Week 2 Tutorial

This was one of the most helpful classes, in regards to helping me write a story, or how to come about planning it. There was a class activity that we all did in groups, called ‘Cause and Effect’, where we were given palm cards, that were sorted out into different categories, those being, place, time, name, occupation, and action. We had to place the cards randomly out on the table, into the structure that we were told, and then had to create a story out of the prompts that we had in front of us. Not only was it a fun way to get in touch with our creative side, but it was interesting to see how specific elements influenced the story more than others, those being gender, and location. We also decided that occupation was an influential factor as well. This meant that if we swamped out a couple of cards, and replaced them with others, does this change the dynamic of the story, or give it extra motivation? Depending on what was swapped out, like the gender and job, meant that the story changed, and how we went about telling it. Not only was it good to see this happen in front of us; seeing how a story can change, it reinforced the reading ‘Philosophy of the Short Story’ by Brander Matthews in week 1.

WK 2 Readings

‘The Database’ by Lev Manovich:

This reading goes into the organization of new media objects, where they do not necessarily have a beginning, middle or end, instead they organize themselves, as they are individual items.
The different types of databases are:
– Hierarchical, network, relational and object-orientated.
Manovich suggests that the computer age has brought with it a cultural algorithm = Reality > Media > Data > Database. This database is seen through a list of items, where it refuses to be ordered. This algorithm is shown with both games and narratives, as the user has to uncover the underlying logic when going through them. These databases then become the center of the creative process, within the computer age, where new media objects consist of one or more interfaces, with only one database of its material.
To have something qualify as a narrative, it has to contain an actor and a narrator; contain three distinct levels consisting of the text, the story, and the “fabula”; and its contents should be “a series of connected events caused or experienced by actors“.

‘Chapter 5: Agency’ by Janet H. Murray

Murray goes on to talk about the importance of agency and how it is linked to new media objects, and how we participate with traditional narrative form, which generally limits our sense of it. Agency is offered to us through traditional art forms, but is usually more prominent in the games that we play, when the narrative is moved to the computer, which is then moving the narrative to a realm that is already shaped by the relevant game. When working with a linear story, it doesn’t matter how complex it is, it will always move towards a single version of a human event. Murray suggests that “a game is a kind of abstract storytelling that resembles the world of common experience but compares it in order to heighten interest“. In a successful game, the players are able to have constructive freedom, where they can then improvise the story, and can combat the narrative in multiple ways, depending on their goals.

The Story Lab: Short Story Reflection

The story that I created mirrors what the readings where saying, and the activities that were done in class. It has a substance, builds to a final action, and has a protagonist. Approaching this task, I decided on a final action, that involved the protagonist, and was similar to the stories that we have been looking at, as it has a beginning, middle and an end.

In the story, the protagonist (Anna) shows early on, that she has a conscious desire. It illustrates the quote from ‘The Substance of Story’ by Robert McKee, that we cast out the finer points of “daily existence in which human beings take actions expecting a certain enabling reaction from the world, and, more or less, get what they expect” (McKee). The story demonstrates the three layers within the ‘story circle’, the inner circle, Anna’s own self and conflicts, her home that she grows up in, her past, the emotional state, and future ambitions; the second circle, her personal relationships with her step mother, father and her grandmother; the third circle, which is the extra personal conflict, her unstable/abusive relationship with her step mother, and her strong/close relationship with her grandmother.

Another process that was taken to reach the final outcome, was looking into ‘The Philosophy of the Short Story’ by Brander Matthews, where the author talks about the unity of a short story, and how it shows one action, in one place, on one day, and it deals with a single character, a single event and a single emotion. My story illustrates this notion by having the accidental murder, at the house, in one morning, with the protagonist involved throughout the whole ordeal. She has the one emotion, to be free. In the reading ‘The Database’ by Lev Manovich, it talks about a traditional linear narrative, it contains an actor and a narrator, and its contents should be “a series of connected events caused and experienced by the actors” (Matthews). My story contains both a actor and a narrator, however it is the same person, it is the young girl who is narrating her own life, and her choices and the choices made by those around her cause events that are detrimental to the overall storyline.

History of Film Theory

Weekly Readings and weekly film ‘Faithful Heart’ by Jean Epstein. 

