Is Hollywood Narrative Dead?

28 Nov

once-upon-a-time

Some Hollywood execs are so concerned about the future of storytelling that they have enlisted the help of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT’s Media Laboratory has created the Centre for Future Storytelling which aims to determine whether the old way of telling stories – particularly those on the big screen delivered with a beginning, a middle and an end – is in trouble. As an interesting article in the New York Times reports:

Hollywood’s ability to tell a meaningful story has been nibbled at by text messages, interrupted by cellphone calls and supplanted by everything from Twitter to Guitar Hero…traditional narrative — the kind with unexpected twists and satisfying conclusions — has been drowned out by noise and visual clutter.

A common gripe is that gamelike, open-ended series like “Pirates of the Caribbean” or “Spider-Man” have eroded filmmakers’ ability to wrap up their movies in the third act. Another is that a preference for proven, outside stories like the Harry Potter books is killing Hollywood’s appetite for original storytelling.

This article got me thinking.

If Hollywood storytelling is in danger, we are arguably seeing an opposing trend in television narrative. Thanks to innovative TV shows like The Sopranos, The Wire and Damages – which demand audience attention – there has been an increase in complex narrative structure and subject matter. This is intriguing, because while our culture values convenience and speed – watching a television series takes up a lot of time (a typical TV drama series is 13 episodes long).

Nowadays, with widespread access to multiple media streams, audiences like to watch/listen to stories on their own terms. Perhaps the quality of television narrative has been preserved because it has adapted to audience needs through innovations like TiVo and the DVD – while Hollywood’s delivery method has remained largely the same?

Read the full New York Times article here.

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