I see a lot of movies. As a lifelong film geek and a current programmer for the Seattle International Film Festival, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly (generally, as well as the Sergio Leone classic). Some are too long, others are thankfully brief, but they all employ classical film narrative techniques to some degree. The each utilize montage, point of view, and other tried and true filmmaking elements that we’ve all come to accept today as pretty standard. But back when these techniques were first introduced, they were all seen as startling breaks from the established norms.
For instance, Russian filmmaker Lev Kuleshov developed early theories on the effect of editing and the juxtaposition of images in sequence. His famous “Kuleshov Effect” was an early example of the power of editing to imbue a sequence of images with meaning, forcing the audience to experience an emotion based on the context and order of the images presented.
In one of the most famous examples of montage, Sergei Eisenstein’s “Odessa Steps” sequence from his film “Battleship Potemkin”, we see firsthand the birth of the artful editing techniques that many of us may take for granted in the breakneck narrative speed of the latest blockbuster film at the multiplex. However, when “Battleship Potemkin” was first released in 1925, it was an eye-popping (and heart-pounding) revelation to its original audience.
Though Moore’s Law may apply to many things, storytelling is not one of them. As the storytelling art has evolved, the pace of narrative innovation has most certainly slowed, save for the occasional novelty of Smell-o-Vision, 3D(!), or any number of the William Castle contrivances in the 1950s, leaving many of us wondering what’s next when it comes to storytelling in a visual medium.
Until Vine, that is.
Traditionalists and Luddites, turn back now, because you’re about to see the future of filmmaking…in six seconds or less.
https://vine.co/v/b1LTZYhpUDn (stickman fail)
https://vine.co/v/bJYZimYlZIx (Jimmy Fallon gets deep)
https://vine.co/v/b19vewP6Qnu (stop-motion sugar packets)
These are just a few of the experiments currently taking place on what may be the world’s most efficient storytelling engine. If you want to find more examples like these, just search Twitter for the hashtags #vine and #vinefavs and you will find a treasure trove of people struggling to find their voice in a very public, and often very revealing, way. But each of these six-second struggles moves us all a step closer to a collective understanding of the power of storytelling as a way of connecting with each other. Sure, we can’t all be experts like the crew at Pixar, but Vines (as they are called) provide a near real-time platform to play with narrative space, style and technique. Though crude, these are the storytelling pioneers of today.
Just as Kuleshov and Eisenstein took a nascent medium and turned it into a storytelling powerhouse (just think, without montage, moving pictures would be just that), “Vinemakers” are exploring a similarly new medium (digital video) that will lay the groundwork for the next 20 years of storytelling technique and style. Far from going off the deep end of “short attention span editing” that had everyone up in arms in the 1990s, Vine is forcing us to relearn the basics of story form and structure through the creation of digital microstories, leading to the birth of new storytellers, better stories and more engaged audiences.
Even with the simple and relatively cheap production and distribution tools currently offered via digital media, there has never been a more open and user-friendly storytelling platform than Vine. Combining the social connectivity of Instagram, the ubiquitousness of smartphone video cameras and the constraints of in-app authoring, Vine provides a remarkable outlet for creativity in and of the moment. Taking MCDM Director Hanson Hosein’s oft-quoted “publish, then filter” mantra to new extremes, Vine is the digital tool that will introduce an entire generation of content creators to the magic of story in the most innovative and effective way possible: by sharing it with others.