Thursday, November 20, 2008

Future of Storytelling

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Laboratory in collaboration with several former Hollywood Executives opened the “Center for Future Storytelling” yesterday. Concerned that the traditional narrative in film - beginning, middle and end - is in danger of becoming obsolete, the Center plans to study the societal trends that are fueling these worries.

Its mission is not small. “The idea, as we move forward with 21st-century storytelling, is to try to keep meaning alive,” said David Kirkpatrick, a founder of the new venture.

Mr. Kirkpatrick and company are not alone in their belief that Hollywood’s ability to tell a meaningful story has been nibbled at by text messages, interrupted by cellphone calls and supplanted by everything from Twitter to Guitar Hero.

Along with the our culture of clutter, the group cites the tendency within the movie industry to favor franchise series that seemingly never end and proven stories that can be adapted for the big screen over original narratives. Furthermore, big films with underdeveloped plots are increasingly being hurried into production to meet release deadlines. Add in a greater reliance on digitalization and effects to compensate for a lack of content and the group sees the future of narratives to be in doubt. However, the Sundance Institute is not ready to signal the death knell just yet. Their upcoming festival in early 2009 will even feature that story as its theme.

“Storytelling is flourishing in the world at a level I can’t even begin to understand,” said Ken Brecher, the institute’s executive director. Mr. Brecher spoke last week, as his colleagues continued sorting through 9,000 films — again, a record — that have been submitted for the coming Sundance Film Festival.

If anything, Mr. Brecher added, technology has simply brought mass storytelling, on film or otherwise, to people who once thought Hollywood had cornered the business.

Regardless of which side you fall on, there’s no question that the landscape in which we now find ourselves is changing our expectations and consumption of narratives. Whether functioning as an escape mechanism or a reflection of our lives, its fluid nature should guarantee its continued evolution alongside of us.

Source PSFK via NY Times 

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