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The Hidden Beauty of B-roll

Remember the film, Dances with Wolves? Picture the broad grassy vistas of the Great Plains. Wide expanses of golden prairie. Followed by closer-in action and the central story of Lt. John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) and his transformation from Union soldier to citizen of the Lakota Sioux tribe. It’s a classic story of the tragic conflict between First Nation peoples and the violent intrusion, genocide, and theft of their land by white settlers. (And of course, he falls in love too). The dialogue and interaction of the actors is —-in videography—- A-roll: the main action or things and people we see.

Blog by Sister Anne Lythgoe, OP

But consider the beauty of the B-roll. In Dances with Wolves, B-roll is the part of the story where the action softens to wide open vast prairies of pure blue sky and thousands of buffalo roaming the land in a long ribbon like a black river. B-roll gives you breathing space from the intensity of the story and offers supportive context to the plot. In Dances with Wolves, B-roll tells its own story by showing us the magnificent sacred vistas of the prairie, the very reason why white men thought they should own it and they should steal it.   What happens in B-roll is important to every film.

So why am I writing about B-roll?

It’s busy here for me in the world I live in. Every day meetings go from one topic to another, some on zoom, some in person, on the phone, at the desk, in the hall, in the doorway, at the elevator. Email questions and requests pass over my desk in a flow like slow tap water.  People stop by for some reason or the other. All good stuff, the stuff of A-roll. Encounters, small and great.

And in the course of any given day, the sound of an ambulance siren comes through my window, and I listen for its direction. Is it coming up the hill to our Motherhouse or Mohun Care Center? Today, no. But I wonder where it is going. My mind goes to B-roll, wondering who might be in that ambulance and how things might turn out for them. And I wonder if the next time I hear the siren will it be coming to the aid of one of our sisters. And who?

B-roll happens when I stop to listen to something else. When I see something else. Something that might be offering me something else. Insight? A question? A prayer? A moment to listen at a deeper level. To hear God.

At Sunday Mass I am part of the community at prayer. We sing, we pray together, we hear the Scriptures proclaimed and listen to the homily. I think of that exchange as A-roll. And then, I stop listening and look out the window at the birch trees. Subtly, my focus turns to the outside. I watch the sky for clouds and notice the birds flitting by. B-roll. The breathing space where my mind and heart open to something else. Sometimes I think of the B-roll of my life as just resting. Waiting for God to speak, waiting for a Word. Waiting for God to glance my way.

At the moment, I’m in a window seat on a plane heading home looking down on patchy clouds that mask a view of earth below. A silent space between heaven and earth.

I wait.

I breathe.

I listen.

I place my hand on my heart and feel the sacred energy within.

And God says, “I’m right here. I’m right here.”

12 thoughts on “The Hidden Beauty of B-roll

  1. Yes, those sacred pauses or moments of sabbath rest are so necessary each day. Thank you for your examples.

  2. Thanks, Anne, for sharing about the “B” roll, a new term for me. So much at the heart of who we are and what gives meaning to our lives!

  3. Thanks, Anne, for the beautiful and timely reminder to take time to savor the background and backdrops of life

  4. Sister Anne,
    What a beautiful description of our A and B roles in life.
    Enjoyed this immensely.

  5. Beautiful reflection, Anne,
    with its so many layers. It will
    be my meditation for the rest
    of the day.

  6. So grateful Anne for the beautiful flow of words, energy and love for our sisters and creation. May our loving God keep you well and continue to inspire you for all the work and loving service you are offering to so many sisters and your family.

    Peace, love and joy,

  7. Thank you, Sr. Anne.
    Beautiful reflection. I love the term B roll and your words, ” A silent space between heaven and earth. I wait. I breathe. I listen. I place my hand on my heart and feel the sacred energy within. And God says, “I’m right here. I’m right here.”

    I needed those words, today. Blessings.

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