A Dreamer Walking

Tom Hooper- An Observation- No Glamour

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on May 28, 2011

Ever sense watching the movie The King’s Speech I have been fascinated with the director Tom Hooper. I felt his direction for The King’s Speech was marvelous. I thought he did a great job with building the relationship between the main characters King George VI (Colin Firth) and Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Hooper also greatly fascinated me with the use of the camera. I loved how he was able to express the inner emotions of the characters through framing and camera movement. A good example would be a shot Hooper often had for King George. Most of the time when George sat down he only occupied the very bottom corner of the screen and we saw him usually through wider lens making George look even smaller in frame. These shots expressed perfectly how isolated and belittled King George felt because of his speech impediment. In the movie Hooper didn’t seem to be afraid of the close up, distorted shot, extreme upper or lower angles, or a crooked shot if it served his purpose.

Due to my admiration of The King’s Speech I chose to look up a few more of Hooper’s films. I was surprised to see Hooper, who I knew to be British, directed the John Adams series for HBO, since the series concentrated on the second president of the United States John Adams and the breaking away of America from British control. However after beginning to watch the series I thought to myself that Tom Hooper was a perfect choice for the director of the John Adams series. Hooper did not glamorize any of the early American history because he did not grow up idolizing it. The breaking away from Britain, the creation of the constitution, and the presidency of John Adams were all portrayed with a grit few movies show in the film business these days.

Tom Hooper brought an authenticity to the John Adams series. He did not feel the need to make the time period too romantic, glamorous, or idolized. The John Adams series was full of hurt, betrayal, and wrong turns. Hooper did little things for the series that I think made all the difference. For example, Hooper made it clear he wanted to see the teeth of every adult character be full of cavity and decay and the skin of the characters more scabby and rough, in order to stay more authentic to the time period. I must admit it was distracting at first. I looked at this legend, John Adams, and could not help but stare at his mouth full of black decay and at the scabs all around his face. I was use to Hollywood always trying to clean those small things up. In most movies about revolutionary events the good guys always look like a million bucks and the bad guys were the only ones with rotten teeth and scabs and warts all around their face.  Tom Hooper fought hard against those tendencies. He said in the making of John Adams he needed to constantly remind the prop and costume people to dirty everything up and resist making things look perfect.

Hooper explained his constant effort to distress things by saying, “Getting away from that romanticized vision of the American revolution allows you to experience the suspense more vitally.” After hearing this I realized one of the things I most liked about the John Adams series was the suspense. Not the “a bomb about to go off!”,  kind of suspense but rather the, “who is in the right and who is in the wrong?”, kind of suspense. I liked the fact I did not always know who the good guys were and who the bad guys were. Later on Hooper explained the only reason why you romanticize or glamorize is because you know the outcome. He wanted to be in a world where he didn’t know who the great men were.

I personally do not think Hooper believes in the good guy vs. bad guy mentality we so often see in Hollywood film these days. I think Hooper realizes in order for the audience to understand the characters in his films he needs to stop glamorizing them and instead bring the characters down to reality, where we see them as human beings just like us. In the series John Adams Tom Hooper showed us a a more authentic John Adams, who made some wrong choices, held grudges, and threw temper tantrums. Hooper knew we as the audience could relate to those things. The flaws of the protagonist usually makes the good qualities shine all the greater.

Hooper brought the mindset he had on the John Adams series to The King’s Speech. He said one of the greatest problems he had with the first draft of the screenplay for the film was the writer portrayed King George VI as completely cured of his stammer at the end of the film. Hooper felt this was not true to the real King George VI. He indicated, in reality most people are not cured of disabilities but rather they find ways to cope with their disability. It is usually only in the movies we see situations where people are completely cured of a disability like a stammer. Because we know the stammer is still an issue for the King when he gives the speech at the end of the film there is more suspense, we do not know whether he will make it through the speech or not. We also have more admiration for the King when he ends up fighting through his disability to give the speech. We were able to relate to the King in a way we wouldn’t have if he did not struggle. He has flaws just like us and the end of the movie he does not find an absolute cure for those flaws but rather he gives us hope that we can be successful in spite of our flaws, just like the King.

