The Magic Machine

This week we were presented with the idea of ‘The Magic Machine’ under the theme of silent films. Rob showed us how the essence of a narrative can be condensed into a matter of seconds. But the importance lies in how to captivate the viewer through angles and perspectives and of course the unexpected twists and turns. Take, for instance, a recent endeavour involving a magic machine that thrusts us into the midst of a chaotic children’s party, all unfolding just before the return of an evil stepmother. Yet, the grand reveal isn’t a mystical saga but rather a cleverly crafted Hoover commercial. Through this unexpected reveal it leaves an indelible impression on the audience and therefore is a sticky idea.

Reflecting on Rob’s insights into silent films, it was great to see the comparisons between an over-talkative analytical conversation (Sherlock) compared to stripped back hints (The Wire) and how this guides the viewer to know what is taking place. A medium where the absence of dialogue challenges storytellers to communicate human truths and relatable emotions through imagery, raising the question why should we care about the protagonist? Through silence how do we form an emotional bond with them? Rob brought up a very relevant point that often on social media (Instagram) we often watch footage in silence. Is this a modern way of how we consume silent films and serve as a contemporary stage for silent narratives, where visuals take centre stage?

Whilst analysing Sherlock, where the story angle is pivotal, it is not just about being told a story; you are shown how Sherlock’s mind works but only in the aftermath. This makes the protagonist seem knowledgeable and clever, and for the audience it is insightful but you don’t necessarily feel on his level of expertises. The dialogue is an onslaught of information, overwhelming yet digestible. You don’t necessarily need the imagery to tell the story. 

The contrast becomes apparent with ‘The Wire,’ a revelation for me. The power of ‘show, don’t tell’ becomes evident as the audience is drawn into the detectives’ intricate thought processes, immersing them in a captivating crime-solving journey. Unlike Holmes, you can’t casually avert your gaze; every detail demands attention, making you an active participant in the unfolding drama. The power is given to the audience as we feel on par with the detectives, we find the clues as they do in real time. 

When Rob presented the challenge of creating a silent film inspired by the word ‘quest,’ it sparked introspection into the everyday quests in my life – finding misplaced keys, uncovering the stolen sandwich from the communal fridge, or reconnecting with my inner child. Collaborating within a team to bring these silent quests to life was both invigorating and eye-opening. The mantras of ‘hook, twist, and punch’ were at the forefront of my mind. It’s about giving the audience what they want but in unexpected ways. The journey isn’t linear; it’s a journey of surprises that keeps the audience engaged.

The magic machine of storytelling, whether in a children’s party or a Hoover commercial, hinges on the ability to evoke emotions, surprise the audience, and create a connection that lingers long after the narrative concludes. My mantra going forward is to ‘hook, twist and punch’!


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