Our brains were built for storytelling, its how we make sense of the world, its how we remember, its our most basic function. The seat of empathy resides our mirror neurons, when we hear stories, we are there with the storyteller. As a professional storyteller, how does this inform your process?
generous, respectful, diplomatic and direct in your dealings. Be open to change yet remain clear on your own vision. Adapt, share and incorporate the new, especially if it is relevant to the story on more than one or two cognitive levels.
Your audience is really smart, best to avoid the easy, trite, maudlin and obvious. Writing that is "on the nose" is not writing, its just lazy. Work your craft and find your own language or let your characters do it rather than say it.
Nothing will date a film faster than contemporary references. So unless
it is a period piece, ask yourself why you need it, what it accomplishes
and see if you can do that without the reference.
Get it in writing. Read the fine
print, check references, when in doubt find a good lawyer. Have a back up plan for everything, always, it will be easier to improvise if you do. Make promises you can keep and keep them.
Pay everyone fairly, on time and with a smile. Hire women and pay them what you would pay males with similar levels of experience in the same position. Return
favors even if they don't expect it.
Read books. Listen, then talk, then
listen more. Pay attention to what kids, animals and older people are doing around you, learn how stay available to the present moment. Ground yourself anytime you feel yourself getting wrapped up in ego games.
You're making a film, it's not brain surgery, lighten up. Invite families and well behaved dogs to visit the set during lunch breaks on longer shoots [shoots over 3 weeks, e.g. features-tv-etc], it does wonders for morale and its good for kids to see their parents happy and working on their craft.
When shooting bring an extra pair of shoes, extra clean shirt and blazer, you might have a meeting after shooting and wearing set clothes to an important meeting [btw. all meetings are important] makes you look like an amateur and in some cultures it is also a sign of disrespect.
Agents and managers work for you only after you have done all the work, they are just there to collect a percentage and make or block deals down the road.
Keep up with technology or find people who do and learn the tools even if you hire others to use them. Do everything you can to understand the process from the point of view of your key team members. Facilitate good clear process as best as you can and get out of the way. Repeat after me: "Micromanaging is bad for the project." If you hired good people in the first place have faith in that choice, trust them to do their best and they will do that and more.
Always take the meeting, remember when you could not get a meeting and now you can? Pay it forward.
ANALYSIS – VIDEO GAME: The Last Express (1997) – VERONIKA ZÝKOVÁ -
The Last Express (1997) is a video game created by Jordan Mechner and Smoking Car Productions, set on the Orient Express in 1914. This videogame was very innovative in the adventure games genre. The Last Express was the first “real-time adventure game” and until these days it remains an example of combining deep story with high artistic values, 3D environment based on detailed historical research, rotoscoped Art Nouveau stylized characters, international cast with great voice acting in multiple languages and other praised aspects I will mention further. The game has taken 4 years to develop, with budget over 5 million dollars.1
This article will balance between serious analysis and a long-time love to this video game (or interactive media). Although it has been 15 years since its release, The Last Express is undoubtedly considered a piece of art and very accomplished narrative, which was examined in The End of Books – Or Books Without End? Reading Interactive Narratives by J. Yellowlees Douglas and other studies. Just like in the time of its release, when it received rave reviews, the game still makes it to various charts and polls of the best adventure games of all times.3 Now that The Last Express is available as a digital download on various sites4 and recently [on March 16th 2012] its version for iPad and iPhone was announced,5 lets have a detailed look at what The Last Express offers to a gamer.
"So far, I have not been talking about visuals and voices of characters. It would be shame not to mention, at least briefly, that characters are rotoscoped in 2D stylized Art Nouveau look. Not only Mucha’s and Toulous-Lautrec’s paintings were inspiration, but also comic books by such authors as Hugo Pratt, FrançoisSchuiten or Enki Bilal.25 Comic book style reminds also the way creators dealt with limited 3 CDs space26 and in many cases had to use not full motion, but more slide-show style, capturing significant gestures and mimics. It works surprisingly well, partly because you just accept this style and get used to it. But full motion used for character’s walking, facing you in the corridor, looking to your eyes with emotions, this is just priceless; surely one of the greatest efforts of TheLast Express. You can observe characters from different angles, their actions are little animations similar to loops; they repeat certain moves. It is not too impressive, but sufficient enough to create the illusion of action."
"The voice acting is perfect and gamer can enjoy various languages in their beauty. High level of authenticity was accomplished even in this field; Russians are speaking old Russian, you can say when Austrian is speaking German and so forth. For example, character leads conversation in German and in the middle of a sentence he/she starts to speak English with strong German accent. Richness of languages is exceptional.27 When I mentioned that The Last Express was going against some aspects of „interactive movies“, it was because of the difference between FMV used in these games and rotoscoped cartoon-style technique that creators of The Last Express used. It does exactly what they intended: player does not concentrate on acting that much, because he/she sees only key frames of characters talking, he/she rather listens to dialogues and focuses on story. But The Last Express is highly cinematic, as well as very interactive, so if we call it „interactive movie“, „interactive media“, or simply „video game“, it won’t make much difference.28"
This Highly Cinematic Game has just been listed on the top 100 adventure games of all time, #7:
Where do the accolades start for Smoking Car Productions’ The Last Express? Is it the rotoscoped graphics that give the game a uniquely classy sense of style? Is it the painstaking historical recreation of the final voyage of the Orient Express before World War I? Is it the stunningly immersive real-time progression of gameplay? Or is it the thrilling and extraordinarily literate writing? Why choose? There really isn't anything quite like Jordan Mechner’s 1997 adventure. While the story of American doctor Robert Cath and the international intrigue he encounters on a train journey from Paris to Constantinople does head to some pretty fantastical places, it is equally balanced by a genuine sense of realism and authenticity. Mechner's team went to great lengths to portray everything from foreign languages to daily weather patterns with historical accuracy. The characters portray the broad and tumultuous sociopolitical climate of the era, as Cath encounters everyone from German businessmen to Serbian militants. And in a still-unparalleled design decision, live actors were filmed and then hand-traced in a style reminiscent of early 20th century illustration.
Making things feel even more authentic is the game’s real-time progression: The Last Express doesn't wait for you. The train barrels relentlessly toward Constantinople, stopping at several famous locales along the way. Similarly, the other passengers have their own agendas to attend to; they move around the train, have conversations, go to sleep, eat dinner, conduct secret meetings, and so on. As Cath, players have more or less total freedom to explore the train and observe, interact with fellow passengers, or sneak around trying to find information. This gives the game an astounding level of replayability for an adventure game, since you'll never be able to see everything in a given playthrough; while you're off exploring one car, something else (something probably very interesting) is going on in another. And if you don’t like the direction your recent choices have taken, rather than simply restore an old save file, simply rewind time and begin that segment of the journey all over again. It all adds up to a tense, immersive, and innovative adventure that few other games have equaled.