The Lean Forward Moment: Create Compelling Stories for Film, TV and the Web – by Norman Hollyn

Reviewed By: Piri Miller

The Lean Forward Moment

Ever since Norman Hollyn’s latest book “The Lean Forward Moment” came out I’d been waiting anxiously to read it. I finally got my hands on it and it was a page-turner.

The first thing that struck me about the book was the subtitle….  “Create Compelling Stories….” The essential skills of what makes a good story probably haven’t changed much since the time when Shamans told stories around the fire.  But it’s not an easy thing to do.  The best filmmakers/storytellers seem to know how to make use of essential storytelling techniques in their process. The most important one seems to be effective ways to bring about key points of change. They may not call it The Lean Forward Moment but it’s the same thing and Mr. Hollyn has very concisely made these concepts understandable and accessible to anyone interested in telling good stories. This could very well be the focus of a semester long class in film school all for the price of a book.

Filmmaking is a collaborative art and Mr. Hollyn also pays a lot of attention to this important fact in this book through repeated examples of what he calls ‘The Lean Forward Moment’.  He describes this as a moment in the telling of a story in which change happens in a way that makes us ‘lean forward’ in our minds and in our gut and pay attention.

Mr. Hollyn describes in specific terms the importance of the Lean Forward Moment and how it is achieved in thorough preparation and the use of what he calls loglines and scene analysis.  Another important concept we’re introduced to is the Rule of Threes.  That the impact of a shot, scene or sequence is directly affected by the ones before and after it.

He uses concrete examples from various films to illustrate the ways in which the lean forward moment takes place and because this is a book that covers all of filmmaking, he has included one chapter on each of the key crafts of the filmmaking process. In addition, the book provides time references for the scenes on DVD for easy access to viewing the scene.  This is essentially a workshop for the process.

By the end of the book these concepts are made clear through repeated visits to the loglines and scene analysis of each film to better illustrate how those moments of change are achieved in each of the film crafts.

There are also little tidbits of information about the various aspects of filmmaking as they pertain to achieving the Lean Forward Moment that veteran filmmakers and beginners alike can use to great affect.

I like that there is no sign of any software, hardware or brand names in sight.  And this general theme carries throughout the book.  Mr. Hollyn doesn’t delve into the  ‘how to’ aspect of many books in the genre. He provides a thoughtful and knowledgeable insight into the art of storytelling through film. I won’t just read this book once. It will be a reference and practice manual for the development of my craft as a storyteller.  If you are a serious filmmaker, or aspire to be, you should have this one on your shelf.

To learn more about Norman Hollyn check out his blog at

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