Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Alan Ball is a Masterful Storyteller and Here is Why ...

One thing I can say about Tumblr and the fan sites is that they are very keen observers of True Blood, the vampire series created by genius storyteller Alan Ball. I fell in love with Alan Ball's work the first time I was introduced to it via the film American Beauty, which I quoted Lester Burnham in my first book Second Bloom. Here is one of the most precious quotes (thank you Alan Ball): "Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst... And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life... You have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure. But don't worry... you will someday."

He then created another one of my all-time favorites TV series Six Feet Under, which I own all the DVDs and occasionally revisit well-tread episodes. Now I am enraptured with True Blood, and not because I was ever a huge fan of vampires. The other day, a fan pointed out something about True Blood that truly amazed me. In fact, I told my friend today that Ball is the "savant of storytelling" based on just this one observation. This fan pointed to the juxtaposition of Sookie's "predator" uncle against her first lover Bill. In side-by-side photos, this fan showed how this suggested Bill was a predator too just a grownup version. Now here is what amazed and impressed me -- that Ball has this archival memory to do the same suggestion he did in season one and fast forward to season four. Did he plan actually that many years in advance and foreshadow? Or did he just decide to make this visual juxtaposition four years later? Either way, it's an impressive example of how really meaningful and deep storytelling comes together in subtle ways. His complete and total attention to even minor details just proves his mastery of telling great stories via film.

As I embark on the conversion of my book into a TV series (we are close to making a deal) and write the pilot, it is these kinds of details I want to keep in the forefront of my own storytelling. Can I even rise to such meticulous skills? I have no idea, but I can certainly raise the bar and make it a goal. The trick is in foreshadowing and not creating plot holes to make your story work. I can point to so many other things Ball has done in True Blood that will blow your mind. Ever noticed the angel/butterfly shirt Sookie has worn twice in the show (it's pink and she wears it in bed with Eric in season 4)? Some have suggested that is Eric and Sookie by the way Eric was placed against the wings of the angel when Sookie was held captive in the basement of the Fellowship of the Sun. And then you have a number of butterfly images used for Sookie (notice the light in the season 3 finale is shaped like a butterfly). Again, I could go on. Pure genius. And this show is supposed to be about vampires! It's probably the most intelligent show on vampires and supernaturals ever made -- or just the most intelligent show, period.

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