Throw your cellphone, food, and “friend” out the window
Rather than splitting your time between different distractions, do one thing at a time!
Take for granted that filmmakers know what they are doing, and that all things happen for a reason. Questioning every artistic decision will force you to dig deeper into the work’s intent and meaning, all while keeping you zoned in.
Suspend your disbelief, for God’s sake
Each film or series introduces its own set of rules. Identify them, and understand that characters will follow these rules specific to their world. Fiction is about internal logic; thinking “that doesn’t make sense” will only distract you.
Watch teaser trailers only
I get it, Hollywood; the more people know about the product, the likelier they are to purchase. However, stories tend to be much more engaging when you don’t already know the major plot points. Do yourself a favour and stay away from those long-form trailers.
Look out for themes in the craft
Cinematography and soundtrack become stronger narrative tools than dialogues when successfully exploited. Identify the colour palette and recurring musical themes and try to make sense of them.
Pause series, never movies
Films and episodes are the length they are for a reason. Half of a series’ fun lies in the tension between two episodes, but pausing a movie destroys its rhythm. View the story as intended by its creator.
Listen with headphones
If you really want to give the album your full attention, listening with headphones will not only allow you to appreciate the sonic quality, but cancel outside distractions
Pay attention to (or look up) lyrics when listening
Lyrics can also help you to understand what an artist is trying to express, and allow you to process an album as a cohesive, thematic work. Words take on entirely new meanings when paired with certain sounds, and vice versa.
Allow yourself to conjure up images
Explore the related sights, touches, tastes, and smells that a song conjures. Follow the impulse to create an accompanying narrative or a music video in your head.
Listen for composition/production
Identify individual elements of the song that don’t stick out as much as the lead vocals. Search for the bass line and try isolating that for a portion of the song. Think about instruments or devices used. If you hear a funky sample, ask where it could have come from.
Learn more about the artist
The more you know about a musician, how they approach songwriting or particular quirks they have when recording, the more you can appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into each tune. Try to examine if they have an identifiable sonic style or if they have changed album to album, song to song.
If you want to dance, dance! Whether the music is making you drop it low or sob, you’re really listening when you feel your body responding.