Taking the glamour away from a situation might be thought of as a bad thing at first. Will people still come to our movie if we show them the real dirt and grime of this world? As filmmakers we have the tendency to want to make things look better then they really are, just like we do in real life. When we are out with our friends we do not want to show them our flaws. We usually clean up and make ourselves look like we have no problems going on in our lives. However, film is all about the drama and drama does not come out of perfection. If the main character has no flaws and always knows what to do, we will never fear for his safety. If the main character makes no mistakes we won’t be able to relate to him.

Hooper seems to know filmmaking is all about the imperfections. He really wants to take away the glamour of a time period and give the audience authenticity. It is in the flaws of a character, dirt on a costume, or wear of a set piece, that we are able to see the authenticity. Hooper knows we relate to sweat, dirt, and sores. He wants to put his actors into the environment of the time period they are portraying. He knows the elements, such as mud, rain, and heat, help do the acting for the actors. Hooper’s goal is not to express a bunch of characters who are above reproach. Rather his goal is to show us great people from our history, like John Adams and King George VI, are humans just like us. Hooper is not interested in expressing glamour he is interested in expressing truth.

David Fincher- An Observation- The “B” Movies

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on May 25, 2011

The movies which I would consider Fincher’s worst are The Game and Panic Room. Ironically both of these films have happy endings. There is nothing wrong with happy endings. However, in Fincher’s case there seemed to be no conviction behind the “happy ending”. The movies also happen to be the least critically successful movies Fincher has made up to this point. Both were basically considered entertaining “B” movies by critics.

Many critics probably would point to the unbelievability of The Game as the reason why it wasn’t a huge success. However, there are many movies that don’t make sense logically but still work. As I touched on in my last David Fincher post, the crucial part is to see the conviction behind the theme of the film. For a movie like It’s a Wonderful life, it does not make sense logically for the main character George Baily to run into an angel and go through life as though he was never born. However, because there was conviction behind the concept, we saw how the experience completely changed George Baily as a person and we were able to buy into the illogical concept. For The Game there seemed to be no conviction. There was just a bunch of illogical twists and turns without seeing any inner change in the main character.

Fincher seemed to be more interested in the suspense and twists of the film than he was in the arc of the main character, Nicholas (Micheal Douglas). He no doubt had fun working with the twists and suspense but in the end it was a movie he made to satisfy the audience, and there laid his greatest mistake. Fincher did not believe in the change of Nicholas, he just knew the audience wanted the character to change and have a “happy ending”. When you begin to stop relying on your own convictions and instead look to satisfy others, no matter who those others might be, you will fall flat and start to make a formulaic movie.

Both The Game and Panic Room were more like experimental films for Fincher. For The Game he wanted to see how far he could take the audience. How many twists can you make before something starts to not be believable? Some people totally bought into the many twists Fincher took the audience on. Some people, like myself, did not see the point and thus just did not care. But, I can guarantee you The Game helped prepare Fincher for his next movie Fight Club, where everything relied on Fincher getting the audience to buy into the big twist at the end of the movie.

Panic Room was more interesting to Fincher because of it’s barriers than it’s storyline. Fincher wanted to see if he could make an entire film in one location. Minus the very beginning of the film and very end, everything is shot in the house of the main character’s Meg and Sarah Altman (Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart). We see a tremendous display of set design, camera movements, and visual effects to make this one location keep us entertained all the way through the film. However, the goal for Panic Room just like The Game, went no farther than entertaining the audience with scenes full of suspense and action.

With Fincher there was no formal film school. He needed to learn through professional experience. He started out at Industrial Light and Magic as a teen and went on to do commercials and music video’s for people like Madonna and The Rolling Stones in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Fincher’s film school was the commercials and music video’s he worked on. It is no surprise he would continue the constant testing and learning process he used in his commercials and music videos and  also use it on some of his full length films. The Game and Panic Room are more accurately called experimental learning experiences than ambitious works of art. However, is a learning experience a good enough excuse for movies like The Game and Panic Room to be sub par or easily forgettable?

