Three rules to learning digital storytelling (Part I)

Ever stared at the metaphorical white page in MS Word pondering what to write? In my second storytelling class I learned that the biggest constraint for creativity is the infinite number of possibilities from having no constraints (the white space).

Rule #1: Set Rules
Every week, for the last twelve weeks, we had to produce a video – a self-imposed requirement. The most successful videos came from an assigned theme or a rule. Having a rule or parameter was the biggest jump-start to creating a video, but I didn’t understand why until we watched The Five Obstructions (2003).

The film depicts a director (Lars Von Trier) who makes his mentor (Joergen Leth) redo his movie — the Perfect Human (1967) — five times, following different constraints each time. In every instance, Leth outsmarts the limitations and produces an incredible film. It was amazing to watch the same film rendered in such different ways, and every time it was jaw dropping good. This was only possible because Leth had to follow the obstructions imposed on him by Von Trier.

Rules give us something to press against and therefore movement happens. When a dancer needs to jump, he must plié to press against the floor so he will spring into the air. Without applying the pressure into the floor there will be no jump.

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Tech marketing executive. Latina who loves the rain. Proud mami of two amazing children.

One thought on “Three rules to learning digital storytelling (Part I)”

  1. Yes! Gotta love Lars Von Trier…and storytelling…and digital storytelling.

    As a project this summer (Daily Treasures –, Goatsilk
    makes a “rules” produced video every work-week day (mon.-fri.) in the month of June. Each video is based on a found object we discover by searching the surrounding land we’re living on. We produce a story about the history of the object, the people it was imagined to be connected to, what they used it for and how/why it was left behind. After we create the video, we post the object for sale on e-bay in hopes that someone will find our tale compelling enough to fall in love with the “treasure” and bid to buy it. It has thus far been a great parameter/formula to work under, and successful in that more than half of these previously worthless found objects have sold on-line and attained some new value. We’ve produced 15 shorts/15 auctions in three weeks…each one takes about one full workday (plus overtime) to complete. It’s engrossing but very challenging to keep pace as each day we start with nothing – a blank canvas – and let the “find” inspire us to complete the work about it, using the storytelling techniques we’ve developed and continue to hone through the process. It’s a blend of fact and fiction, present and past, real and artifice.

    In any case…I agree with you Adriana that parameters, while not necessary for everyone or everything, can be crucial to making something work for both creator and audience, and also to help people learn how stories and ideas can be told. Limitations and/or rules can also help eliminate the kinds of indulgences and meanderings that make so much creative work self-centered and uninteresting.

    I look forward to seeing the new Von Trier movie.

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