IFC 2014: A Story Worth Telling – A Toolbox (Sort of)

“Fiction is easy, it’s all about ‘Once upon a time’, and it’s imprinted in your DNA. Documentary is what it’s all about”, says Simon Elmes, BBC (UK). Storytelling is a magical process, but the important questions are: Is your story really important, relevant, emotionally powerful, exciting? One example for a gripping beginning is Anatomy of a Car Crash – once one of a protagonist says: “Just for a moment I thought we had made it. But then something went – badly – wrong”, we are on the hook.

Using scenes, scenes and even more scenes are the key when it comes to slow and “cinematic” radio, says Jens Jarisch (Germany). Their liveiness is the heart of the documentary. They are the strongest bond between a story and its listener, and only they can turn an ordinary piece into a feature. Yet, scenes are hard to record. It is all about anticipation: Recording a scene requires a concept, a plot, an idea of how the story is unfolding.

“Stories only happen to those who can tell them” (Edwin Brys), but no good storytelling without dramaturgy, Liam O’Brien (Ireland) says. There is no structuring of a feature without

  • a story, a plot, a structure (the natural flow of a story seldom makes a good structure),
  • scenes, and, within them, the “beats” (which as well do not need to be in their natural order),
  • a dramaturgical sketch (beginning, middle, end; dramatic curve) as opposed to “flat” stories without any dramatic development.



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