The Perils of TMI
Tell ‘em everything, show ‘em everything, lay it all out and your audience will leave with less than you might otherwise have given them had the experience been better crafted to engage rather than, in a sense, spell-out.
Less truly is More … more often than not, and to articulate every moment, point and beat of a story does, I believe, a disservice to our audience.
In conversations with clients, it is not unusual to hear arguments in favor of spelling things out “…in case someone doesn’t get it…” Well, we can do that; but giving it all away like that, spelling it all out, makes it a Show, while offering a well-crafted, creative “Less” can elevate said Show into an Experience that is deeper and more resonant…and more personal.
Let the audience do some of the work. (We’ve talked about this! <g>)
It sometimes seems that many producers and directors strive to eradicate any doubt in the minds of an audience as to what is intended or meant, what may be every thought of the main characters, the Why that motivates each action or word… This Leading of the audience, step-by-step, through a story may seem thorough and complete, in theory – and, in a sense, it is both thorough and complete; but such completeness isn’t necessarily a foundation for powerful storytelling.
Sometimes, allowing the audience to draw their own conclusions based on their experience of what you presented can result in deeply-felt convictions as to motive and eventuality, differing widely from seat to seat in your theatre.
Harking back to earlier conversations around Subliminal Engagement and the Liberation of Preconception; filling-in all the blanks and wrapping it all in a pretty, no-loose-ends bow isn’t necessarily the most effective approach to an audience recalling and re-experiencing what was given them long after Curtain and often into the days and weeks that follow.
This relates to the theory and methodologies that apply to communication with an audience through the left and right lobes of the brain. This division of mental labor is, I think, often discussed or referenced yet not so often actually examined and applied in the context of creating event or ride experience, producing theatre, even making film and video for the occasional capital campaign.
As you likely know, the left brain leans toward the analytical while the right holds most of the feelings and emotions: the cerebral versus the visceral.
That being the general case (it’s more complicated than that; but for purposes of our discussion, today…), there are some general rules I tend to follow as much as possible when creating film or video or theatre in order to keep the left brain quiet (if not dormant) and the right brain engaged and active.
When making film, the banning of print or titles from the screen is worthy of exploration and adherence. A line must often be walked, especially when on-camera interviews are a part of the piece, with deciding how and when to identify a given speaker. If you can get away without identifying a person, then by all means do it!
Depending on one’s audience and familiarity with the speaker, identification may not even be necessary… Or, list speakers and faces at the end of the video, or at the beginning; however your storytelling can support it without obstruction.
Truly adept would be finding a way for a previous speaker to reference the next, or the light-handed use of a narrator from segment-to-segment. There isn’t always a way, though there very often is at least one…
Frankly, imho, there is rarely, rarely a situation where it serves the delivery of information to put data onscreen, anyway. More often than not, it is that very data that can “date” a video piece sooner than anything else. One can refer to data, fact and figure and send the audience to Google (if they haven’t already been there).
We did this for a non-profit capital campaign in Southern California a few years back; with Jane Seymour as the Ambassador, describing the experience, engaging the audience with her description of the programs, referencing the “…reams of facts and figures…” and sending ‘em to Google. Worked like a charm…
“Don’t worry,” she says to the camera, “I’m not going to show you all those facts and figures; that’s why we have Google! What I am going to do…”
Feel free to check it out on my YouTube Channel:
I have experienced another example of overproduction that, from my point of view, epitomizes the worst in what can happen when a writer or director or designer (or, yes, a producer) goes overboard in complicated articulation.
Some years back, a Famous Event Designer in a Huge Eastern City created as a component of one of his signature events some fantastic centerpieces composed entirely of red and yellow roses. He took apart one color of rose and, petal-by-petal, tucked those alternate colors into the contrasting bloom. It was very impressive; clearly a detailed, intricate, laborious and expensive augmentation of the evening.
My sense of this, though, is that that sort of thing ultimately distracts from unrestrained enjoyment of the experience through the senses of the right brain. Such overtly complex and complicated presentation can become a subject of conversation and, through that, ignite the left brain to further analyze the How’s of what is happening rather than simply becoming immersed in the Experience.
Once awakened, ‘tis difficult to put that rascally left brain back to sleep.
Truly. Keep presentation simple. Save the complexity for the timing; for reveals, for a Moment of Exhilaration, for a Finale or Shock or Surprise; but keep the experience simple to appreciate and enjoy.
Thanks for reading.
I’m replacing my Robert Browning quote with something more relevant to this particular post…
We can lead a horticulture but we can’t make her think…
(Perhaps we shouldn’t try…!)