Reconciling The Tension Between Code and Story

While most screenwriting books and film schools do an OK job of teaching the old rules of storytelling (from Aristotle to McKee), those techniques sometimes can't help with the challenges of new world storytelling. If you've tried your hand at telling a story across multiple platforms (what some are calling transmedia or cross-platform storytelling), you're already aware of the limitations of the old tools (e.g., Aristotle's unities, 3 Acts, Hero's Journey, etc.) and the "wealth of [cross-platform story] experiences that simply do not play by any of.. [the old] rules."

The problem sometimes seems like a hopeless culture clash. But there is hope. Early adopters of cross-platform techniques, many working in advertising, are helping to come up with new tools for building stories that unfold across multiple platforms in ways that are interactive and non-linear. For example, here is a link to an insightful blogpost by Martin Weigel (Head of Planning for Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam). Filmmakers who want to tell their stories online have a lot to learn from the creative minds behind today's multiplatform "brand stories." Although he is writing about products and marketing, Martin Weigel's words should ring true to documentarians and fiction filmmakers who have struggled with the new rules of online storytelling: "Aristotle's ideas of narrative construction still dominate - consciously or not - much of our thinking. As he argued in his Poetics, a plot is constructed out of a fixed sequence of events; it has a definite beginning and end, is characterized by a sense of wholeness and unity, and a ‘certain definite magnitude’. The problem is that code allows us to create a vast and ever-evolving wealth of experiences that simply do not play by any of these Aristotelean rules."

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