The Art of Leaving Out

Most viewers don’t notice it, and rightly so, and yet it’s an important part of the movie that works because it’s missing: It’s the omission. It’s exactly as important as the images shown in the film.


Because no film takes place in real time. Film is selection. This means that not every going to bed, every meal or every walk 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 toilet). Also, here only the most exciting and important aspects and perhaps also a small story are to be told. The problem usually arises elsewhere: most corporate films are almost overloaded with information. Often they repeat themselves here in order to please the most important stakeholders, too many aspects or whole subject areas are pushed into a single film or things are told that are completely abstract and far away from the needs of the target group. Sometimes, considering all interest groups and corporate political correctness, one loses the feeling for when the film is no longer exciting.


Even beyond the image level, not everything is said or revealed even on the audio level in a good film. This doesn’t only create a short while, 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. Especially large gaps in knowledge are deliberately created here. But also in dramas or action movies there are always secrets, be it in the characters, the events or at least for the outcome of the story. 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 Mark Frost to soon solve the mystery. But 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 away that they only hint at whole plot strands – simply because they trust in the transfer performance of the audience. There are movies that go so far, even to the end, 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 Get-no-more.


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.


I hope I have given you food for thought for your next corporate film. Perhaps you can keep an eye on not overloading it and thus strengthen the message. If you would like sound advice on how to say the most important thing in your film efficiently, please feel free to contact us at any time.


Zarah Ziadi, mmpro editorial office

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