I have no problem with Fincher creating some average “B” movies because I can see how they have informed his other films. As I already pointed out, the sort of unbelievable twists we saw in The Game helped Fincher get ready for Fight Club. Working with limitations in Panic Room helped Fincher appreciate the great amount of locations he had at his disposal in movies like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. However, at the end of the day the movies which will stick out and are appreciated from generation to generation are not the ones with tons of twists and special effects. There will always be movies with those kind of things. What makes a movie unique is the individuality of the artists behind the film. When we make a film to satisfy someone else we begin to lose individuality. When we make a film to satisfy our own convictions, we make something which can not be copied and is truly unique.

(Here are the links to the other three Fincher Observation Posts. 1. Exploring the Scene 2. Finding the Meaning Behind the Movement 3. A Cynical Man)

Time and Attention

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on May 22, 2011

The other day I arranged a movie night. We were going to sit down and enjoy one of last years best movies, The King’s Speech. The audience was mostly young men about my age, ranging from 18 to 21. There were two parents watching the movie for their second time, as well. I was quite excited to show this movie to my friends. I am a big fan of the director Tom Hooper and think the movie rightly deserved the academy award for Best Picture in this years Oscars. This was actually my third time watching the movie.

The movie was being presented on Blu Ray high definition on a huge widescreen TV with surround sound, to give us the “ultimate viewing experience”. However, less then a minute into the movie I heard a little “buzzzz” sound right next to me. Then within seconds I heard a second “buzzzz” on the other side of me. Then came a “buzzzz” below me. I looked around and too my amazement I saw three of my friends answering text messages. “You guys are going to miss the crucial part of the scene”, I thought to myself. It was right at the moment where the main character of the movie, Albert the Duke of York, was standing in the stair case by a gray colorless wall with the close up of the speech in his hand and a terrified expression on his face. I knew if my friends did not see the lack of confidence the Duke was expressing while waiting to give the speech, they would not understand his stuttering while giving the speech a few seconds later. My friends were also missing the little gesture the Duchess of York was giving her husband when reluctantly letting him go. If you were paying attention to the film you could easily see this subtle affection and distress the Duchess had for her husband’s predicament. We can see how desperately she was trying to give him confidence while whispering in his ear, “It’s time”. I don’t even know if my friends saw the huge machines set up in order to broadcast the speech to the world. They actually might be amazed to see the texts they were constructing to communicate to someone miles away took whole room fulls of equipment less then a hundred years ago in 1925.

I was able to shake off the frustration of my friends missing some of the small details I considered quite important at the beginning of the films because I thought those text messages might have been pretty important. My friends might have felt the need to tell their texting friends they were watching a movie, rather then be rude and just ignore them. However, the texts didn’t stop. Through out the film my friends seemed to be just as interested in texting as they were interested in the movie.

My friends were not even giving themselves the chance to be taken by the film. They didn’t allow themselves to see the true effect the speech therapist in the movie had with the Duke. And how exactly he gave him confidence to step up and become a King. What ended up happening that night was one of my texting friends bailed out half way through because he said he was so tired he couldn’t track the film and my two other texting friends said they could not relate very well to the characters or story. I thought, “How did they expect to relate with the characters or story? They had not even given them a chance to effect them”.

School teachers are not trying to just be mean when they tell you to put your cellphones away when they are giving lectures. The reasons why we are usually not allowed to use cellphones while listening to a lecture, at the dinner table, in a meeting, or when we are in a movie theater is because they take our, and usually the people around us, attention away. Filmmakers literally spend hundreds and hundreds of hours working on each minute of film we see in the movies. They have not spent so much time and effort working on the film only for us to pay attention to the bare minimum. Every detail matters, especially with an academy award film like The King’s Speech. The movie demands our attention if we want to truly get anything out of it. The same goes with any well made film, they require the audience to participate.

