Based on a True Story

This 5 word sentence showing up at the beginning of a film is subtle, yet powerful.


The minute your brain reads it, the understanding is “anything can happen” or “whatever happens, it’s true.”

That sets your expectations for everything that happens next. Whatever happens, as crazy as It seems, will be “totally plausible.”

The Cohen Brother’s 1996 cult hit, ‘Fargo’ utilizes this technique. It opens with ‘This is a true story…’

In fact, the film is a complete work of fiction. But the mind’s belief that the events are true adds to the fascination of the story itself. However crazily the story unfolds, the viewer believes it wholeheartedly. Without this, many of the events would seem unbelievable.

But a true story? That’s a whole different ballgame, and makes the film that much more powerful.

What’s the takeaway here?

There’s three:

  1. How you frame your message in the beginning dictates it’s credibility.
  2. Truth is always stranger than fiction.
  3. Wherever possible, draw from real experience.

Storytelling is powerful. And the more your stories are grounded in personal experience, the more profound they will be.


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