  1. ‘French Film Theory and Criticism: A history/anthology’ by Richard Abel
    This reading breaks down the meaning of ‘Photogenic’ and what it means to be put with the history of cinema, or the art of cinema. It is any aspect of things, beings or souls, where filmic reproduction enhances the character.
    Cinema must seek to become gradually and in the end uniquely cinematic, to employ, in other words, only photogenic elements’.
    This is a mobility in a space-time system, which means it is a mobility throughout space and time. It is the purest expression of cinema.
    Cinema is a language, it is animistic, it attributes – a semblance of life to the objects it defines. The more primitive a language, the more marked this animistic tendency‘.
    The reading also talks about cinema being polytheistic and theogonic. ‘Only mobile and personal aspects of things, beings and souls may be photogenic; that is, acquire a higher moral value through filmic reproduction”. Abel illustrates how the cinema is poetry’s most powerful medium, the truest medium for the “surreal”.
  2. ‘How a Film Theory got lost and other mysteries in Cultural Studies’ by Robert Ray
    This reading talks about Epstein in cinema, and introduces the Impressionists and Surrealists. “A medium’s aesthetic value is a direct function of its ability to transform the reality serving as its raw material” (Epstein). Epstein’s films have enhanced his theoretical positions which overcame methods proposed by the French Impressionists and Surrealists, where these two movements often saw narrative as an obstacle to overcome. “Current film theory has often discredited the Impressionist – Surrealist approach by pointing to Photogenic’s obvious connection to fetishism. Behind Bazin’s realist aesthetic lay an intuition about the cinema’s most profoundly radical aspect: its automatism”.
  3. ‘Senses of Cinema: Coeur Fidele’ by Adrian Danks
    This reading delves into the world of Jean Epstein and his film history. He was one of the key figures to the French cinema in the 1920’s, and most of his films have been related to french traditions and in particular Impressionism and Poetic Realism. In his films there is a sign of layers and multiple levels, and Epstein’s seems to be ‘striving to attract a multiplicitous and dexterous audience who are willing to jettison a little comprehension for the sensual and emotional effects, and affect his often extraordinary, disparate and uneven films seem to offer”. He looks into a “new” cinema that emphasises the emotional aspects, which leads to it replacing established systems.
  4. ‘Senses of Cinema: Jean Epstein’ by Robert Farmer
    Jean Epstein was known for his importance in the school of filmmaking, for example: French Impressionism, Narrative Avant-Garde, First Cinematic Avant-Garde, and the Pre-War French school. This reading puts this filmmaker alongside the essence of cinema (photogenie), and looks at it through a cultural sense. It suggest that film can rise above its photochemical/mechanical base, and eventually become a form of art. The aesthetic sense of this movement are: transformation, expression, the close-up, movement, temporality, rhythm, and the argumentation of the senses. It exists on a metaphorical way in that it encourages us to play a more active role in the cinematic experience and immerse ourselves into the screen. Farmer also suggests that the filmmaker should pay attention to the way that she wants the audience to experience time and perspective, as well as space in perspective. “Eisenstein believes that the essence of cinema is in editing, and that the image > idea transformation occurs through the power of montage editing, not as sequential assemblage of related shots”.
  5. ‘French Cinema: The first wave’ by Richard Abel
    This reading talks about the cinematic movement coming out of the 1920’s, and suggests that “one does not make films according to theories; one constructs theories after the films” (Jean Epstein). Avant-Garde was produced in 1930’w while Impressionism was born in the 1920’s; and Impressionism allowed the audience see nature and its objects as elements coexisting with action. Looking at a system of representation and narration, Impressionism and Symbolism maintained a steady position; whereas Modernism seemed to adopt a more advanced position which was both anti-illusionist and anti-narrative. “By the end of the silent film period, jean Epstein was the most prominent, and controversial filmmaker in the French narrative Avant-Garde. The French narrative Avant-Garde film practice becomes a paradigm of marked elements or privileges features serving one principal function – the expression or representation of subjectivity or subjective experience”.
  6. ‘Defending and Defining The Seventh Art: The standard version of the stylistic history’ by David Bordwell
    In class last week, we were talking about the importance of film history and the film movements, but also how the wars had a lot to do with the development of the Cinematic film industry. By the end of the World War 1, cinema was one of the most powerful mass mediums. This reading also talks about the Soviets exploiting constructive montage, suggesting more than just what is seen within the frame. It goes on to state that “The Basic Story” is a chronicle full of technical processes, where it follows the development of growing expressions, subtlety and complexity; all for telling a story on film. “Cinema could be regarded as a reproduction system, a way of capturing fleeting reality or staged performances and then presenting the action at other cites”. 
  7. After watching the film ‘Faithful Heart’, it is easily seen as a french film drama, which tells a story of romance, by experimenting with different techniques of camerawork and editing. It uses quick cuts, close up and medium close up shots, to show the emotion, which demonstrates the use of ‘photogenie’. It has transformation, expression, the close-up, movement, temporality, rhythm, and the argumentation of the senses. By being a silent film, it encourages the audience to play a more active role in the storyline  and immerse ourselves, so that we can understand what is going on, without words telling us. Also through the pacing of the music, the audience can understand what is happening, or what is about to happen. This is one way to lead the audience into the filmmakers’ expectations. Thought the selected camera shots, the Epstein determines what the audience sees, and why we are seeing that. This is how we can put the story together, and know what has been happening, and create our own expectations of what is yet to happen. There is an emphasis on people’s eyes, which allows us to see the emotion that is captures throughout the film, a way of judging the storyline. 