We live in the information age. The greatest concern we should have is getting too overwhelmed with information. If we are researching something we just need to type in the subject on Google and immediately we are presented with dozens of articles on the subject. The problem with this overwhelming resource of information is we tend to skim the articles because we are too much in a hurry to get to the next one. If we wanted to we could be having three conversations at once, one through texting on the cellphone, one face to face, and one on the computer. The problem is when we try to have three conversations at once we are not focused on any of them.

The reasons why films continuously get quicker paced and are full of “in your face” visual effects is because studio executives don’t think we can appreciate the quite moments in film anymore. The reason why more and more movies are being made with poor plot lines and shallow characters is because the studio executives know those kind of stories are easier to be made and they think we the audience do not really care. Sadly, these studio heads are far too close to being right, most of us do not care.

The people who payed the most attention to The King’s Speech were the parents who had already watched the film. My generation for the most part seems to not care about these stories which have beautiful character depth and thought provoking story lines, because they don’t have enough action or are too full of duologue. The other night was just one example of an attitude which is becoming much more common. We simply do not care. I would not be mad if my friends did not like the movie if they had been paying attention to it. In fact, their reason I am sure would have helped me develop a stronger opinion on the movie. What frustrates and saddens me is the lack of commitment my friends were willing to give the film. My generation in general has become satisfied with quantity over quality. We rather not have anything go too deep and be too thought provoking because we don’t have time to give any one thing our complete attention.

The studio executives do not care nearly as much about making quality pictures because we have shown we are okay with mediocre. The audience sets the standard towards the kind of entertainment we receive. With the kind of mindset my generation has we are going to miss out on quite a few beautiful things. We can’t see the beauty in a masterful piece of art unless we spend time studying it. We can not understand the beauty in the people around us unless we spend time getting to know them. The same concept applies to movies.

One of my friends who was texting throughout the film said he couldn’t relate to the King’s speech impediment because communication has never been a problem for him. I say that is all the more reason for my friend to pay attention. All you need to know to understand Albert’s problem is in the movie. Film can be a way to experience the world and understand it’s differing views. The medium of film has the potential to reveal truths about this world and who we are that we did not even know were there. It is true films like The King’s Speech are sources of entertainment. But, the best kind of entertainment is the kind that allows us to grow. The films which allow us to grow only require from us an hour or two of our time and attention. I beg you to give it……. for both our sake.

David Fincher- An Observation- A Cynical Man

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on May 17, 2011

Maybe Fincher’s cynicism started after his first full length film experience, where he basically got screwed by executive producers on  Alien 3 and reportedly “swore he would rather have colon cancer then direct another picture”. Actually, the only David Fincher movie I have not seen is Alien 3 but it is no secret the directing experience was not a good one for Fincher. Honestly I am not interested in how David became so cynical. Although Alien 3 did not help, I am sure it is not the only reason why David is cynical about this world. It is obvious when studying David Fincher what stands out probably more then anything else about him is his cynicism and how it is expressed through his movies.

There are so many places I can point to in order to express Fincher’s cynical view of this world. Like any good director Fincher creates his best work when he follows his convictions, no matter how cynical they might be. Se7en is a good place to start. Se7en was Fincher’s second full length film and in it we see a world consumed with filth and sin. The main characters, Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and Mills (Brad Pitt), both work in a profession where their job is to find the people who have committed the worst kind of crimes imaginable. They live in a world full of lies, violence, and murder. Fincher creates in Se7en a dark world where the screams of the city are never silenced and we are bore down by rain and darkness. At the end of Se7en it is not good that prevails but evil. The people who end up being right at the end are the old cop, who has all but given up on hoping the world will ever become better, and the serial killer, who does not think the world has any good left in it.

I consider Se7en to be one of David’s greatest films because I can see the conviction he had in the story he was telling. Every frame seemed to be supporting the theme of the film. I can understand why the old cop Somerset has given up on the world. I understand the serial killer John Doe’s explanation on how perverted it is to call anything in this world “innocent”. After about an hour of being immersed in the world of Se7en, the character who still believes in justice, Mr. Mills, starts to seem like the most naive person in the movie. Ironically at the end he is the one to express his naivety for what it really is.

