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“How long?”

“How long?”, she asks the doctor.
Immediately, we’re right in the middle of a story.

Which is typical for modern movies. It’s one of the aspects in which storytelling in movies has changed significantly over the past few decades.

The average early 90s movie is hard to bear for many teenagers because they started soooo sloooowww. Part of the reason was that filmmakers back then felt the need to start as early as possible so we would have the back story to understand what was going to happen later.

Today’s movies (and TV shows) are very different. They will start as late as possible, ideally right in the middle of the action … at the most captivating event.

And they will give us only exactly the pieces that we absolutely need to understand the action. They make us care first, before they inform us. If, at some point, we would need backstory to understand what’s happening, modern movies will give it to us at that point, a point where we absolutely need that piece of information to be able to follow along.

This makes for a much more tense story.

Actually, today’s most brilliant filmmakers push that principle even further. They will make sure that we want a piece of information, before they finally give it to us. They make us curious for the backstory.

In contrast, yesterday’s filmmakers considered backstory as pure information. Often, they would give us the information before we wanted it, just to make sure that we had it when we needed it.

How about your own communication? How do you treat background information? Are you starting your presentation with it? If so, can you re-structure your storytelling in a way that you’re giving the backstory at a point when your audience is dying to learn it?

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