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“Don’t Tell Me What I Already Know”: How Steven Soderbergh Reinvents the Art of Information-Giving

“Do we understand…”

How many times have the filmmakers in our audience read those words within the body of studio notes? Do we understand his or her motivation? Do we understand the stakes? Do we understand the backstory?

Because moments of information-dispensing rarely provide cinema’s most thrilling, mysterious, poetic moments, they are often realized by filmmakers in the most prosaic of ways. Dialogue in a scene covered with a pretty basic sequence of shots. Let’s just get through this, you can feel the directors — and screenwriters — saying. But, as this video essay by Writing with the Camera shows, there are more interesting ways to get the story and character setups out of the way. In fact, if filmmakers take that imperative as a creative challenge, the solutions can create their own imaginative force. That’s what Steven Soderbergh has strived to do throughout his career, as this video essay that catalogues all such experiments, shows. Clips include The Limey, Ocean’s Eleven, Traffic, Full Frontal, The Girlfriend Experience and many more.

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