Fincher’s career is full of cynical movies where we see some of the worst qualities of this world and humanity, prevail. His movie Fight Club, seems to give the finger to the concept of “The American Dream”. His movie Zodiac is full of frustrations and failures where we begin to think at the end nothing can be completely solved or brought to full resolution. In The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Fincher gives us a love story that concentrates more on the loss love creates then its benefits. Even when the main characters finally get together the music is not relishing in the moment but rather leading the audience to think the moment will soon end, as it does. Fincher’s last movie, The Social Network, might be his most cynical film to date. The film is full of deception and betrayal. We are given three different points of view which all try to twist and change what everyone else is saying to make themselves look spotless. It is the ultimate tale of narcissism where each character is consumed with themselves, all in their own unique ways.

In the commentary on Se7en Fincher said, “I am so not interested in what people say. As far as I’m concerned language was invented so people could lie to one another”. This is a very important concept to understand about Fincher if you want to understand most of his movies. A movie like The Social Network, which is full of heavy dialogue, is all about the ways people say what they say and how they react to what is being said. Dialogue should never be taken at face value in a Fincher film. We are always seeing hidden motives and double standards. In Se7en we see detective Mills claim he believes in justice but betray himself at the end of the film. In Fight Club we see the main character express his need for fulfillment through possessions but get more depressed the more things he tries to hold onto. In The Social Network everyone has an agenda for why they say what they say. During the testimonies Eduardo (Andrew Garfield) says he was Mark’s (Jesse Eisenberg) only friend because he knew it would give him sympathy in the case. Shaun Parker (Justin Timberlake) tries to convince Mark it is in his best interest to get rid of Eduardo because he knows he would become more important to Mark that way. Mark goes through the film making fun of final clubs because he wants to be in them. Mark tries to demean the other people’s contributions to Facebook because he wants to see himself as the site’s sole creator.

Thankfully there are only two movies of Fincher’s I would call formulaic. When he begins to go down the road of trying to satisfy the audience rather then himself, he runs into problems. The two movies I consider Fincher’s worst are The Game and Panic Room, both of which ironically have a happy ending. The fact is Fincher relishes in the deceptiveness of humanity. He is at his best when concentrating on the cruelties of this world. “Happy Endings” at the moment just do not seem to be something Fincher really believes in.

In some ways I find Fincher’s situation to be a very sad place to be. I personally can not imagine finding much happiness in a view that hardly believed in the goodness of human nature. However, Fincher’s view I believe is more realistic of the times we live in. I also believe his point of view needs to be expressed. I am glad there is a David Fincher who is able to concentrate on how many of us are consumed with the evils of this world, so I do not have to.

Although movies like Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network are cynical at heart, I see glimpses of light. The creativity of Mark in The Social Network is inspiring. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is an absolutely beautiful movie. The movie has characters that express to us some of the simple beauties of life. The freedom we see come to the members of Fight Club is also exciting and in some ways even hopeful.

Fincher’s movies make statements about society which are quite legitimate and worth conversation and debate. It is easy for me to learn from his films. He gives me motivation even through his darkest of movies, to be creative and push for what I want to show no matter what the world might think.

Fincher has had many battles with Hollywood studios and executives because of his cynical points of view. Typical Hollywood is just fine with the formulaic “happy ending”. Fincher has enough skill, he can create cliche’ stories that people will go in droves to see. I have yet to run across a movie of Fincher’s where I was bored. Fincher is an absolutely gifted filmmaker. He knows how to use the camera and the rest of the elements of cinema to create a stimulating picture. However, the movies which will last the longest are the ones which were the most risky for him to make. These days Fincher’s goal seems to be less and less about making the audiences and studios happy and more about following the convictions for what he thinks his films should be. For this I applaud him. His goal is not to make us feel safe. His goal is to have us realize the reality of evil in this world. He does not believe in a right side and wrong side. Fincher’s films are more about the grays of life. 

