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Storytelling on Film: creative opportunity, or contradiction in terms?

Storytelling on film: a creative opportunity or a contradiction in terms? According to an old Scottish traveller proverb, stories are told “eye to eye, mind to mind, and heart to heart”. Capturing a storyteller’s performance on camera might suggest a blockage between teller and listener; however, film can bring stories to audiences who otherwise would never have heard them.

This is the issue up for debate at Storytellers on Film, a screening of films associated with the Scottish International Storytelling Festival, followed by discussion. The short pieces due to be screened are:

  • Death in a Nut
    Directed by young Scottish filmmaker Tom Chick, this piece is based on a traditional story from Argyll by Duncan Williamson.

  • The Secret of Dreams
    An exploration of ancient myth created by Grian Cutanda, who will be in attendance at the session.

  • The Fair Maid’s Tresses
    Three storytellers – David Campbell, Linda Williamson and Joshua Bryant, all of whom will be at the session – explore the same story in this film by director Leo Bruges.

  • When the Song Dies
    A beautiful piece on Scottish folk songs, directed by Jamie Chambers and produced by Transgressive North, featuring Margaret Bennet, Sheila Stewart and Norman MacLean.

  • Tales of Tradition
    Directed by Craig-James Moncur and produced by Black Box Digital, travel back to 1829 with David Campbell for an intriguing Scots tale with murderous intentions, while Bob Pegg recites a Selkie tale with musical accompaniment

  • Seeing the Goddess
    A digital exploration of mythography created by Stuart McHardy, who will also be attending the session.

We asked several of the directors about their views on the relationship between storytelling and filmmaking.

Craig-James Moncur said: “Storytelling holds so much cultural value; a vital reminder of how we arrived at where we are today. For me, the link-up with filmmakers just makes sense. Digital media platforms bring a whole new generation of viewers to our stories, songs and places, and provided you stay true to the art from, this can only be good for the preservation of our culture.”

Leo Bruges said: “I am not sure there is an easy way to transfer oral storytelling to screen. I think there is always something lost in the process. It’s a bit like filming a stage play: once it’s recorded and you watch it back, it no longer holds the same tension of the 'being there'. I have trouble with this because I want to make films about our rich storytelling heritage. I think filmmakers must strive to do more than simply record a story; we must interpret it for a visual format and more importantly we must bring that 'being there' quality to screen.”

Storytellers on Film will be led by SISF director Donald Smith, with input from the performers noted above. Join us next Thursday 3 March at 7.30pm to see the films and join in what promises to be a lively conversation. Book tickets here.