Posts Tagged ‘narrative’

The Heroes Journey – Animated

Posted: December 4, 2017 by Alan Hardcastle in FDA 17_19, Media Production
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What Makes a Hero: Joseph Campbell’s Seminal Monomyth Model for the Eleven Stages of the Hero’s Journey, Animated

“It has always been the prime function of mythology and rite to supply the symbols that carry the human spirit forward.”

Nearly four decades before Joseph Campbell (March 26, 1904–October 30, 1987) refined his enduring ideas on how to find your bliss and have fulfilling life, the legendary mythologist penned The Hero with a Thousand Faces (public library) — his seminal theory outlining the common journey of the archetypal hero across a wealth of ancient myths from around the world. Campbell’s monomyth model has since been applied to everything from the lives of great artists to pop-culture classics like Star Wars.

This wonderful short animation from TED Ed presents a synthesis of Campbell’s foundational framework for the eleven stages of the hero’s quest — from the call to adventure to the crisis to the moment of return and transformation — illustrating its timeless potency in illuminating the inner workings of so many of our modern myths and the real-life heroes we’ve come to worship:

But perhaps Campbell’s most important and enduring point from the book has to do not with the mechanics of the hero’s journey but with the very purpose of hero-myths in human life. He writes in the opening chapter:

It has always been the prime function of mythology and rite to supply the symbols that carry the human spirit forward, in counteraction to those that tend to tie it back. In fact, it may very well be that the very high incidence of neuroticism among ourselves follows the decline among us of such effective spiritual aid.


The first work of the hero is to retreat from the world scene of secondary effects to those causal zones of the psyche where the difficulties really reside, and there to clarify the difficulties, eradicate them in his own case (i.e., give battle to the nursery demons of his local culture) and break through to the undistorted, direct experience and assimilation of what [Carl] Jung called “the archetypal images.”

Complement The Hero with a Thousand Faces with pioneering anthropologist Margaret Mead on the role of “mythic ancestors” in how we form our identity, then revisit Campbell on how to find your bliss.



Lateral Movement on the Screen

Posted: December 4, 2017 by Alan Hardcastle in FDA 17_19, Media Production

By V Rennee at Nofilmschool

Left or Right? Why a Character’s Lateral Movement On-Screen Matters in Film

That’s right. It matters whether your actors are moving right or left across the screen. Or whether your character appears on the right or left side of the screen. Or whether they are right-handed or left-handed. Why? Because — science — and psychology.

In the very educational video below, you’ll get to learn about how different directions of character movements affect audiences the way they do, as well as why it happens.

I love this video because it touches on some very important concepts in aesthetics (basically the dictionary of mise en scène), namely spacial properties of objects, size, and movement. How does the size, movement, and placement of an object communicate to a viewer? What do they communicate?

These aesthetic theories are explored (finally, a film theory actually put through an official test) in a study conducted at Cleveland State University, in which participants were asked to, first, watch a scene where the characters’ movements went from left to right, as well as from right to left, and then share how each video made them feel.

Their findings? The footage that showed right to left lateral movement made the participants feel — bad. They responded that watching the footage made them have more negative feelings than the footage in which the lateral movement went from left to right. Why? It’s not entirely or definitively clear, but if you think about it, our culture has trained our brains to view left to right movement as an indicator or progress — of success.

Other factors play a role in how we interpret a subject’s movement within a frame. For instance, there’s a concept in aesthetics that defines the actual angles of lateral movement — the lateral (L-R/R-L) movements that are either angled up toward the top of screen or down toward the bottom of the screen. These are defined as easy/hard ups/downs. They’re broken down as such:

  • Left to right from top to bottom: easy down
  • Left to right from bottom to top: easy up
  • Right to left from top to bottom: hard down
  • Right to left from bottom to top: hard up

All of these things have different indications. For instance, an easy up composition would be Rocky running up the stairs during his training montage. He’s powerful. He’s driven. He’s a good guy. He’s running toward success. He’s going easy up!

Now look at this image from World War Z. What’s the difference? The zombies are also powerful and driven, but they’re bad guys running toward the destruction of the human race. They’re going hard up!

Just take some moments to look at each image. The first one inspires thoughts of progress, hope, success — even good, altruism, and heroism. The second one inspires thoughts of antagonism, regression, hopelessness, failure, and evil. Essentially, one is positive, and one is negative. Why? Because of the direction of the lateral movement. Both images are angled up, but the one that moves from left to right is the one we consider to be positive, while the other that moves from right to left is considered negative.

