Storytelling, Auslassung, Dramaturgie

Storytelling: The Art of Leaving Out

Most viewers don’t notice it because it is not there. And yet it’s an important part of the movie that works because it’s missing:

It’s the omission.

Because no film takes place in real time. Film is selection. This means that not every going to bed, every back scratching or every walk to the restroom will be shown. Not even every day is shown. The film is not a reflection of life, the film is a film – exciting and only cinematically through omission.

“All well and good, but what does that have to do with corporate,” you might think. Quite a lot.

Because even a corporate film doesn’t show every walk (and certainly no walk to the restroom). Only the most exciting and important aspects shall be pushed in a proper light. The problem is that many corporate films are overloaded with information. Often they repeat themselves in order to please their stakeholders. Too many aspects or whole subject areas are pushed into a single film until it disintegrates or even the last bit of tension sags like a worn rubber band. In view of all the interest groups and corporate political correctness, the feeling of whether the film is still exciting quickly loses itself.

Speech is silver, Silence is gold

Beyond the image level, not everything is said or revealed on the audio level in a good film. This doesn’t only create a diverting, but also the desire of the viewer to stay tuned. By omitting information, the viewer becomes involved because he unconsciously tries to uncover the mysterious gaps in knowledge. This can be observed wonderfully in crime thrillers or mystery films. But also in dramas or action movies are always secrets – otherwise there’s plain and simple no other reason to keep on watching a film.

Lynch – Master of missing explanations

A good example of this is David Lynch’s series “Twin Peaks”, which was first broadcast on the American channel ABC in 1990. The producers of the series feared that the audience would jump out if they had to wait even longer to find out who Laura Palmer’s killer was – and urged David Lynch and his co-autor Mark Frost to solve the mystery soon. Unfortunately, the two “Twin Peaks” creators finally agreed to the request of the producers. And contrary to expectations, the opposite happened: after the unveiling of the murderer, the series lost more and more viewers and was finally discontinued.

For example, the Coen brothers are masters of omission. Meanwhile, the two are so far that they only hint at whole plot strands – simply because they trust in the transfer performance of their audience. There are movies that go so far not to reveal all the secrets that keep their magic beyond the credits. Is that why the viewers jump off? No, on the contrary – this results in countless comments in discussion forums, because people always try to unveil secrets up to the Get-no-more.

More is too much

The point I would like to make is this: omission arouses the viewer’s curiosity and draws him into the story – sometimes even beyond the end of the film. And isn’t that what every corporate film wants in one way or another: to convince its target group and win them over? You can’t do that by overloading the viewer with information. On the contrary: he should receive exactly the information that makes him curious about more!

Of course, it is not always easy to deny all comments during coordination processes with many stakeholders. But the problem that can arise from this is that the focus often shifts in favor of completeness and not in favor of the target group. And completeness is the opposite of omission and curiosity.


by Zarah Ziadi

mmpro editorial

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