Finding the Sweet Spot Between VFX and Suspension of Disbelief
Story Brain recently shared a 4 min video arguing that the reason why new action/sci-fi films aren’t as magical as the ones we grew up with is because of the way we are overusing VFX to make every frame a perfect and glossy one.
I enjoyed that the video evolves around what I consider one of the most important concept in storytelling: suspension of disbelief. It’s this magical sweet spot that you need to hit to bring your audience into your world.
Today more than ever, people know that films and videos are constructions made of screenwriting, acting, editing, sound design and are the result of hours of work and many people’s input. Because of this democratization of knowledge, the first layer of magic that was attached to film is gone. Nobody will ever scream watching a train entering its station because we know too much.
Making an audience gasp, shake, and tremble requires more complex stories, more tools, more imagination. That’s where VFX has been helpful and necessary in many stories to help expand horizons and stretch possibilities.
It does feel like it’s become harder to ask people to buy into our imaginary worlds and stories. And yet, based on the time we spend consuming stories on a daily basis, it seems that more than ever people want to believe. We just need to offer them something they can delve into.
I think it’s hard to argue that some really strong films have been made in recent years relying heavily on CGI and the advances technology offered. That being said, it’s also true that there’s a biding war going on in films, and a temptation to overuse the tools we now have to create images and attack the audience’s brains, instead of finding the recipe that will create this magical feel we all seek.
As if we have become afraid of asking people to play along and the only way was to fall into hyper-realism. But even today the films that stand out (not box-office wise, but in the audience mind) are still the ones that focus on creating magic and not just making good looking frames.
Mad Max: Fury Road and HER, two seemingly very different films, manage to hit the right balance for the audience to suspend disbelief.
We’ve reached a point where we can do almost anything, but that doesn’t mean that people will feel something. VFX is a supporting tool but can’t be the all-in-one solution, and going back to the story has become even more essential now that we are hit on a weekly basis with new tools and technologies, and that our brain process the element of wonder linked to the new at a faster pace.
What we can’t process faster is a good story. As simple and cheesy as it seems.
There’s been a lot of controversy about the video. It seems mostly because people reacted to the affirmation in the title, and took it very literally. I think it’s well worth four minutes of your life.