Putting Story First

Here’s a short(er) one for you:

Over this Winter break I’ll be writing the first draft of the script for my next short film.

It all started from this idea I had, that no matter how far you walk, and no matter how much you do in your life, there will always be two paths making up your world: the road leading to where you want to go, and the trail bringing you back home. Initially this was an idea that I only thought I’d write about within an English assignment (or here on Medium,) but since its conception I’ve been working out so many different ways to portray this thought, and I can really feel the potential in the form of a short film.

And while I won’t be announcing anything concrete about production and release yet, I’m definitely trying to make it less of a mess than my last big personal project. I’ve learned many, many valuable lessons since then. But here’s something I learned now, not only about film, but about absolutely any method of storytelling. It’s a lesson anyone and everyone should learn:

Put your story first.

I seriously can’t stress this enough. The reason I bring this up today is because, while brainstorming for this short film concept just a couple of weeks ago, one of the first things I considered was equipment.

Equipment, equipment, equipment. I come from some more technical hobbies and backgrounds, so the idea of learning about and using all this equipment is something I can get stuck to pretty easily. While it might mean that I’m knowledgeable enough to understand a list of tech specs and know when the price on a lens is right, it can often get in the way of telling an actual story.

Over the next few days I was searching left and right online for the best equipment, at the best prices. I was looking up resolutions, dynamic range, rentals, and basically every little technical, logistical camera detail that I could think of. I enjoyed it. But eventually I figured out that I was getting ahead of myself.

Throughout my growing obsession into my financial standings and expressive camera angles, I realized I was focusing so much on things the audience wouldn’t see that I almost became more excited about what’s just outside the frame than the reason I wanted to create this film in the first place:

The story.

In the end, that’s the reason we watch films. That’s the reason we read books. You wouldn’t watch a documentary about the most mundane objects in the world if it weren’t for a great story hidden behind them. The same goes for every other genre.

So this time, I made a pledge to myself. From the first day of writing that exciting script to the last, I won’t be thinking about equipment. Of course, the practicality of the situations and interactions I write in are different things completely — I probably won’t be writing in any extreme, skydiving, car-crash-filled action scenes for this one. But until the time comes to get technical, I’ll keep on writing stories; because in the eyes of the crowd, movies are just that.

If you learned something from my story, feel free to leave a few claps or a response down below. I’ll try not to obsess over them but I’d really appreciate it nonetheless. :)