Bobette Buster is a USC professor who focuses on the art of storytelling. If you are like me and love stories and film and are fascinated by the craft, Bobette is someone you can learn a few things from.
“What people are interested in, is simply, to be taken into a world they would otherwise never be able to experience and see the ordinary become extraordinary.”
– Bobette Buster
via The Do Lectures
In this 20 minute video Bobette speaks about how the stories in film can help us grow and overcome adversity. She shows us how Charles Dickens, by letting us experience the horrors of child labor, helped bring healing which ultimately led to labor reform.
Bobette references the book, ‘The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales’ by Bruno Bettelheim. Bettelheim had observed in the holocaust that, “the children who had heard the true Grimm fairy tales had been prepared for the fact that someday a wolf may come to your door, and some day you may be thrown in an oven, and some day you will be lost in a forest. But, if you keep walking forward, you will discover the courage to find your way. And there will come mentors and allies and friends, and you will not only survive, you will thrive.”
She explains how this idea of experiencing ‘enchantment’ in film is powerful because when we see a character take a leap to overcome adversity, it gives us confidence, power, and a boldness to overcome, or persevere, through, the adversity in our own lives.
“What you have to do, when you are telling a story about someone, is follow the moment that they most resist their greatest fear…and what we can do in cinema…is magnify and expand that moment where they seize their life.”
– Bobette Buster
Bobette also uses an example from The King’s Speech, showing how for the king’s moment of overcoming his ‘adversity’ is the moment when the king reaches out to befriend a commoner, something he never would have been able to do because of his fear of speaking. This small act is the break through moment for the character and it shows us, the viewer, how even small confrontations with adversity can move our lives forward.
When characters in a film take that initial small step to overcome their adversity, that “baby step” can be the moment that breaks open that characters life and changes their life’s direction forever.
An example of this is illustrated in the harmonica scene in ‘The Shawshank Redemption’. How when Red takes that bold step and plays the harmonica, even just for that second, it figuratively, and in this case, literally breaks open the prisons of life.
These stories are examples for our own lives. By sharing our own stories of ‘dark nights of the soul’ and how one small thing, even if it failed, led to newness or some sense of change or freedom.
“The greatest stories are all about a character resisting loving themselves.” – Bobette Buster
Ultimately, she tells us, “all stories are about people becoming ‘truly alive’ or the ‘living dead'”. Al Pacino’s performance in The Godfather is given as an example of a moment of decision in the story that leads his character Michael Corleone toward a life of ‘living death’.
In summary, what I get out of this little talk is this: Stories are about the struggle of others and good stories impute to us the strength to persevere through the struggles in our own lives. Its a great talk and I encourage anyone to watch it. It will also make you want to re-watch some classic movies with a new perspective.
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. – Samuel Beckett
If you want to learn of what Bobette has to say on story you can follow her on twitter @bobettebuster and pick up her book ‘Do Story: How to tell your story so the world listens’. Also she has another great lecture called ‘The Arc of Storytelling’ over at QIdeas.org.