The most important thing for a filmmaker to have is conviction. The director needs to follow his heart. Fincher said several years ago in a Esquire interview conducted by Brian Mockenhaupt, “Some people go to the movies to be reminded that everything’s okay. I don’t make those kinds of movies. That, to me, is a lie. Everything’s not okay.”  This I believe shows exactly where Fincher’s heart is at the moment.  He said in the interview that he did not consider himself a cynic; just a realistic. His goal is to express to the world that even in Hollywood everything is not okay. “Entertainment has to come hand in hand with a little bit of medicine“, he says.

Fincher’s heart goes to some dark places. I can’t say I like all those dark places but at least they encourages me to think. At least his passion for what he does is something to look up to. I am far from being a cynical man, however that does not stop me from being inspired by David Fincher’s films. My greatest hope is for Fincher to keep on following his heart. And, maybe someday his heart might break from the depressing view of mankind and see something worth making a film about that gives us hope for the future… At least that is this optimist’s point of view of this brilliant cynic 😉

(Here are links to my other two Fincher Observation posts. 1. Exploring the Scene 2. Finding the Meaning Behind the Movement 4. The “B” Movie)

Religious Pics

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on May 14, 2011

A few weeks ago I helped my mother with a photography project. The assignment was actually my moms, I was just there to help. However, I really began to get interested in the project. We were trying to represent Christianity through photography. Here are a few of the pictures I personally took and worked on.

We thought a cup holding many of the words in the Bible could be a good representation of the Word. The Bible consists of many things and at the moment we are just keeping them in the cup. I actually might come back and change a few things about this. However, I do like the lighting and position of the cup. I really wanted to create a contrasts between white’s and dark’s. I also wanted a few words to clearly stick out, more on that after getting a closer look…

These are all words associated with the Christian Bible. The key was getting the words to stick out without them obviously sticking out or looking foreign to the rest of the piece. I used a sharpening tool to bring out a few of the key words. We also spent time beforehand setting up the key words before we put the rest of the words in.

Here is an interesting piece. One of the ideas we wanted to express was the word leaving the cup. It was crucial to get the focus right on the words that were leaving the cup. I also upped the contrast in the piece like the others. Separating the words from the paper was important. Making everything else feel soft was also important. I didn’t want anything else to stick out but the words leaving the cup.

The point of this picture was to express my view on Religion. I will let you interpret it the way you want. I like the contrast and lighting in this picture. The way it fades into darkness is just right in my opinion. It was sort of hard to bring out the texture in the cardboard in the breadbasket. I think the cardboard reads but would rather not have the rough wall in the background distracting us. My mother said she thought I shouldn’t have put the “Religion” in there, but I wanted to direct the audiences thought process a little. I worked on the font to make it feel like it belonged to the rest of the piece. Putting the shadow on the edge of the letters really helped.

Hope you enjoy the pictures

(You will need to click on the pictures to see them in focus)

Invisible Ink- Be the Drama Queen!

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on May 9, 2011

Did you know rats can’t cook? Did you know fish can’t talk, balloons can’t fly houses, monsters are not in your closet waiting to scare you, toys are not alive, cars don’t have emotions, humans do not have superpowers, robots can’t fall in love, and ants can’t invent things? Many of the most popular films ever to come out of Hollywood are the ones that are most illogical. I mean think about it. There is no such thing as a Jedi who can use some magical force to read your feelings and there is no such world populated by blue aliens and floating islands called Pandora. Why do we go to movies which show these things if they are not really real?

You might be the kind of person who does not like fantasy. You might only go to movies like Schindler’s List or Pursuit of Happyness, movies which are based on true stories. So at least those movies are real, right? Have you ever seen someone in real life who had a personal theme song play whenever he showed great emotion? Have you ever been in one place one second and then dozens of miles away in the next second in real life? The fact is all film is an illusion. Every action and camera move is thought out before hand. The lighting and most of the props have been planned out way before anything is actually shot. The goal for  filmmakers has never been to give you complete reality, you can just go outside if you want that. The goal is to give you an emotion which hopefully is more real to you then most of the emotions you have through real life.

