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Surprise and delight

David Gane
David Gane
2 min read

There are a couple of nuggets that were really great from this interview by Jack Conte about Casey Neistat's filmmaking process:

The first is his process of editing (and storytelling):

C: That will probably be a six or seven-minute-long video. And I'm four minutes into the edit, and those four minutes are complete. And the reason why I do that is, I then export those four minutes, and I'm sitting here watching them...but I finished those four minutes, and I'm like, "What am I saying here, and where am I going with this?" So, four minutes of the movie is done, and I don't even know what the rest is.
J: So, you're not planning the narrative ahead of time?
C: No, no, no, no.
J: So when you start shooting, you don't know where it's going?
C: I have an idea.

I like this discovery of the story as he goes along. My writing partner and I plan to explore this in our next book, something we've never experimented with in a long time.

A little later, Casey states that he often cuts out large parts of a story if he's "losing the script" of the film he's trying to make. I'll usually do this in scenes in our novels because the extra pieces aren't focused on the end goal of the action.

This next point is about the audience:

J: How do you know what you're feeling is what your viewers are gonna feel?
C: Oh, I don't give a shit what the viewers feel.
J: So, it's just what you're feeling?
C: Yeah
J: So when you watch that back, you're just trusting your own response and thinking, well, maybe other people will feel that way too?
C: I don't even go to the second part.
J: It's just your own response?
C: Yeah, I don't care what the viewer thinks.
J: But you do.
C: I don't know that I do. If I like it and I think it's great, and it works for me, then that's it.

He's genuinely about the act of creation, hoping that somebody will watch them. Shortly after, he states that he'd still make videos even if he didn't get millions of views.

The next one is this bit about surprise and delight:

C: There's nothing more satisfying in life than surprise and delight. Surprise—I was not expecting that. Delight—I like that...Surprise and delight are the most lovely things.

I think knowing what emotions you want from your storytelling and then working your ass off to communicate that in the writing and editing is the ideal goal of storytelling.

And surprise and delight can work for almost anything—as long as you understand the audience's expectations. You can show them a horror film, and if they're there to be scared, they'll find delight when you fulfill that goal.

Finally, since I like talking about AI, Jack has this one thought that sticks with me:

Andrew Stanton, the director of "WALL-E" and those Pixar films, he describes the first five minutes, like the first five minutes of "Up," he's like "Make me care." Like I want to care about this thing that I'm watching. Make me care in the first 10 minutes of the movie. I think that's one thing about Chat GPT or GPT4, in general, does not do a good job of.

David Gane Twitter

Co-writer of the Shepherd and Wolfe young adult mysteries, the internationally award-winning series, and teacher of storytelling and screenwriting.


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