Mood vs Emotion In Storytelling

In film, feeling is known as mood. Mood is created in the film’s text: the quality of light and color, the tempo of action and editing, casting, style of dialogue, production design, and musical score. The sum of all these textural qualities creates a particular mood. In general, mood, like setups, is a form of foreshadowing, a way of preparing or shaping the audiences, anticipations. Moment by moment, however, while the dynamic of the scene determines whether the emotion it causes is positive or negative, the mood makes this emotion specific.


Suppose the writer calls for a summer’s day, brightly colored flowers in window boxes, blossoms on the trees. The producer casts Jim Carry and Mira Sorvino. The director composes them in head-to-foot shots. Together they’ve created a comic mood. Comedy likes bright light and color. Comics need full shots because they act with their whole bodies.


But suppose the scene were set in the dead of night, the house spackled with shadows of trees blowing in the wind, moonlight, street light. The director shoots tight, canted angles and orders the lab to mute the colors. The producer casts Michael Madsen and Linda Fiorentino. Without changing a beat, the scene is now drenched in a Thriller mood.


The arc of the scene, sequence, or act determines the basic emotion. Mood makes it specific. But mood will not substitute for emotion. When we want mood experiences, we go to concerts or museums. When we want meaningful emotional experience, we go to the storyteller.

– Robert McKee, Story

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