Storytelling: In The Blink of An Eye

What I’ve learned from film giants like Walter Murch and Barry Jenkins

We’ve all heard the saying “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” It’s cliche.

But when it comes to digital storytelling, it’s true. There’s a reason why the eyes are the first thing a viewer’s eyes are drawn to on any screen that shows someone’s face.

Walter Murch was the editor for Apocalypse Now, a film with plenty of his signature eye coverage.

The eyes are the most powerful tool in a producer’s toolbox. They tell the entire story.

The concept was explained in the authoritative book on editing, Walter Murch’s In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing.

Murch has editing credits on masterpieces such as “Apocalypse Now,” “The Godfather: Part II” and “The English Patient,” among many others spanning his nearly 50-year career.

It’s a long and at times dense book, but the concept is simple: the eyes tell the story.

Murch focused on the use of an eye blink for emotional punctuation and its relation to editing, but his films connect with the audience on an intimate level by letting the audience peer into the characters’ eyes.

Murch’s book was cited by Barry Jenkins as a major influence on his film Moonlight, nominated for eight awards at this year’s Oscars. It’s a film with admittedly low stakes, but by then end you’re deeply invested in the protagonist.

Does this exchange from the film look familiar?

Pain, regret, longing. So much can be communicated without a single word being spoken.

At Ball State Sports Link, we’ve tried to apply the same principle to documentary-style storytelling.

Whether it be specialty shoots, interviews or even highlights, the key to telling any of our athletes’ stories is capturing their eyes. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a picture of a subject’s eyes is worth millions. They inform, emote and inspire.

The key in any good story is to get the viewer to connect with the subject, to empathize and in some small way to experience the biggest moments of that person’s life.

The eyes form the bond that makes the viewer care about the rest of what is being said.

But it’s more than that. The eyes tell the story.

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