Where have all the good stories gone?

I was lucky enough to speak at a panel tonight with director George Miller about the future of film. George lamented the fact that good stories just aren’t surfacing as much any more in cinema – either because studios are averting risk by financing sequels (rather than original content) or maybe because we have mined the major historical and mythological themes of our time in 100 years of cinema. He also talked about the shifting sands of film language and how quickly it is evolving with audiences. His example to show how pervasive this was is the fact that young children watch and understand movies before they can read.

The panel session started with a recorded message from Peter Jackson who alluded to what he saw as a staleness in film storytelling – and a prediction that a younger breed of filmmakers were about to take over with renewed purpose and vigour. In my estimation these are two of the most eminent filmmakers of our time and I was a little blown away to hear confirmation of their dissolution with the status quo and their view of the future.

For what it’s worth, my view is that good stories haven’t gone away, they just beg to be told in new ways. I agree with Peter Jackson that a new generation of filmmakers will see things very differently and bring new energy to the medium just as he did with ‘Heavenly Creatures’ or George Miller did with ‘Mad Max’. George’s analogy of the child watching movies before they can read is recognition of the power of the medium but also its ultimate reliance on its audience. Young audiences are spoiled for choice and films are just one course on a menu of games, www, mobile media and DVD. These parallel media are already impacting on the language of cinema through a wider audience feedback loop. While the 80’s spawned the MTV generation the noughties are spawning a generation of media consumers who crave participatory experiences. I would love to see directors of the calibre of Miller and Jackson create a game because that is just what the games industry needs to push it to the next level: emotional engagement.

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