The Case of The Traveling Text Message
This way of telling visual stories has worked pretty well for nearly a century, but it’s got its problems. For one thing, it is nowhere near as helpful when the director has to show the text that appears when someone is doing something on a computer screen, or interacting with someone over the Internet. Thus you end up with a long line of movie and TV hackers narrating what they’re doing as they type: gripping drama, right?
The rise of instant messaging, and even more, the SMS, has added another layer of difficulty; I’m convinced that the reason so many TV characters have iPhones is not just that Hollywood thinks they’re cool, but also because the big crisp screen is so darn easy to read. Still, the cut to that little black metal rectangle is a narrative momentum killer. What’s a director trying to make a ripping good adventure yarn to do?
The solution is deceptively simple: instead of cutting to the character’s screen, Sherlock takes over the viewer’s screen. John Watson looks down at his screen, and we see the message he’s reading on our screen as well.
I really need to see this Sherlock series.