Personally you can not convince me the animals in the Disney animated movie Bambi were just a bunch of drawings. You can not convince me the emotions I saw in the movie Schindler’s List were not real in some way. Characters like Wall-E, Thumper, or Forrest Gump have become just as real to me as any character I run into while going on a walk or shopping. In fact, these fictional characters have impacted me in ways few real people have.

In the book Invisible Ink Brian McDonald quotes famous director Billy Wilder, “Don’t give me logic, give me emotion“. Movies do not need to hit on logical truths all the time, what they need to hit on are emotional truths. Sometimes exaggerating logical truths can help highlight an emotional truth. No one does this better then Pixar in my opinion. Rats can not cook, however the premise of the Pixar movie Ratatouille is a ambitious rat, in Remy, venturing out to become a chef. As illogical as the premise is we as the audience are thrilled when we see Remy begin to succeed in his ambitions. The fact that Remy is a rat gives us even more fuel to root for him because we know he is fighting a huge uphill battle, I mean most restaurants are forced to close if it is discovered rats are in the kitchen. We begin to see Remy as a symbol of a man overcoming the impossible in order to fulfill his dreams. The idea of a rat wanting to cook captures us because emotionally it hits on a truth which is extremely real and relevant. Watching Remy succeed in being a chef allows us to realize we are capable of succeeding in things which we are told by the world are impossible or closed off.

It is the filmmakers job to become the drama queen. Film and stage acting are the places where we are allowed to let it all out and use everything to further our point. The reason why we have music playing in the background or use quick cuts is so we can get across to the audience a very real idea. The reason it takes so long to plan out the camera moves, acting, lighting, and set design is because we want all those things to further the actual emotional theme of our film.

A good man to study in order to see to what effect you can use cinema to further your theme is Martin Scorsese. Some of his earlier movies like Taxi Driver and Raging Bull went against many rules of filmmaking at the time. In Taxi Driver there were times where Scorsese would just wonder off of the main character, use fades to show his character moving across long distances, and shoot medium shot of a character talking to another without having the other character in frame. These very gutsy techniques worked because Scorsese understood how they were contributing to the theme of his film. He didn’t care if he showed more blood then what would be realistic from something like a gunshot wound, if he point was being made. (Check out this LINK to read more about how I feel Scorsese is a perfecter in using the elements of cinema).

Everything needs to be about the theme of the film. You must figure out how to get the most drama out of the performances and camera shots. Sometimes in order to get a curtain point across you need to go completely against logic. You must be careful to not lose your audience through going too abstract and it is important to stay true to some rules. In a movie like Ratatouille we are introduced to a rat who wants to cook and we are able to except this concept. However, we still need to see Remy go through the obstacles of becoming a cook. We still need to buy into him as a character and relate too the struggles he goes through.

I actually think Billy Wilder’s statement, “Don’t give me logic, give me emotion“, is slightly misleading. We do need things to be logical in some ways if we want to generate believable emotions from them. However, they do not need to be logical in the way “rats can’t cook” or “houses can’t fly” are. We need what we see in the movies to make logical sense emotionally to us. They must hit on a core belief we have as human beings. If someone falls in love with another character in a movie but the relationship has not connected with us as the audience, we will call it corny. If a character dies on screen but it doesn’t feel believable, we won’t be effected by the loss.

Make the character, environment, and story resonate with us as the audience through what ever rout you think is best. I do not need to believe characters like Wall-E and Forrest Gump live in the world I call “reality”. However, I need to have the characters and stories you tell become something I can believe in. But first the stories you create need to become real in the realm you call your “imagination”. When they become real there you can start translating them to film.

Invisible Ink- Don’t tell me, SHOW ME!

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on May 3, 2011

Seeing is different from being told
— African Proverb

This is how Brian McDonald opened up the topic of “What It Means to Dramatize an Idea”. This post is actually concentrating on the second part of Chapter 3 in his book Invisible Ink. I think in chapter three Brian hits on several different storytelling points, so I have decided to write four posts on the chapter (HERE is the link to the first post).