Class 1:

We looked into the components of a story. These were:
– Interpretations, structure, plot, subplots, music, motivation, fiction, non-fiction, advertisements, protagonist, narrative, spoken word, jokes, short stories, novel, films, character, video games, action, setting, book, title, pacing, photograph genre.

Class 2:

This was the first time we went into a more detailed approach to story, and the elements that it has, comparing it to the set readings for the week. We talked about a story story needing to be unique. For examples of stories across different platforms, we watched the first half of the film ‘Frankenstein’, and listened to the radio program called ‘The War of the Worlds’ by Orsen Wells.

‘The War of the Worlds’ by Orsen Wells
– Very descriptive
– The pacing is dated – however very modern for its time – was made in the late 30’s
– Radio drama
– It is like there is an old man sitting by the fire telling a war story
– There were live crosses of broadcasting
– There was emotion in his voice

We went through the characters and worked out their importance and role to the film, and why they were the way they are.We looked into the characteristics of the actors, and saw how important it is to the storyline. There was the protagonist, and the supporting characters. The protagonist had a desire, and their was one action, in one place and one time.


‘The Substance of Story’ by Robert Mckee

This reading nuts out the key points of storytelling and a narrative, showing the layers a story has, peeling them away like the skin of an onion. It starts by suggesting that at the centre of a story is whats called the substance. When writing a story it must build to a final action, where the audience cannot imagine any other outcome. Story is born in a place where the subjective and objections realms touch.

It all starts with a protagonist, who is a wilful character. They have to have a conscious desire, or may contradict this and have an unconscious desire, and they pursue an object of desire. The protagonist must be empathetic and not sympathetic. In a story, however, there can be a plural-protagonist, where all of the individuals in the group share the same desire; mulit-protagonist, where characters pursue separate and individual desires, suffering and benefiting independently (these become multiple stories).

The reading talks about the difference between story and life, that being that in story we cast out the finer points of “daily existence in which human beings take actions expecting a certain enabling reaction from the world, and, more or less, get what they expect“.

Another main point taken from the reading is about the character. There are three layers when writing a character and their story. There is the inner circle = Own self and conflicts arising from the elements of his nature, mind body and emotion; Second circle = Personal relationships, unions of intimacy deeper than the social role, social convention assigns the outer roles we play; Third Circle = Extra personal conflict, all sources of antagonism outside the personal.

The questions this reading raises are:

1. What is the source of story energy?
2. How does it compel such intense mental and sentient attention from the audience?
3. How do stories work?

‘The Philosophy of the Short Story’ by Brander Matthews

This reading looks into the difference between a novel and a short story. It states that a short story has unity which a novel cannot have. A short story shows one action, in one place, on one day. It deals with a single character, a single event, and a single emotion. A writer of a short story must be concise, and it is essential for them to have originality and ingenuity. Matthews says that short story is a high and difficult department of fiction, and that the writer just have a sense of form. A good short story will always demonstrate symmetry of design.

When writing a short story, you have to get to the point, it isn’t like a novel where you have the space to elaborate. It needs to get to the point, however still explaining what is happening, and being descriptive enough the lure the audience, which is seen in the next reading by Roald Dahl.

‘Lamb to the Slaughter’ by Roald Dahl

The story started by describing the protagonist (the wife) and the scene. This allows the reader to picture this scene in their head, and allows them to immerse themselves into this tale. The whole time we are picturing ourselves in the wife’s shoes, thats why we are always rooting for her, and her conscious desire. This is why, when she kills her husband, we are on her side, we think that he is the bad guy, not her. This is how Dahl has set up the story, we only see her point of view, we are only given her details and her emotions.

This was a short drama, where the story was constantly gaining suspense. From the readings above, it shows unity thought the piece, and doesn’t have a set love story. It shows one action, in one place, on one day. It all happens in the afternoon/evening at her house, and it was one action that took place – the murder.

The Story Lab – What is story now?

The Story Lab, a studio I chose in my final year doing this course. The prompt that we were given for this class is ‘what is story now?’. It is all about learning that storytelling isn’t what it used to be. When we think about the stories that we used to read we think about the ones that have a beginning, a middle and an end. However, now what if all of that has changed? What if we read stories in a different way, through different platforms? This is about multi platform storytelling. What makes a story good, or how does it become successful? Is transmedia the way of the storytelling future? We are told that this class is a way for us to try out different platforms of storytelling, and explore how it works or doesn’t, and see what we can come up with, through both digital and non-digital platforms.

The key quote for this semester: “All stories are lies. But good stories are lies made from light and fire. And they lift our hearts out of the dust, and out of the grave” Mike Carey.

Aims of the studio:

-Learn methods of storytelling through transmedia narrative
-There will be individual work and group work.
-Research the changing nature of storytelling, by analysing narratives, and reflect of the process of creating.

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