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Narrative Structures and Short Films

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Brendan Gurrie

on 3 October 2012

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Transcript of Narrative Structures and Short Films


"Narrative Structure &
Short Films" We have looked at several types of narrative
structure to see if they can be applied to our
short film, or short films in general. A narrative structure is the way the story
is presented. It can normally be divided into
3 parts:
Setup: An introduction to the characters and settings
Conflict: A problem arises that the characters must overcome
Resolution: The climax of the story, the characters
overcome the problem - or not. Many people have proposed their own ideas
on how a basic narrative structure should look Propp looked at 100s of folk tales and identified 8 character roles and 31 narrative functions:
1. The villain
2. The hero
3. The donor - who provides an object with some magic property.
4. The helper
5. The princess - reward for the hero and object of the villain's schemes.
6. Her father - who rewards the hero.
7. The dispatcher - who sends the hero on his way.
8. The false hero
The character roles and the functions identified by Propp can be applied to all kinds of narrative. Vladimir Propp: A Russian scholar who analysed Russian folk stories to find similarities in their narrative structure. This includes short film narratives, as well as our documentary, although we can only apply a few of these
roles to our characters.
We will have a presenter whose journey
we follow, casting him as the hero. The social group studied will acts as "the donors" supplying information to the presenter. In documentaries "the dispatcher" would be the production company and "the princess" would be knowledge (or money). Tzvetan Todorov, a bulgarian philosopher who viewed the setting as an equilibrium, and the conflict as a break in this equilibrium and so his structure is similar to our original structure. However, he suggested that the cause of the abnormalities
divided a narrative into two more categories.
A supernatural event cannot have happened if it stays true to the laws of physics, so it must have been a fantasy, induced by dreaming, drugs etc. He calls this "fantastic uncanny".
If the supernatural event has actually taken place it must of changed the laws of physics and this is called "fantastic marvelous". A documentary doesn't necessarily
overcome a conflict, it can just explore
a characters or setting in greater detail
that a story and so we cannot apply
Todorov's structure to our short film.
However since we will literally be exploring
the supernatural in our short film, we can
include his way of distinguishing between
reality and fantasy. Claude Levi-Strauss was a French anthropologist.
He looked more at how binary opposites (e.g. black
and white) and how their corresponding themes were
arranged in a narrative to enhance it, than order.
Binary opposites are important to consider in our
short film as they will make our social group stand
out from the rest of society. French theorist Roland Barthes describes a text as"a galaxy of signifiers, not a structure of signifieds; it has no beginning; it is reversible; we gain access to it by several entrances, none of which can be authoritatively declared to be the main one; the codes it mobilizes extend as far as the eye can read, they are indeterminable...the systems of meaning can take over this absolutely plural text, but their number is never closed, based as it is on the infinity of language..." This means that as you look at a narrative
from a different viewpoint, its meaning changes.
If we read from the view of man shouting at a cop who gave him a ticket he is a hero.
If we see it from the view of the cop who just wants
to do his job and provide for his family, suddenly the
man standing up to him is a bully. This is probably the most important view we
can apply to our short film, although it is not
a structure. The way we present our social group
is the way the audience will think of them. If the
whole film shows opinions from a normal student
then the group will come across negatively.
If we show only their side of the story then they
could come across as preachy and proud. Although our short film is a scripted and
fictional documentary it's "aim" is to look at
the groups place in society, so we must find a
balance between whose point of view we see them from. There are lots of guidelines for documentary structures online, such as this one by a radio "strategist":
http://www.slideshare.net/acarvin/the-mechanics-of-documentary-storytelling

Guides like this can helps us narrow down our ideas
and plan their place in the short 5 minutes we have
and provides a basic structure that we can adapt, leaving us more time to focus on shots/actors etc.
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