Das erste internationale

Expertensymposium im 3D Bereich.

3D-Symposium 2012 3D-Festival 2011
New “3-D” Dramaturgy
Keith Cunningham

3-D cinematography will not necessarily change the way that stories are conceived. Technical progress may stimulate a conceptual revolution, but it cannot replace it. However, if we approach “3-D” as a potent metaphor for a new way of seeing the world around us, then “3-D” can be very provocative in its implications. What might a “3-D” dramaturgy possibly look like? The answer to that question depends on the framing we place around dramatic storytelling. Why are we compelled to tell stories? Why is drama important to us? What is our relationship to the audience?

The current dominant framing, or narrative, that we place around drama is largely a relic of a Newtonian-Cartesian materialist worldview. It is a view that focuses on the God-like subject’s control of a world of “objects.” The media market is a perpetual motion machine where we filmmakers, in control of the medium and the discourse, “impact” our audiences. This is designed as a one-way mass communication. The echo of Newton’s colliding billiard balls is not far off. As with Newton’s mechanical universe, once God was removed from drama, the focus became increasingly the struggle of the subject/ego’s willpower to dominate a universe of unwilling objects. This was a very different framing of dramatic storytelling than the original dramas of the ancient theater. It is also at issue with the way that science today looks at the way the world around us works.

3-D cinematography implies a more sophisticated mapping of 3-dimensional space onto a 2-dimensional screen. The viewer is situated within a virtual depth dimension rather than observing it from an external Cartesian point. 3-D retains the bi-optic nature of the living process of vision, and with it the necessary ambiguity between two variant sets of information that must be resolved by the viewer herself. The result is a different and more visceral engagement in the screen drama because the viewer feels herself kinetically to be part of the dramatic space.

“3-D,” as a metaphor that may be carried over into dramaturgy, might generate a more systemic and ecological approach to telling stories: focusing on the interrelatedness of elements (characters, relationships, dramatic events) within systems (societies and living systems), and of systems within ecologies. In politics, economics, and resource management, the old idea that man stands “above” the world and controls it from a standpoint of Cartesian “objectivity” is dead. We are embedded in our world much the same way that a viewer watching a film in 3-D is virtually embedded in the action on the screen: implicated in the action because sharing the same space with it.

A “3-D” dramaturgy may ultimately look as different from contemporary mainstream filmmaking as today’s filmmaking differs from the ancient theater or the Noh drama of Japan. It may emphasize that everything is interconnected; it may emphasize multiple points of view—even multiple dimensions of vision occurring simultaneously. The new dramaturgy may be increasingly reflexive: asking the audience not to react but to respond. It may move beyond traditional dramatic transactions with the audience, catharsis and mimesis, to include the audience in expanding feedback loops of shared creation, utilizing the strategies of the social media, flash-events, and so on. And the new dramaturgy may become constructive: looping productively with the audience to build community/engagement rather than the current approach of treating the audience as atomized consumers being acted upon by an overwhelming stimulus.

3-D, as a cinematographic technology, will not effect these developments by itself. Whether 3-D becomes more than another tool to be used within a dangerously obsolete worldview, or becomes a harbinger of a new sort of engagement with drama, more in keeping with the our actual understanding of the world, depends very much on whether we can see it as a powerful metaphor for a new way of seeing.

Curriculum Vitae

Filmmaker, screenwriter, and consultant based in Chicago, Illinois USA, and Castagneto Carducci, Italy. He celebrates 35 years as a filmmaker, 25 years of leading screenwriting and creativity workshops, and 20 years working in Europe. His work spans writing, consulting, and story development in addition to his seminars.

Born and raised in the Unites States, Keith Cunningham graduated in Film from Northwestern University in 1974. His hour-long student film, A May Carol, was picked for several festivals. Over the next 6 years, he cultivated a free-lance film career as a professional cameraman and gaffer, as well as developing his own films projects and writing short stories and poetry. During this time, Mr. Cunningham encountered some decisively influential teachers and leaders, including theater director Peter Sellars, mythologist Joseph Campbell, psychologist Jean Houston, philosopher Alan Watts, and writer Anaïs Nin.

He gradually developed an ambition to bring his creative work together with the psychology of creativity, and earned a Master’s Degree in Psychology in 1981, also at Northwestern University. His thesis research was on patterns of creativity and the dynamics of creative breakthrough. Out of this training began Mr. Cunningham’s first seminars on enhancing creativity, managing creative relationships, and lifelong creativity. He consulted for individual clients and creative groups such as theater and dance companies.

A meeting with Los Angeles screenwriter Thomas Schlesinger in 1980 led to a new synthesis of creativity and filmmaking. In 1982, Keith Cunningham took a full-time teaching position as Columbia College Professor of Film and Video in Chicago. There he was able to showcase his synthesis of cinema and psychology in innovate courses, such as Myths, Dreams, and Movies. He remained with the department for 9 years. Among his students were two time Oscar-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (Schindler’s List, etc.), cinematographer Mauro Fiore (Avatar), and producer Diane Weyermann (An Inconvenient Truth/Participant Productions). During this period he directed and produced several independent films.

Concurrently, in 1984, Mr. Cunningham began leading screenwriting and story development seminars worldwide with colleague Tom Schlesinger. Keith’s presentation of Joseph Campbell’s mythic perspective and its relevance for screenwriting at the American Film Institute, New York, in 1984, may be the first public joining together of mythmaking, depth psychology, and screenwriting. Subsequent seminars for the AFI–Los Angeles, the Director’s Guild and Writer’s Guild of America (L.A.) led to the systematic elaboration of a new approach to screenwriting. Other leaders in the screenwriting field, such as Linda Seger and Chris Vogler, attended their seminars during those years.

It is Keith’s unique strength to bring together creativity research, depth psychology, the mythic perspective, and a deep sensitivity to drama—and to forge them into a new synthesis. The fruit of these long years of work is a new book on writing and creativity, The Soul of Screenwriting. Keith’s breakthrough book for writers based on his seminars was published in 2008. His essays on myth, cinema, and creativity have appeared in numerous journals and books.

Mr. Cunningham’s renowned screenwriting seminars with his business partner expanded to Europe in 1989, then to Morocco, the Middle East, and beyond. Clients and sponsors have included at the Bavaria Studios Munich, RAI Television Rome, and ARD/ZDF national television in Germany, among many others.

Along the way, he has developed TV series, and his own scripts for TV episodes and films, that have been produced by RTL-TV and PRO-7 television in Germany. Currently, he is co-creator, co-producer, and head writer of a 34 episode TV series shot in Morocco L’Etranger, which will be premiered in 2011. He is currently at work on two screenplay projects in Germany that he plans to direct, and another he is co-writing in Istanbul. Typically, he has a half-dozen scripts in consultation at a given time. Keith is much sought after to run screenplay development programs in many lands, such as via the Royal Film Commission in Amman, Jordan, and the Fondation Cinema Liban in Beirut, as well as at many film schools in Germany.

In 2009, Mr. Cunningham established The Story Arks Institute. The SAI promotes a new approach to dramatic storytelling, envisioning a proactive role for drama and the media in our new era of climate change and social and economic turmoil.