Media Production Mentoring

Free online film school designed with beginning filmmakers in mind.


Context to Concept

There are four main categories or levels of information in a movie:

1. The Context: What is happening in the scene. This includes the action and the visuals we see.

2. The Text: What is being said about the scene. Here the narrator or the actors tell us something about what we are seeing.

3. The Subtext: What is going on in the movie at this time which influences how we interpret what is happening and being said. This includes previous action which sheds light on the characters and their surroundings.

4. The Concept: This is the deep meaning or idea the director is trying to convey. This could be anything from "brotherly love" to "the vices of western medicine."

The problem is that filmmakers tend to get stuck on one of these to the detriment of the others. For instance:

Action flicks, like Bond movies, are all about the context... the explosions, the pretty girls, the great locations where the explosions and pretty girls exist.

Religious flicks get hung up on the text and so become preachy.

Thrillers and "heady" movies can get so enamored by the fast ones they are pulling on the audience that people only half follow them and either are unimpressed and lost at the end, or so confused they believe they have just experienced genius.

And art pictures are so intent on their concept that they forget to tell a story altogether. Then the director gets angry and tells people they just weren't experiencing the movie properly.

The Fall

Naturally, each of these appeals to different people. But the truly excellent films--and, honestly, other works or art--have a good blend of each of these. The movie "The Fall" does not have a good blend. The film instantly drops into its concept and never comes up for air. It is beautiful, and so the context is impressive, but the film lacks any tangible depth because the subtext is so buried not even the director in the commentary can tell us what his movie is about, "This is a movie that I wrote over 17 years ago and then knew it was going to be retold and shaped by a 4 year old girl."

...okay... interesting concept piece there... but... what?

Balance. Not only an important part of your breakfast, it's also important in your productions.

~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

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