Book Review: Cinematic Storytelling, by Jennifer Van Sjill - Raindance

Cinematic Storytelling compresses 100 years of film history, outlining the important connection between film technique and storytelling. It shows how the purposeful use of film techniques like lighting, editing, and sound can evoke audience emotions like fear, hatred, or anger without a word of dialogue. It demonstrates how character values and themes are expressed cumulatively over time and nonverbally. In this, the reader is given both the critical tools to better understand modern moviemaking and the creative tools to fully exploit the dramatic potential of the medium

It is not easy to explain what cinema as an art form is really about. Many have theorised elements of it -mostly the French- and many more have tried and failed to pinpoint where the magic happens. After all, it took Eisenstein to theorise editing, and Hitchcock to make everyone realise that there was a logic to this particular form of artistic expression and narrative storytelling. Just like words have to follow a grammar in order to make sense when put one after the other, so do images.

In just over a century, cinema has become the most consumed form of entertainment in the world. Jennifer Van Sijll takes it upon herself to deconstruct what conventions have been established to tell a story, and what the process of making a film, of telling a story in a cinematic way, you need to understand before doing it yourself.

The clearest breakdown of the filmmaking process around

Cinematic Storytelling is remarkable not just for the clarity in how the author breaks down the filmmaking process, but for how relevant she makes it for the reader. Through examples selected from film history, Jennifer Van Sijll never lets the reader forget how technique and story can and should never be dissociated in cinema.

Over 100 conventions established by over a century of practice of this art form, you will be taken through the job of the screenwriter, the cinematographer, the director, the producer, the sound recordist, and every other person that is essential on a film project. This book is not just highly readable, or immensely useful, it also serves as a reminder of how painstaking the filmmaking process is and needs to be. It serves as an inspiration for you, a reminder of the exploration of cinema that has gone before us, and the shoulders that today’s filmmakers stand on.

Cinematic Storytelling is about process and practice. It is about facts, experience, and wisdom learned from fellow creators. It is a reminder that a film at its best is 100% art and 100% technique. It is a reminder of how inspiring cinema can be, as well as an encouragement to go and build on our predecessors’ achievements.

Cinematic Storytelling, by Jennifer Van Sjill is now available from Michael Weise Productions.
Or from Amazon



Baptiste is a writer hailing from the part of France where it is always sunny. After a stint in politics and earning his Master's Degree in Management, he was a marketing intern for the 23rd Raindance Film Festival in 2015, then joined the team permanently in 2016 as the Registrar of the MA in Filmmaking. He is passionate about diversity in film, which he researches and writes about extensively. He is the producer of the hit webseries "Netflix & Kill" and the multi-award-winning short film "Alder", as well as a writer for stage and screen. His short film "U Up?" is currently in pre-production.