Again — why that happens is still not officially determined, but the study from Cleveland State University, which I highly suggest you take a peek at, aims to figure it out scientifically. To learn more about the role character movement plays in aesthetics, as well as how those things communicate with your audience, you can check out the CSU study here.      

Renee, V. 2016. Left or Right? Why a Character’s Lateral Movement On-Screen Matters in Film. NoFilmSchool. [Online: Available at Nofilmschool]

Video Essay: The Heroes Journey

Posted: December 4, 2017 by Alan Hardcastle in FDA 17_19, Media Production
Originally posted by V Renee on NoFilmSchool.
“It’s not a place you can get to by a boat or train. It’s far, far away—behind the moon—beyond the rain.”

If you’re a screenwriter you’ve most certainly heard about the concept of the Hero’s Journey—in fact, you probably you use it to structure your own stories. Though it’s not a narrative requirement, many writers have taken us on some wild rides using Joseph Campbell’s ol’ monomyth—the call to adventure, the “all hope is lost” moment, etc., and video essayist Jack Nugent of Now You See It celebrates the journeys of over 50 of our favorite cinematic heroes in the supercut below:

Nugent’s supercut definitely pulls on some heart strings, but let’s talk about the Hero’s Journey for a second.

Think about some of the most emotional and exciting scenes you’ve ever seen in a film—Neo being offered the red and blue pill, Woody, Buzz, and the other toys holding hands as they head for certain doom, Django smirking as the Big House explodes. Though each and every phase and department of filmmaking contributed to the effectiveness of these movie moments, some of the credit goes to the fact that they used the structure of the monomyth to their advantage.

I mean, would the red and blue pill scene in The Matrix be as effective if it wasn’t preceded by scenes of Neo seeking answers to a mystery? Would you be blubbering in a crowded theater as Woody and Buzz finally bury the hatchet as they head for the incinerator if you hadn’t watched their conflict for 15 years? Maybe not.

Even if you’re staunchly against all of the structural rules and standards created by screenwriting gurus, you can’t really deny the pervasiveness of this narrative template. However, as pervasive as it might be, it still is only a part that makes up the story—and story is king. If the Hero’s Journey just doesn’t fit your narrative, you don’t need to include it. If your story is better without your hero’s transformation being the centerpiece, great! The Hero’s Journey is not a law, it’s merely a tool.

Renne, V. 2016. This Supercut Takes You Through the Hero’s Journey of over 50 Iconic Films. Nofilmschool. [Available online –]

Narratvie Exercise – Monomyth

Posted: January 24, 2017 by Alan Hardcastle in FDA 16_18
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This week, I have a number of things I need you to look at – Composition & Movement and Monomyth.

The first one discusses movement from left to right across the composition of the frame, and the psychology of our understanding of this.

The second talks about the overall structure of the story, based on The Writers Journey and how this is influenced by myths and legends.

So, what I need you to do, is explore elements of both using the camera. Home many of the stages of the monomyth can you represent using composition and movement?

So, for example –
Your character is has the call to adventure, and refuses it – how do you frame the hero? How does the Hero move within the frame?
Crossing the Threshold – How do you show the Character “leaving the limits of their world?” And how would you show them coming back for the Return Threshold?

You can either pick stages and explore them in  a series of shots, or try to construct a narrative from a selection of the stages to show a narrative developement following the Monomyth theory. either way, I am not worried about location, acting or sound / dialogue – I purely want to see how you use the camera to communicate the stage.



Posted: January 20, 2017 by Alan Hardcastle in FDA 16_18, FDA 17_19
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On of my favorite approaches to storytelling is the Monomyth. The idea that all stories are essentially linked through the structure to our understanding of myth and legend.

We are looking at narrative as the series of clues & cues within the frame that tell the story. Focusing on Composition and Movement gives us a chance to simplify the construction of the frame to better communicate the narrative element we are referring too.

Movement within a frame is important, but what does it communicate?

We can look at the main axis of movement in relation to the camera  – up & Down, closer & further away and left & Right. It is this movement across the screen that is potentially the most interesting and least obvious when it comes to meaning.
In the video essay from Channel Criswell, he explores how left to right indicates movement towards the future or progress, whereas right to left indicates movement to the past or regression – but there is a further negative feeling that doesn’t occur with left to right. while initially, this could be about what we are used to  – reading, right-handedness, conventions in mathematical representation etc, it seems that it is a constant across cultures.

See the original article at NoFIlmSchool for more info.

But before we move, we need to know where we place our subjects and other cues that form the narrative that communicates the story.