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The Art of Story: Public face and Inner Truth

Art reveals itself on different levels.

Louise Penny, author of the Three Pines/Inspector Gamache crime novels, speaks of the duality in her stories. There is, for her characters, both a public face and an inner truth. It's the difference between what is said and what is felt.

This is where story lives, in the unfolding of a person's true character through spoken words and external actions. The criminals in her mystery novels hide behind masks of deceit. Even the law-abiding citizens struggle to hide something of themselves, yet yearn to reveal their truth. Not necessarily a dark truth, maybe simply a part of themselves not easily shared.

Steven Whyte, a British born sculptor now residing in northern California, specializes in clay and bronze sculptures of the human form. His works range from sculpted six-inch squares (photo above) to huge public monuments. Not long ago, Whyte says, a woman approached him and asked if she could model for one of his sculptures. Deadra Hammond, a stage-three breast cancer survivor, reached out to Whyte to help her reveal the dignity she felt beneath her scarred breasts. It would be part of her spiritual recovery, Hammond told him.

Whyte sculpted the woman. He has since gone on to do others, allowing cancer survivors to reveal the inner strength and beauty of their souls.

Recently TCM aired the classic Roman Holiday. Public face and inner truth. Audrey Hepburn hides the fact that she is a royal princess who has sneaked out of her embassy to ditch mind-numbing royal duties and spend an anonymous day on the streets of Rome. Gregory Peck plays a newspaper reporter who happens to come upon the princess, discovers who she is, but hides that fact so that he can do an undercover story on her adventure.

The two develop feelings for one another, enjoy a wonderful 24 hours, and subtly reveal their truths. No spoilers. See the movie yourself to learn how it ends.

Each of our lives is a story. Each group, each community we belong to has a story.  Every well-written novel, every great film tells a compelling story. Public face and inner truth: the story of our inner lives groping forward toward the light of day.

In the film, the script, the documentary, the novel, the marketing piece you're now working on, show us what is felt beneath the spoken words. We need to see that.

This is a reprint of our December newsletter. You can sign up for the monthly newsletter on our home page.

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Dec 17, 2010 at 12:06:39 pm

Good Audio in Film

Capturing sound for film remains an ongoing challenge. Last night I watched TCM’s airing of Singin’ in the Rain, the 1952 lighthearted story of filmdom’s transition from silent pictures to talkies.

In the unlikely event you’re not familiar with it, the movie, with Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor, tells the story of a fictional movie company scrambling to produce its first talking movie after the industry saw the enormous popularity of Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer.

About 46 minutes into the movie, the ditzy silent-era character Lina Lamont (played by Jean Hagen) acts for the first time with a microphone. Dressed in a billowing French Revolution-era gown, a classic wig on top of her head, she looks the perfect screen image.

The scene starts with a microphone about the size of a flying saucer being hidden in a plant in front of the seated Lina. Each time she turns her head, the sound booth loses audio. So they put the mike (still flying saucer-size) in a large flower corsage on Lina’s dress.

Then the booth picks up Lina’s thumping heart beat! And each time she turns, audio still drops.

When the production company first screens the film, the test audience thinks it’s a comedy. Every non-essential sound is picked up, voices drop out, and then the sound goes out of sync with the visual.

That was the 1920’s. Ninety years later, here we are with the same challenges. We use miniature body mikes, sensitive shotgun mikes, wireless technology, graphite boom poles. Yet we still have a need to pull actors into ADR to re-record their dialogue.

We watch television programs at home on hi-def sets, but all too often our cable company’s transmission hiccups and sound runs out of sync with visual until some program engineer catches the error. Funny how the commercials never go out of sync!

And 90 years from now?

Good Audio in Film Republished by Bob Gillen

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Dec 9, 2010 at 8:03:39 pm

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