Digital Storytelling

Digital Storytelling

The Narrative Power of Visual Effects in Film

Shilo T. McClean

ISBN 9780262304184
320 pp.
March 2007

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Content Publisher
The MIT Press

Digital Storytelling

The Narrative Power of Visual Effects in Film

Computer-generated effects are often blamed for bad Hollywood movies. Yet when a critic complains that “technology swamps storytelling” (in a review of Van Helsing, calling it “an example of everything that is wrong with Hollywood computer-generated effects movies”), it says more about the weakness of the story than the strength of the technology. In Digital Storytelling, Shilo McClean shows how digital visual effects can be a tool of storytelling in film, adding narrative power as do sound, color, and “experimental” camera angles—other innovative film technologies that were once criticized for being distractions from the story. It is time, she says, to rethink the function of digital visual effects.

Effects artists say—contrary to the critics—that effects always derive from story. Digital effects are a part of production, not post-production; they are becoming part of the story development process. Digital Storytelling is grounded in filmmaking, the scriptwriting process in particular. McClean considers crucial questions about digital visual effects—whether they undermine classical storytelling structure, if they always call attention to themselves, whether their use is limited to certain genres—and looks at contemporary films (including a chapter-long analysis of Steven Spielberg’s use of computer-generated effects) and contemporary film theory to find the answers. McClean argues that to consider digital visual effects as simply contributing the “wow” factor underestimates them. They are, she writes, the legitimate inheritors of film storycraft.

Contents

  1. Preface
  2. Acknowledgments
  3. 1. The Bastard Spawn: Hollywood Computer-Generated-Effects Movies—Some Introductory Comments
  4. 2. Once Upon a Time: Story and Storycraft
  5. 3. I’m Sorry Dave, I’m Afraid I Can’t Do That: The Technology of Digital Visual Effects
  6. 4. Trick or Treat: A Framework for the Narrative Uses of Digital Visual Effects in Film
  7. 5. If You Are Falling, Leap: The Hero’s Journey
  8. 6. The Teller and the Tale: The “Chinese Whispers” of Adaptation
  9. 7. It Goes Like This: The Relationship between Digital Visual Effects and Genre
  10. 8. So Here’s the Deal: A Case Study Considering the Influence of Franchise Filmmaking and Its Relationship to Digital Visual Effects
  11. 9. ET 2 AI: Steven Spielberg
  12. 10. Somewhere over the Rainbow: Imagined Worlds and Visions of the Future Realized through Digital Visual Effects
  13. 11. Byting Off More Than You Can Chewbacca: Summary and Conclusions
  14. Appendix A: Genres of Films Featured in Cinefex Magazine
  15. Appendix B: Films, Release Years, and Directors
  16. Notes
  17. Bibliography
  18. Index