Tommy Tomlinson on the core elements of storytelling:
Thanks for having me here today. I want this to be more of a conversation than a speech. I don’t need much time for a speech, because today I’m going to teach you everything you need to know about storytelling in five minutes.
But first I want to tell you a little story.
My wife (Alix Felsing, Storyboard’s copyeditor) has this uncanny gift for finding the worst possible movie on TV at any given moment. The other night she landed on the SyFy channel, on this movie called Collision Earth.
I’m gonna try to come up with a quick synopsis that does this movie justice.
The event that gets the action going is a solar flare so powerful that it knocks the planet Mercury out of its orbit and sends it hurtling toward Earth. This would be bad.
Along with knocking Mercury out of its orbit, somehow this solar flare also magnetized Mercury, so as it heads for Earth, cars and stuff start flying into the air to meet it.
There’s ONE scientist who knows how to fix this. In fact he has built this giant battering ram in space for just this situation. But for reasons I never did quite follow, this scientist was fired from NASA years before, and his giant battering ram was unfinished and left out in space to rot, and now, of course, NOBODY WILL LISTEN TO HIM.
It just so happens that this disgraced scientist’s wife is an astronaut whose spacecraft is — you won’t believe this — orbiting Mercury. But the solar flare hit the ship so hard that a little while later, the other astronaut on board keels over and dies.
So he’s on the ground trying to save Earth, and she’s up in space trying to save Earth, and they’re actually talking to each other via ham radio — I don’t even wanna get into how THAT happened.
There’s not nearly enough time to tell you all the ways this movie is ludicrous, so I’ll give you just two:
One, this giant magnetized planet that’s flying toward us is just sucking cars off the earth, EXCEPT when the disgraced scientist needs a car to get somewhere; then his car stays on the ground just fine, even as other cars are being sucked off the planet right in front of him.
And two, this astronaut up there, when she needs to move around the spaceship, she doesn’t float through the capsule in zero gravity … she just gets up and walks around like she’s at the mall.
I have only scratched the surface of how stupid on every level this movie is. But we watched the damn thing all the way to the end. When it was over, I looked at my wife and said, “Why did we do that?” But the truth is, I knew why.
And here’s where I tell you everything you need to know about storytelling in five minutes.