Lesson 1: " Mediocre material well told, is better than good material badly told."
Alrighty, I've been wanting to geek out about film and story for a while now but haven't had the chance, so here we go! I happened to catch "The Wolf of Wallstreet" last night with my friends and was reminded of how extraordinary Scorsese's directorial skills are. His vocabulary for film, visual literacy, and entertainment is humbling to say the least. To me, he proved this once again in his latest movie. Granted the film's running time is too long for my taste (3 hours), there's no denying that each scene kept me entertained and interested in what was happening... no easy task by any means. I think what did it for me was the directing and acting, more so than the plot (which was also good). I found this to be very interesting since Scorsese, himself, has stated several times that he doesn't care about plot nearly as much as he does about story. By this he means that he is more interested in spending his time and energy finding out how to best tell each moment. And that he does!
Here's an excerpt from an interview he had with Jon Favreau for the third season of Dinner for Five. Jon asks Scorsese about story versus plot:
The story and material they had for The Wolf of Wallstreet was very interesting right off the bat, and I think they managed to achieve both a good story well told. Some might find the film's subject matter offensive at times. But the script was based on a book written by the very person DiCaprio was portraying in the film, so the story they had to work with was inherently provocative to begin with. However, if you look past that and focus on the filmmaking aspect, you will find a goldmine; a three hour masterclass on film!
For you animators out there, DiCaprio's performance is a MUST SEE. His acting choices are so damn good!! 100% entertaining, unpredictable & fresh... yet believable! He manages to hold your attention in each and every scene, while displaying an impressive array of emotions throughout. Matthew McConaughey also stars in it and pulls off one of my favorite scenes in the whole movie, his mannerisms and nuances are what did it for me.
Since Wolf of Wallstreet just came out, there aren't that many clips online to show you what I mean. So here are three examples from other movies that emphasize the value and importance of how you tell your scenes:
EXAMPLE #1 STRANGER THAN FICTION
Description: Man goes through his daily routine. Here's how the director chose to tell it:
EXAMPLE #2 DON JON
Description: Dude watches a movie with his date. Here's how the director chose to tell it:
EXAMPLE #3 THE WORLD'S END
Description: A guy orders some drinks at a bar. Here's how the director chose to tell it:
Hopefully you found these scenes as entertaining as I did! But you get my point. Once again, the lesson here is that "how you tell each scene" is possibly the most important thing you can do for your film. The quote for this lesson was taken from Robert McKee's "STORY"... I read his book a long time ago but had a really tough time getting through it; the way it's written is too academic and I had to look up words in the dictionary every 5 seconds. Nevertheless, I got through it and have to say, it's got some really valuable gems that make it worth the read.
Now ultimately, we wanna have both: A good story well told... WAY easier said than done. I think films like "The Wolf of Wallstreet", "Black Swan", "The Prestige", and "How To Train Your Dragon" have achieved both, at least for me personally. As Mckee states, “Good story means something worth telling that the world wants to hear. Finding this is your lonely task as a writer...But the love of a good story, of terrific characters and a world driven by your passion, courage, and creative gifts is still not enough. Your goal must be both a good story well told.” That being said, if you had to focus on one, your best bet is to place most of your energy and thought on HOW you tell it, rather than getting too caught up with plots and subplots..
Hope this read was worth your time, and you found it slightly useful :D
Till the next post, happy new year!