Telling Stories To Ourselves

I was in Ft Wayne today at the Bridal Extravaganza because my wife was exhibiting there. My presence is required at these events because there are lots of things to lift, carry, assemble, and disassemble, and Sally’s twiggy arms are insufficient. But once the show starts there’s not much for me to do, so I usually end up finding a place to hole up and entertain myself (by which I mean: “nap”).

I always do a quick tour of the vendors first, though, and this time I met Samuel from Thread & Film, a Ft. Wayne-based wedding cinematography company. Notice the careful use of the word “cinematography” as opposed to “videography”. Thread & Film creates wedding movies, not wedding videos, complete with trailers and shot at 24 frames per second.

They have a very beautiful, useful website, and I particularly love their explanation of the philosophy behind the services they provide and the artful way they seem to occupy the space between documentary and narrative production. Watch some of their trailers if you want to see what I’m talking about. UPDATE: Apparently these aren’t live yet, but make sure to check back later.

Browsing their website got me thinking about what it is people are hiring them to do, and I don’t think the answer is: “make a visual record of the events of their wedding day”. Certainly that’s part of what they offer, but it’s almost incidental to their actual product, which is the experience of hyper-reality–the near-tangible feeling that your wedding (and by extension, your very existence) is a larger-than-life event.

I’m definitely expressing my opinion here; the fine people of Thread & Film might disagree with me, and I don’t want to put words in their mouths. I feel like this is an interesting concept to explore, though, as being indicative of a larger overall trend.

People understand the world in terms of narrative, and the best communication leverages this. The prevalence of black-and-white thinking in politics, for example, illustrates the fact that people like a story with a hero and a villain, because that kind of story is easier to process than one in which all the characters have mixed motivations and do both good and bad things, often at the same time, for reasons that aren’t always entirely consistent.

Because we process in terms of story and serially consume so many different types and lengths of stories as part of the inescapable over-abundance of media in Western culture, our mental paradigms have evolved. We’ve grown to expect life to have that heightened, epic, near-mythical quality so frequently present in depictions of normal life on both the big and small screens.

How we deal with the perpetual disappointment of discovering that life almost never resembles our over-hyped mental image is a subject for a different day. Every now and then, though, the opportunity comes along to participate in something that will give us a taste, if only for a few moments, of that longed-for adventure we imagine life to be. People with abundant resources are naturally better positioned to take advantage of these opportunities, but not all of them are life-shattering or expensive. In fact, Donald Miller argues that the best kind of life is one that consistently makes the decision to seize small moments and build them into a larger, better story.

Thread & Film does the same thing I do, but targeted at specific individuals. Whereas writing and filmmaking provide escapism to a large audience from their life into a fantasy life, Thread & Film provides escapism to one couple from their life into a better, more idealized version of their life. I’d love to learn about the psychological impact of having a piece of your life adapted to the screen. If you watch the movie of your wedding once every few months, will it inspire you to idealize other parts of your life, then make those ideals reality? That kind of thing could prove addicting.

Far-fetched, maybe, but I firmly believe that telling a good narrative about yourself affects your self-image, which in turn can effect life change. While not everyone can afford to have a movie made about their wedding, the concept is adatable and extensible, and it’s worth thinking about how we can re-tell our own story to ourselves in a way that inspires self-idealization.

For brides-to-be, this involves a single, magical day that will live on in their memories. For the rest of us, the process may look more prosaic and mundane. Build a good habit of self-narrative, though, and we might see long-term change in reality, not merely in our imagination.