Silence Speaks Louder Than Words
We’ve all experienced that moment when you’re driving home from work…with the radio blaring Post Malone’s hit song Sunflower…when suddenly the music cuts out and the car goes silent. Your mind goes from zoning out while singing those catchy lyrics to instant alertness.
This happened to me a couple weeks ago and it got me thinking… instead of filling a film with noise, how can we harness the power of silence to tell a stronger story?
Some big brands and movies have done a great job at this.
Take Geico’s “Unskippable” ad campaign. I think it’s a perfect example of grabbing your audience’s attention through humor and silence. It was so strong that Ad Age called it “2016’s Campaign of the Year.”
Another great example is in the classic 1995 film, Babe. Recently I was rewatching it was was reminded how much I love the last scene of the film. The whole movie is very fairytale-like with talking animals, caricature farmers, and circle wipes (see gif. below for an example). The film is filled with dialogue and is driven by classic, cinematic, and whimsical music. That is, until the last scene.
I love how the silence during the final moments speaks volumes. It suspends the disbelief of everyone in the crowd and gives the viewer the same astonished feeling. You hear no music, only minimal nature sounds. Everyone watching the film knew what was going to happen, and yet the way Chris Noonan directed it made me so nervous and excited. I was on the edge of my seat! When the crowd erupts with joy at the end, it’s as if a dam full of blocked up nerves and emotions was opened up and began pouring out.
Silence can also be used as a powerful tool outside of TV and film. Being silent can help us be more mindful in our everyday lives, encourage us to listen to others, and maybe even open our ears to something we may not have heard before. Silence may not only help us be better filmmakers, but better human beings.
I encourage you to set aside a few moments everyday to sit in silence. Who knows what you may hear when you stop consuming and start listening.