A Dreamer Walking

The Character INTRODUCTION!!!

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on August 27, 2010

Unlike real life (as you can see above), the introduction of a character in film is very important. I just watched a commentary on the Pixar movie Ratatouille where Brad Bird went into detail on what he was thinking through out the film making process of Ratatouille. I have come across very few who are as good at explaining their process and philosophy on film making as Brad Bird. In the Ratatouille commentary Brad emphasized the importance of introducing a Character. It is a art that seems to have been lost with this generation of filmmakers.

Every main character in Ratatouille has a very unique and telling way of being introduced. The main Character Remy, a rat obsessed about becoming a cook, is introduced to us crashing through a window with a cook book in his hands. This introduction is very telling of who Remy is as a Character. The breaking of glass represents the kayos that is going on in Remy’s life, the book represents his passion for cooking, the two are together because they are directly related to each other, the kayos Remy finds himself in is because of his weird obsession on fine cooking. There is also Emile who is Remy’s brother, he is a very soft spoken rat who will eat absolutely anything, naturally he is introduced to the audience sitting down in a very relaxed position eating garbage. Skinner the villain of the picture is introduced so we can see only his hat hovering over the counter like a shark before it attacks.

I look at some of my favorite movies of all time, such as Schindler’s List and I see some very clever introductions that express exactly who the characters are. With Oskar Schindler we are introduced through him getting ready to go to an expensive dinner, immediately we can tell that he wants to look richer then he really is, he scrambles to find the money he will need for the dinner, very prudently he puts on his cloths and the last thing he puts is his small Nazi badge, telling us who his allegiance is with. We do not hear Schindler speak before we know exactly what he is about. Within the first five minutes of meeting Schindler we see his eye for woman, his way with handling money to get what he wants, and his hospitable charm he uses to gain reconnection.

You can look at many of Steven Spielberg’s movies and see his genius with introducing his characters. Whether it is Indiana Jones and his very stylized intro where we hear the hero theme and we have a extreme close up revealing our hero’s face or the subtle into of Tom Hanks’ character John Miller in Saving Private Ryan, where we see a bunch of solders getting ready to storm Omaha Beach and we are introduced to the shaking hand of John Miller looking just like the rest of the people he is with, trying to throw off the idea that he is a “hero” and making him just a solder like the rest of the people he is with. You can tell that Steven puts thought in what we see first and how it represents who the character is as a whole.

A good filmmaker will take the extra time to find the perfect way to introduce a character to the audience. The first impression means a lot, we build opinions right away, the filmmaker needs to make sure they are the right opinions. I am not saying that we should always have huge introductions, they can often be very subtle you do not want to consciously draw attention. The question you want to ask yourself is, am I expressing who this character is?

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