In storytelling our job is not to bluntly give our audience all the answers. Creating a story where you tell the audience exactly how and what to think is a quick way to get them to walk out on you. If the audience has been given all the answers there will be no drama. Drama comes from the uncertainty and questions the audience has. The drama comes from the audience figuring out the answers for themselves. Our job as filmmakers is to give the audience the equation and let them come up with the answer.

Let me go back to the example of The Incredibles to explain myself. The main theme in The Incredibles is “family is most important”. The reason why The Incredibles works so well is we are never told family is most important but rather we are shown. There are several scenes in which it is visually expressed how important family is to Mr. Incredible. One of the greatest examples would be the scene where his wife and children are flying to the island where he is being held capture. Syndrome, the villain of the movie, shoots missiles at the plane. We see Mr. Incredible at his most vulnerable. He begs Syndrome to call off the missiles, but sadly with no avail. He is forced to watch helplessly while the rockets hit and destroys the plane. He thinks right then his family is dead. We don’t need him to say, “my family is important to me”, we literally feel their importance through his emotions.

Words can easily be deceptive. David Fincher said, in his commentary on the movie Se7en, he believed the verbal language was invented so people could lie. Granted, David Fincher is one of the most cynical people I have ever come across, but what he said has some truth. We have the ability to deceive people through our words, but our our actions and emotions give us away.  We as filmmakers are measured based on how much we can get the audience to buy into the story we are telling. If we are told someone is in danger but don’t have it expressed well through the powers of cinema– through sound effects, music, cutting, lighting, and good acting– the audience won’t care. If an actor does not believe in what he is saying the audience won’t believe it. When I watch a movie I do not care whether I have seen the same type of story before. What I care about is whether or not the visuals and characters are believable. Do the performances feel authentic? Do the visuals demand my attention?

The message of “family being most important” has been told before. What makes The Incredibles work is the way the creators are able to get us to buy into the message. At the end of the movie Mr. Incredible wants to fight Syndrome and his evil robot alone. Mrs. Incredible is angry Mr. Incredible doesn’t want her help and demands to know why. Mr. Incredible breaks down and says, “I can’t lose you again”. Right there we are shown how important family has become to Mr. Incredible. His words are validated through the scene before where we saw the emotions he went through when he thought he lost them. His words are also backed up by a great performance. Mr. Incredible can barely look at his wife while he expresses his fear.

Cinema is all about dramatization. Brian McDonald puts it this way in his book, “Dramatization is a way to get your intellectual ideas across to your audience emotionally”. Drama is built entirely on emotions. When we connect an idea emotionally to our audience we have effected them in a way that will last much longer then a two hour theater experience. Facts are meaningless unless they have an emotion behind them. Being told guns are dangerous does not impact us nearly as much as seeing exactly how guns are dangerous. One of my mentors used to take his children to the garage after he killed a deer hunting and show them exactly how the bullet killed the animal. He would show them the insert wound, the blood, and how the bullet effected the deers insides. It is a fact guns are dangerous. However, the fact meant very little to the children until their dad expressed the fact through a dramatic example.

When we as filmmakers don’t give the audience all the answers but rather let them come to their own conclusions a satisfaction is created which could never have been achieved if we just came out and told them what to think. There are movies such as The Social Network that intentionally try to not take sides. In the movie The Social Network there is no obvious villain or obvious hero. This is actually one of the film’s strengths. We are shown plenty of details and have plenty of emotions about each one of the characters. The fun part is how we end up dealing with the emotions we experience. In The Social Network for example, depending on who you ask, the good guy may be different because we each interpret the situations differently. We end up leaving the movie thinking, debating with one another. We do not have a clear opinion but rather a curiosity and interest in hearing what others think. We may even want to see the movie again.

Whether it is to make a point or just get someone to think, you will get much farther through showing rather then telling. The goal should never be to come up with a clear cut answer. Rather, it should be to express something from your own unique point of view. You must have an idea behind what you are showing. You must give me a reason to keep watching and even come back again. But, you need to realize the power is in the image not the word. The goal is to show me something that doesn’t just give me information but rather stimulates the imagination.