Visual storytelling is all about giving life to imagination and dreams, through the art of light and sound. We can learn the tips, tricks and proven formulas to create cookie-cutter cinema but going through the motions without finding your personal style, discovering that storytelling magic, will send your audience searching for something more authentic.
In this disposable world of swipe culture and sound-bite opinion, it’s easy to depend upon the crutch of advancing technology, nifty production tools and gadgets, or outrageous moments to capture attention. The true art of quality production rises above the quick fix distraction of drone footage or shaky camera syndrome. It requires a sensitive heart of experience to blend basic story with subtle visual layers.
Great Stories Require Great Heart
The greatest stories step beyond the who, what, why, where and when. Creating a plot, story, and character arc with authentic motivation and emotion, will reveal intangible aspects beyond dialog or narration. Connecting the audience with that intangible emotion on a conscious and subconscious level can be achieved with dynamic visual narratives.
The primary options to achieve unspoken narratives can include:
Shot composition and subject framing
Utilizing natural forms to focus attention or resonate emotion
Applying color in production design based on emotional triggers
Lighting design and placement to control environments
Camera motion and placement for energy, power, or perception
A great visual artist will apply layers of depth in composition, utilizing various visual brushes, mixing colors, establishing contrast… all to support and emphasize a story without words. Weaving layers of visual narrative style requires motivation to avoid being obvious or distracting. Mastering the visual storytelling art form is a never-ending quest, there’s always something new to learn, discover, or create.
One aspect which never changes, any storyteller who wishes to connect with others, must maintain an empathetic nature to access and share secrets of the human heart and soul.
Understanding how to seamlessly bridge the intangible with various production styles to capture or convey emotion, tends to be equal part organic talent with blood and sweat experience. Having a strong technical core engrained as second nature, understanding the rules of production and composition as instinct, allows energy to focus on the creative visual storytelling layers. That engrained instinct will also flow to the cast and crew.
Expressive acting by the cast, is the most direct option to capture emotion. Adding additional layers of visual storytelling style will provide unspoken narrative depth, allowing the cast to offer a more subtle and powerful performance.
True artistic talent can’t be taught or packaged in simple formulaic styles. The only way to get there, even with born ability, is to immerse yourself in the craft and practice, practice, practice. Understand the rules of production and apply them in every project. Once you understand those rules as second nature it’s time to experiment, make mistakes, break rules, push limits, discover the passion, power, and your voice within.