Along with the securing of food and shelter, storytelling is at the center of the cyclical rituals of human survival. Here in New Mexico ancient civilizations left behind superb examples of cyclical rituals in which storytelling was central.
The origins of movies begin this far back. Theater was born when the first hunter put on the skin of the animal on which he and his companions had just feasted. He danced around the fire with his imagination aroused by the animal’s sacrifice, his belly filled with its meat.
Documents of these same events were drawn on rock faces and cave walls emphasizing the primacy and immediacy of the visual in transmitting tales. Written language came later, developed from these early markings.
Spoken word falls somewhere in between the first performance and the first written language. Spoken word is overused in commercial film making. It’s original place in storytelling was an adjunct to the performance of the dancer, issuing forth from the dancer himself or those watching him. Early chants intoned to the beat of a log drum, or the clapping of hands, became songs which eventually galvanized into words, imposed upon by the natural rhythms of the human body, breath and heartbeat.
Handicrafts and tool-making advanced storytelling further towards film making when the same tales of animal and human fates were spun out on rugs and pottery surfaces, articulating cinematic mysteries long before the first movie cameras or hard disks ever whirled.
This brief history of storytelling can be used as a road map into the human brain regarding which stimuli the mind is most apt to be open to and what priority the mind gives to a given stimulus.
The primeval stimulus is theater, which explains why acting is given such emphasis in cinematic storytelling. Song is second in order of importance. No one would argue against the potential power of music in motion pictures. Even movies that utilize no music at all often rely on rhymes and rhythms derived from music and adapted to film editing.Next comes drawing and handicrafts, which have evolved into the illustrious aesthetics of the visual image that we have today in motion pictures.
Spoken word is last in order of importance in a movie script, but must be invested with the highest degree of craft. Spoken word must not convey what performance, or image, or editing, or music has already conveyed. In order to realize its full potential, spoken word must come out of the collective unconscious. It should reveal to the viewers what is on their mind before they realize it themselves.