What the movie “Gravity” teaches us about creating content.

Monday November 11, 2013

written by Honest Hardworking True

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My colleague Sara Meaney recently directed me to this article on the Harvard Business Review about content and the emotions that make campaigns go viral. A good read – hey, it’s Harvard so they must have put a lot of thought into it.

But what’s most interesting to me is that the article verifies something that has been rolling around in my mind lately. I’m wondering if, while storytelling is important, it may be overrated. I think this started because of the success of the film “Gravity.” I went to see that movie with 10 friends all of whom after the movie were completely unmoved by it. There are a lot of effects and suspense with absolutely zero compelling story. Obviously this point is debatable, but that’s what blogs are for — conversation.

Anyway, I saw the “Specific emotions that were extremely common in viral content” from the Harvard article and it struck me how much they nail “Gravity.”

  • Curiosity
  • Amazement
  • Interest
  • Astonishment
  • Uncertainty

It was a 5 for 5. The popularity of “Gravity” is well documented. And there are other films that fall into this same category. Take another huge hit “Man of Steel” for example. Everyone knows the Superman story; it doesn’t need a lot of focus and attention. The writers even altered the Lois Lane/Superman relationship story (from the classic — Lois Lane doesn’t know who Superman really is) and no one batted an eye. The story doesn’t matter. It just needs those 5 qualities to capture the minds and imaginations of viewers — the curiosity of Superman’s background, the astonishment of his situation, the uncertainty of his identity. Storytelling? Blah. Blowing up everything possible? Awesome!

But for those of us in the content creation business the problem is — and always will be – that the ability to capture these emotions and create compelling content takes competent filmmaking. You must find someone that knows how to elicit emotion with a camera. It takes a lot more than pointing a camera at someone and hitting copy points. It requires taking people to a difficult placer a place of such elation that it’s otherworldly. It requires violence. Discomfort. Conflict. Resolution. Be explosive and the story will emerge. If it doesn’t, at least the explosiveness will get you a few hundred thousand more hits.

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