A Dreamer Walking

What is King?

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on December 19, 2010

The title of this blog, “What is King?“, comes from a question I think everyone should be asking themselves if they are wanting to get into the film business. Figuring out what is King for you is key to understanding how much you can get out of the film medium.

I have studied many people in Hollywood who have money as their King. They have an extreme amount of dedication and talent, but their decisions are based on what will bring them the most profit. When people make money be their king, they often sacrifice quality and have a hard time figuring out what “sells”. Sure, if they are talented they will have one or two hits, but they never can get a consistency going. Usually they make up for the lack of consistence through a tremendous amount of commercialism and pop humor. The reason why someone like Jeffery Katzenberg is no Walt Disney, is because he makes money King when it comes to film making. It is also the reason why his Dreamworks animation studio has not come out with a streak of critically acclaimed successes.

Pop humor is part of another thing that people make out to be King when it comes to film. In definition “pop humor” is popular today and dead tomorrow. It does not have a long life, it is created because it is popular at the moment. All the filmmakers I have ever studied have fallen victim to putting the audience member in front of the actual vision of the film at some point in their career. Trying to please all audiences usually leads to weak stories that take no risks and have extremely predictable characters. We get pop humor or as I like to call it poop humor, from these films because the filmmakers know that someone will laugh if there is a fart joke or clever insult in the movie. When we base decisions on the “poplar vote” rather then our own creative intuitions, we create films that have many inconsistencies and a muddy message.

Another thing that many filmmakers make out to be King (this can be especially applied to Christian film organizations) is the “message” of the film.  You can not make the message of the films be King if you want to be a successful filmmaker. A King is a ruler, the one you as a filmmaker serve. Everyone serves something in their life. You can either serve self serving things like money, popularity, or even a message, or you can serve something greater then yourself. The key is to put the story above everything else and make it King. That means you can not be set on any given message.

The “message” of your film, if not shown the proper respect and put in the proper place, can be very self serving and destructive towards the audience. It is easy to make the mistake of giving a message to glorify yourself. You don’t think about the reason you are giving it, just about the importance that it brings to you. Messages like “Don’t commit abortion”, or “Don’t be homosexuals”, are useless if you can not explain the reason behind them. With Christian films specifically, quality is often sacrificed because the filmmakers are too clouded by the self serving message. The way the message is expressed and the flaws the message might have, are ignored because the message in and of itself is too important.

When you make the story be King, the message will fall into it’s proper place. I am a firm believer in having there be a message in any given film. The message does not need to tell the audience what to think or what is right and what is wrong but you at least need to have a point to your story, a point that you can clearly express. The message or the point of the film is not the end all, it only should come through the development of the story. We as the audience want to see  development just as much as the end product. The filmmaker needs to earn his moments. Before making a statement you need the audience to buy into your characters and story.

The story must always guide the message. One of my favorite filmmakers, Andrew Stanton, related figuring out the story to a paleontologist discovering the bones of a dinosaur.  The paleontologist might have a good idea of what kind of dinosaur he is uncovering right off the bat, but it is not set in stone until he has all the pieces. The question is, do you have the guts to change the message if you discover a “bone” that leads the story in a completely different direction?

A story represents a vision and it is the filmmakers job to follow that vision. No artists vision is completely the same. It will beckon you to go out and try new things. Letting the vision lead is hard because you are not necessarily in complete control of the vision, it is organic and will grow the more your characters, environments, and stories grow.  Sometimes the vision seems to be going in a ridiculous directions. Sometimes you wonder if can find any profit from the vision. You wonder whether or not the message is good enough and whether or not the audience will resonate with it. I am not saying to ignore all those questions or insecurities.

I am just saying film takes faith sometimes. You can not rely on talent alone. If you have faith in yourself then have faith in your vision. Make the vision be the King. Throw away the doubts and the insecurities. I am tired of films that are made because the higher ups want more money. I am tired of films that are made to satisfy our shallowest desires. I am tired of movies that try to shove messages down my throat with no consideration to who I am. Great films come from great visionaries. Stop worrying about what will bring you profit and start serving the vision you have been given!

3 Responses

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  1. Minnow said, on December 19, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    Thanks for sharing. I think your overall point is a great one! The message story vision paragraphs got a little muddy but the main idea came through.

  2. […] The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, is a perfect example of my last blog and my point of not making the message become more important then the actual story or vision of the […]

  3. Jose Siles said, on November 4, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    “Message should not be King” that is a great piece of advice. This is a mistake that happens very often when it comes to new writers who jump into the craft. They figure that the message or the moral of their story is what matter first because it’s their point that their trying to get across. But like you said the story needs to earn these moments in order for the message to find it’s place and not neccesarly be the centre of attention.

    I remember this happening a few years back. I came across a little short film that was gathering a significant amount of attention. Most people said that it was dramatic and supposedly touching. So I gave in and decided to see it for myself. Unfortunately after it was over I barely felt anything. For a while I I had a hard time understanding why. But looking at it back now the mistake was clear now. The message was it’s King. The writers made it very obvious with every sentence that they wanted to push the message through. Sometimes there were paragraphs of dialogue drowning itself in metaphors what the meaning of it’s message was and it wasn’t very subtle about it.

    Halfway through the characters just disappeared in the background (to be honest I could hardly even consider them characters at all) It was nothing more than a self glorification of it’s moral throwing sad moments inbetween that had not earned any sort of honest emotion just feeling shallow.

    Now of course everyone else was satisfied with these shallow moments creating the illusion of something meaningful I guess. But not for me. This is definitely a great piece of insight I think that we as writers should be more aware of seeing easily it can taint your vision.

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