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The Spielberg Study Method

How four books on filmmaking can help us tell the greatest story ever told.

You may be a preacher, a Sunday school teacher, or just a parent struggling to keep up with your 7-year-old's questions about Scripture. At some time, you've probably felt that your ability to play that role fell short of your aspirations, your best intentions notwithstanding.

Because I have felt those things too, I was delighted to stumble across some new resources which gave my own teaching a little boost. Surprisingly, they weren't books about teaching, but thought-provoking books about filmmaking. Here's why they were so helpful: if your role requires you to understand great narrative, it may be beneficial to consider what it means to create great narrative.

These books on filmmaking increased my passion for narrative by helping me understand and appreciate God's genius for crafting us into his bigger story. What follows are some observations from these books.

Engineering the tale

Blake Snyder's Save the Cat: the Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need (Michael Wiese Productions, 2005) is written like a text on interpretation in reverse. Screenwriters often ask themselves the same questions interpreters do: how does this story work, and what are its central themes? But in screenwriting, by way of contrast, one isn't interpreting but engineering.

In the world of film, a production starts not with actors or special effects but with a screenplay that lays out the story and foreshadows most of the merits and challenges of the film. And writing a good screenplay requires an understanding of how stories tick, their main categories, how to focus the audience in on the main points, and, how to sum up all of that into a summary sentence, which Snyder calls a "logline." (Sound familiar to anyone who has studied preaching?)

I have ...

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July/August
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