WE’RE ALL STORYTELLERS
Photo by Lauren Lu
Sometimes definitions and meanings are different. To Jim Peterson, director of theater and film at this school, movies are more than just recordings of moving images; rather, they “provide an outlet for artistic expression and for communicating a story.”
“We’re a society of storytellers,” he said. “The human race is based on storytelling, so movies are a medium through which we can do that.”
Senior Anna Lasbury has been acting and doing television work since she was around 7. She later took an interest in movies and began auditioning for films.
Lasbury said, “When I started auditioning for films, I became interested in them because it’s different (from) doing TV work. You get to develop a stronger character and there is more to work with. The acting is much more in-depth.”
To Lasbury, movies are a good way to express one’s different interests and opinions on certain subjects. She said movies are an easy way for people to personally connect to a situation.
“I did a film on human trafficking once, which is obviously a very touchy subject. It’s hard to approach, especially when talking to people our age, because people will be immature,” she said. “They don’t know how to handle the situation. But through acting in a film and being able to portray one character rather than talk about something as a whole, people can really connect and realize the damage something can do at a personal level.”
In 2010, the Norman Lear Center conducted a survey on the effects of the educational film “Food, Inc.” on 20,000 people. They found that those who watched the movie encouraged others to learn more about food safety, shop at local farmers markets, eat healthy food and consistently buy organic or sustainable food.
Media has always had a give-and-take relationship, according to Peterson. Movies can influence and be influenced by opinion. A trend will pick up when a certain topic becomes very important to society, and directors will produce movies and television shows about it. It eventually dies out, and a new idea will become the topic of interest.
“…Through acting in a film and being able to portray one character rather than talk about something as a whole, people can really connect and realize the damage something can do at a personal level.”
Peterson said, “The (Ice) Bucket Challenge is a great example of what happens with media. First, it catches on over social media. Then we’ll see more and more of it in mainstream media, because it is so popular in social media. It takes longer for mainstream to catch up, so TV shows are probably the first ones to get it, then movies will get it, and by the time that happens, it’s old and boring.”
Ben Figueroa, IB Film student and senior, has been interested in and impacted by movies and theater since he was in middle school. He made films with friends when he was younger, has taken theater since ninth grade and began taking IB film last year. He said movies are a medium that are easy to follow along with, which makes them a good educational tool.
“I am massively influenced by media. Most of the information I have on topics like politics, policy and things like that, I get almost entirely from the news or from biased movies,” Figueroa said. “Very seldom do I base my opinions on what people around me have said. It’s almost (based) exclusively on the media I’m seeing because they are the people who are experts and they’re sharing what they know with the rest of us.”
Lasbury said the hardest part of acting is making sure she portrays emotions accurately, so that the views of the movie are conveyed to the audience.
“Sometimes you memorize things one way, and you think that a character will be feeling a certain way, so you memorize it and practice it over and over with feelings and emotions,” Lasbury said. “Then you actually take it to the set, and your director will say, ‘Well, I was actually thinking that she would feel this way because this and this happened in her past.’ So then right on the spot, you have to feel the real emotion rather than what you have practiced for so long. That’s what makes acting so hard: making it real emotion.”
For Figueroa, music and lighting are key factors in getting across a certain view. When using a basic setup, consisting of standard lighting and no background music or visual manipulation, Figueroa said it can be more difficult to portray that perspective. Getting specific with tiny details and taking careful notice of little things can make it much easier to show the audience a viewpoint.
“Very seldom do I base my opinions on what people around me have said. It’s almost (based) exclusively on the media I’m seeing because they are the people who are experts and they’re sharing what they know with the rest of us.”
Peterson said, “Most people think in order for a movie to be a success, it has to be a multibillion dollar blockbuster with special effects and men in capes. That’s not true at all. Obviously we don’t have the budget to do something like that, so we just focus more on the storytelling.”
For Lasbury, the key to playing a character is to delve completely into that role and to go deeper than pretending to have a certain emotion.
“If a character is supposed to feel happy, then a lot of people will pretend to be happy,” Lasbury said. “But for me, it’s important to remember the specific situation that the character is going through or the specific problem the character is facing and to embody their actual feelings at that time.”
Lasbury said she never realized how much movies could impact someone until a woman approached her after a screening of a movie she was in called “Sound of the Spirit.”
“A woman came up to me, and she told me that because of this film she was able to have the courage to talk to her parents about how she did not feel the same way religiously as they did,” she said. “Because of this film’s message and what she saw the character do, she was able to actually address the problem with her parents. I never thought I could do that.”
The main skill of movie making, according to Peterson, is conveying a vision. Learning to communicate a story can be a learning experience, because the audience may sometimes understand a situation in a completely different manner than what an actor or director thinks.
“Movies provide an outlet for artistic expression, for communicating a story,” he said. “We’re all storytellers. Storytelling is our big thing. We’re a society of storytellers. The human race is based on storytelling, (and) movies are a medium through which we can do that.”
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