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Jennifer Van Sijll

Jennifer van Sijll, who has an MFA from USC's Department of Cinema-Television, teaches screenwriting at San Francisco State and consults on film and television projects in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Articles by Jennifer Van Sijll

Cinematic Storytelling and Directing the Director

Let's assume you have a great story. You've got a great hook, premise, structure, theme and characters. Despite these necessary qualities, it's still anyone's guess if you've got a great screenplay. Why? Because having a great story is only half the job. To get to the finish line, you also need a story that's rendered cinematically. When the studio readers read yo... (read more)

Cinematic Storytelling: Writing for the Unconscious

The Case of The Sixth Sense

One has to wonder what Freud would have said, seated in a modern day Cineplex while watching the final credits of M. Night Shyamalan's extraordinary film, The Sixth Sense. It's hard to imagine a greater homage to Freud's concept of the unconscious than its deft exploitation in one of the 20th ce... (read more)

Cinematic Storytelling: Dynamic Metaphors

Think of the rose petals in American Beauty, the bird imagery in Shawshank Redemption or Leon's beloved houseplant in The Professional.

These metaphors stay with us long after the movie. Like the sled in Citizen Kane, they work as visual synopses, remembered for their story content and emotional power. Often featured on movie poste... (read more)

Nature as Mythic Storyteller

Films that last often have a mythic quality. Like great children's stories, we consume these films as we do ageless fables. Unlike lesser stories, the lessons learned in these films carry a universal authority that seems to transcend man.

Biblical stories naturally achieve this mythic stature by virtue of the role played by a larger spiritual authority. Children's fables often h... (read more)