Want Compelling Video? Try Silent Movies!

2/28/2010

I’m an inveterate multi-tasker. While this feeds my need for variety in my work day, it has its downsides too. Proofing and double-checking is a must for me. And I’m amazed when something compels my entire attention.

I’ve been capturing silent films recently on Turner Classic Movies. I like older films, and will let them run in the background while I’m working on graphic arts projects, or other things that don’t demand 100% of my attention. But try watching a silent movie while doing something else. You just can’t do it.

I have discovered the joy of watching the story unfold, without words, and can’t take my eyes away for fear of missing a critical element of the story line. The one I enjoyed most recently was Buster Keaton’s “The Cameraman”.

As I’m working on a small documentary film of my own, I enjoyed watching how Keaton constructed the story using only images. His scrappy character tries to make his way in a rough and tumble world, all the while chasing the girl of his dreams. Through gang fights, fires, accidents and rainstorms, Keaton’s deadpan face allows the viewer to interpret the storm around him. Occasional title slides help direct the action, and the musical accompanyment helps you get a sense of the theme, but it’s Keaton’s compelling face and those of his co-stars which carry the show.

At first I was frustrated when I couldn’t ‘run the picture’ in the background, but I came to appreciate something you couldn’t take your eyes off of. It’s a lesson I’ll apply in my marketing and advertising business when I can.