It is my strong opinion that one of the fundamental goals of filmmaking is to create a new world for the viewer. This world is brought to life by both the physical space we see on the screen and the little details that are spoken by the characters. Lets first define the term.
“World” is anything pertaining the diegetic space the characters live in. This spans from the geography, history, sociology and anthropology of characters and their interactions with this space and each other.
This sense of “World” is often one of the first things I tackle when I want to begin a new script. I sit down with an ice-cold beer and a few sheets of paper. Moving forward I begin laying out the foundation for my new imaginary world. I establish the genre and time frame first. These “keys” as I like to call them are the basis for anything I write and will inform the general rules for this new world. From there I go into geographical traits such as the natural landscapes, elevations and climate zones.
Throughout my life I have been a huge history buff, specifically dealing with the age of antiquity. If there is one thing I have come to understand, geography informs the populous. In other words your physical location is going to influence the type of people who live there, their social and government structure, economy, diet etc.
For example, in the TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender the main character “Aang” is a vegetarian. This is highly influenced by his geographical location. He grew up in Buddhist like temple high in the mountains. Doing research I discovered that meat is scarce in high mountainous regions of the world. Vegetation is often cultivated in manmade gardens and is sometimes the only source of food. While these little details may seem mundane they are a key part of creating a living breathable world for my characters.
Another instance of this comes from a show I just began watching Game of Thrones. The show strongly depicts the differences between two types of cultures. On one end you have the northern Europeans who have created social hierarchy, technology and organized religion. On the other side of the pond, literally, you have a nomadic horse faring culture. This culture is seen as savage, lacking social structure, organized government and religion.
Looking back through history you can see the same traits. Those cultures which nestled themselves farther north were forced to develop faster due to weather and their geography. Those civilizations who began on the wide plains with temperate to hot climates took their time developing because there was no natural threat other than a select number of animal predators.
My senior thesis film With Honors took place on an alien planet after the mass migration of humanity from Earth. I took about a two-week period to flesh out a strong back story for this universe. I wanted to ground my science fiction film in some reality so I looked to social political issues that are happening today. The entire back story begins when the United States and China declare war on each other and initiate World War III. Before any bloodshed begins both nations are stripped of power by the United Nations and the Earth unites under one banner. I then move into the mass exodus of Earth as an effort to combat overpopulation which is a hot topic issue today.
These factors did not come up in the film but were great tools for my actors. Having my actors know the full history of the world they were diving into informed their character choices. Creating a strong sense of world also helps the audience suspend their disbelief and is all apart of good story telling. The world should be a character in itself.
About Darin Eaton II
Focusing on storytelling through the cinematic lens, Darin Eaton II is a sharp up in comer. He tells stories that transport audiences to different places and act as a nice escape from the day to day routine. His interests include filmmaking, writing, visual effects, music composition, photography, studying history, Asian cultures and eating cheesecake. He is always looking to challenge himself and dive into a new adventure.