Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Kiarostami's Assignment

(We were so happy to be there in the class, everyone a cinephile, everyone wanting to learn, to get better at making films. The concentration in the room made for quite a silence, with one voice very softly, lapping like waves of the ocean over the room, smoothing things like jagged jump cuts and the need for special effects. We were also watching the films made during Kiarostami's last workshop, all films revolving around elevators. Then, the startling sound of a cellphone ring.)

"Let’s see if we can’t come up with a story about the mobile phone, since the phone rang during our class. Our deal is to tell a story well, the idea, the subject doesn’t really matter, doesn’t matter if the story is important, better if it is not important."

Mr. Kiarostami, who comes from a commercial background, proceeded to describe the assignment as a 1-3 minute short. In this amount of time we can tell only simple stories, but what is important is the way in which one tells the story. In advertising, one has only a short time get the viewer's attention and pervay a clear message. That is the challenge, and one can learn a lot about storytelling by mastering the short. Each short is like a scene in a feature-length, and don't ever think that a scene is a throw away. Each scene must hold its own.

Kiarostami asked the class if they had any ideas for stories. Then he said,
"I’ll tell the first one myself. I was taking a picture of a forest at sunset and this young couple came to me looking very upset and asked if I had a mobile. And they asked, 'Would you mind if you dialed one number?' I offered it to them, but they said, 'No, you keep the phone while its ringing. We lost our phone in the jungle and we’re going to try to find it.' Then they went back into the jungle and they got lost and I never saw them again. My phone reached their voicemail and I called again, and repeated this until eventually, the girl picked up the phone and said, 'We found it, thanks a lot.'"


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