The Future of Film and Why Story Still Matters

April 22nd, 2014 by

The Tribeca Film Festival is underway, running from April 21-26. You can visit its website here. If you are in the New York area this week, check it out. Indiewire ran a recent interview with Jane Rosenthal, TFF Co-Founder and CEO, and she touches on two subjects of specific interest to screenwriters. Excerpts:

As the line between technology and film continues to blur, do you think at some point Tribeca Film Festival will no longer be, strictly speaking, a film festival?

If you don’t have good storytellers then you have nothing. You could have great special effects in something, just because it’s digitally made and there’s some great new tool that they have come up with, proprietary software that they’re using. If you don’t have the artist and the storytellers, then all that proprietary software in the world, it’s like “who cares about it?” So you still have to have great storytellers, and that’s what we’re doing at the Storyscapes. We’re bringing together people who are creators and storytellers, and you’re seeing their work. So you’re seeing immersive environments, and interactive storytelling where you’re becoming part of the story and I think that audiences now want different things. It’s not just, “I wanna go sit in a cinema and watch something next to my friends.” It  doesn’t mean that won’t take place, but it becomes another choice.

I guess I’m wondering about the term “film.” I mean obviously now we don’t see most movies on actual film these days. Do you think the term will evolve? Already people are asking is “House of Cards” television? It’s not actually using television, it’s streaming.

Well, that’s what I’m saying, it’s storytelling. You have new means of distribution, you have new platforms to tell stories, and it’s not just content. I like to tell stories. How do I want to tell stories? And now as a producer, I can do short form, I can do documentary, you can do a narrative film, and you can do it for On Demand or Netflix or theaters. It’s all changing. The sad thing, though…is that just because it’s digital doesn’t mean it’s going to last, and you have to replace all those hard drives, and celluloid is like a cockroach. Probably better to talk to Marty [Scorsese] about what happens if you lose some of these stories, if you lose some of this which is our culture — you lose who we are as a people.

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We talk a lot about the future of film. What is the future of film?

I think the future for us rests in our ability to tell great story. If you don’t have the great stories to tell, and the great writers and filmmakers and editors, then there is no future of film.

It’s true. We talk so much about technology but without the story then it’s just technology.

The most important thing we’re doing at the festival this year is the master class with (film editor) Thelma Schoonmaker. That’s the most important thing we’re doing. Every film that comes into this festival needs a good editor. Nobody knows how to edit, and because you can do it quickly, you lose sight of what it used to be like to go through these bins and look at each shot. There’s a craft of storytelling, whether you’re a writer, an editor, or a director. Some of it gets lost and we do have so many first-time filmmakers — for young filmmakers coming through this festival, it’s to encourage them to keep up and remember the craft of how to tell a story.

First, note how often Rosenthal mentions the singular importance of story. If you don’t have good storytellers then you have nothing… If you don’t have the artist and the storytellers, then all that proprietary software in the world, it’s like “who cares about it”… Well, that’s what I’m saying, it’s storytelling… I think the future for us rests in our ability to tell great story. If you don’t have the great stories to tell, and the great writers and filmmakers and editors, then there is no future of film… There’s a craft of storytelling, whether you’re a writer, an editor, or a director. Some of it gets lost and we do have so many first-time filmmakers — for young filmmakers coming through this festival, it’s to encourage them to keep up and remember the craft of how to tell a story.

That’s a whole lotta story going on, which reinforces a reality that may be more valid today than at any point in the history of the film and TV industry: There has never been a greater need for good stories and great storytellers.

The other point is this evolution of what exactly we’re talking about. TV? Movies? Streaming? It has led to numerous articles including a bunch of talking heads asking “Is Television the New Cinema?” There’s an interesting implication that somehow TV is replacing movies when in fact, one could argue precisely the opposite is happening. That while the stories may appear on TV, especially limited series like True Detective and Fargo, written by one writer, notable for a filmic approach to visual narrative, and having story structures with a beginning, middle and end, albeit told over several hours, like an elongated movie, have, in fact, been ‘eaten’ by cinema.

Furthermore if Beau Willimon is saying about House of Cards, “So if you were to say, ‘I want to make an eight-hour thing,’ I can’t think about it as a television show. I can’t think about it as a movie. Right? And so I don’t know what to think about it as.” And the FX series Fargo showrunner Noah Hawley saying, “This is not a TV series, it’s a 10 hour movie.” Do any of these distinctions really matter any more? Which led me to pose this question in a recent post:

What if we’re headed for a future with no “TV” and no “Movies,” but instead a “Thing”? Because let’s face it… it’s all just storytelling.

And that’s exactly what Rosenthal said in her response to a similar question above.

We are in the midst of a paradigm shift. It could be a six second vine, a four minute YouTube short, a 22 minute or 45 minute episode, a 90-120 minute movie, an 8-10 hour limited series. Who knows. But one thing is common to all of them and whatever platform they appear on: It all comes down to storytelling.

And that’s why story still matters.

Here is a brief interview with Tribeca Film Festival co-founders Rosenthal and Robert De Niro:

For the rest of the Indiewire interview, go here.

4 thoughts on “The Future of Film and Why Story Still Matters

  1. […] If you don’t have good storytellers then you have nothing. You could have great special effects in something, just because …read more […]

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