education as a filmmaker, I will be exploring this idea. I could follow the more traditional route, like the Lumiere brothers, and film things which are part of daily life. A game of basketball, or someone struggling to cross the street. Or perhaps I can find a way to incorporate a narrative. A homeless man, who makes friends with a dog. A door-to-door salesman, who gets the door slammed in his face several times a day. I will need to do much more exploration, and to work with my cohorts, to further develop the idea.

Until then, I hope you have enjoyed this blogpost and a look into the first steps in a long film-making career.

1 Comment
  1. Ally Mitchell September 14, 2020

    Looking forward to watching your creativity continue to grow during this new journey!


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