A Dreamer Walking

To The Blog Readers! (if there are any :/ )

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on February 28, 2012

Well guys, I am ashamed that it has been more then two weeks without a post. I really have no excuse except for the fact that I haven’t known what to write about. I am getting to some cross roads in life and needing to make some big decisions. I am not interested as much in writing more about my personal philosophy on film. I sort of need to get more hands on experience before I talk much more about that. I have not updated my A New Vision blog since last May. So, my plan is to get rid of it and start posting some of the comics I once did on that blog, here.

There is always something about film to write. I am always figuring out new things and looking into new people’s philosophies. I want to continue my “An Observation” posts. I have several directors I am looking into and will be posting some papers on them soon. I also want to continue to really concentrate on some personal work, like story development, photography, and comics. I will post some of this stuff on the blog, but a lot of it I want to keep to myself for now. So, because I am changing my concentration on more personal work, blogs will be posted less often. However, I do think it is important to be consistent with blog posts. I will try to update A Dreamer Walking once a week. I will try to keep my material as professional as possible and give you something you can really think about as film admirers or students.

I must confess, I write this blog more for myself then for any of you. It helps me develop and organize my thoughts. The reason I do not ask my audience for suggestions on topics I cover is because I really don’t care about your opinion in that regard. I do invite comments and criticism. I am used to having people tell me what they think no matter if it might hurt my feelings. The bottom line is I am not a natural writer and am always up for hearing about ways I could get better. I also love to strengthen my views through being forced to defend them. I do not like being shown how I am truly wrong about something, but I try my hardest to keep an open mind to be willing to admit when I am wrong and someone else is right. The way I see comments is they can pretty much only do good. Either the commenter will have something enlightening to say or I can simply ignore him or her if it seems they don’t care or are just trying to start a fight.

Give me a few days and I will have another post up. I will say right now I was not impressed with the last four wins at the Oscars the other day. I did not see Iron Lady but I know it wasn’t getting very good reviews, and really wanted Viola Davis to win the Best Actress award for her moving performance in The Help. The Artist was okay for the kind of movie it was, but it didn’t seem to be much more then a tribute to cinemas silent era. On the other hand Hugo was a magnificent tribute to the silent era while also giving us a worthy story of its own, where a boy needs to find value through loss and an old man needs to learn how to truly live again. Scorsese’s directing for the film was also superb. He used 3D and visual effects in groundbreaking ways while never losing sight of the main focus being the story. Jean Dujardin’s performance in The Artist was showy, but he did not have the magical touch we saw the silent greats Charlie Chaplin, Lon Chaney, or Douglas Fairbanks, give their characters. I believe we saw more charm and nuance from both Brad Pit in Moneyball and George Clooney in The Descendents, then we did from Dujardin.

I thank all of those reading and following my blog. I hope I am contributing to your understanding of art and film. This blog has been a thing of pride in my life. I have learned a lot through studying and writing what I have and hope to learn more and more for years to come. I hope you enjoy exploring my dreams and points of view. I will talk more to you guys soon.

The Audience’s Comfort

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on February 14, 2012

Andrew Stanton said in a recent interview that there is nothing he likes more then to feel he is in good hands at the beginning of a film. He wants to know that there is a master storyteller helming the wheel and he is in for a great adventure. You want to let your audience know they are not wasting their time, that they are seeing something they have never seen before. This however has more to do with trust than comfort.

Honestly the new is often uncomfortable for the audience member. Most of the entertainment in film comes from creating a story that puts the audience in suspense. We put the audience in suspense through putting the audience in a state of unease.

One of my greatest problems with most classic films from the 30’s through the 50’s is the clear black and white line they draw with almost every situation and every character. There usually is a clear good guy and a clear villain. The goal is obvious and usually not too deep or insightful. Classic westerns, for example, tried extra hard to villainize the Indians so we didn’t need to think twice when one of them were shot. The Hollywood system created stars who were reliable. The good guys were always good.  The bad guys were always bad.  And, the beautiful women were always beautiful. Even John Wayne and Humphrey Bogart, with a few exceptions, were characters who seemed to have rough edges but were dependable for coming to their senses at the end of the film. The result from this was a lack of suspense, specifically for the younger audience member. Because the big studios were unwilling to take many risks and create characters who walked the line between good and evil and create stories that did not always end in the politically correct way, the studios’ power over the film industry died off. In the sixties we saw the rise of the independent filmmaker. These filmmakers began to blur the moral line with films like Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Midnight Cowboy (1969), to the point that in the 70’s our interest in the anti hero grew, expressed most vividly in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976).

In Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver  it was hard to know what was going to happen in any given scene. Scorsese and writer, Paul Shrader, put us in a state of unease by creating a main character, Travis Bickle, who was always in a questionable state of sanity. He was not out to do the right thing, however he wasn’t the villain. He was the character we were supposed to get to know the most in the film. The choice he made at the end of the film brought us as an audience out of our comfort zone. He did not choose to do the right thing like we were so used to. Instead, he commits a great crime and gets away with it. The film did not give us any clear answers. We didn’t know who to hate and we did not know who to like. The film did things we were not used to and had a character we were not morally in agreement with, which put us in a state of unease. This unease created a suspense that made each scene more interesting to us.

I am not saying you should create films with characters we can’t like or who don’t do the right thing sometimes. However, don’t try to please us when making your story and characters. Every character you make should have both good and bad qualities. We are not supposed to like everything about them. A good example of what I am talking about is the TV series Deadwood. In the series we are introduced to a ton of characters, all of whom have both good and bad qualities. Through out the three seasons the series aired we explored several different aspects of these characters and found that some of the characters we first labeled “villain’s” had truly redeeming qualities, and some of the characters we thought of as “hero’s” were corrupt and wrongdoers in many ways.

The series Deadwood kept its audience on their feet in many clever ways. It was a show where the audience was not supposed to be comfortable. They took us out of our comfort zone by having the characters talk in extremely profane ways. David Milch, the show’s creator, knew that the language by itself would help the audience realize we were not watching any old classic western. In all of the first four to five episodes we see a character die. Some of whom seemed to be quite established. This took us out of our comfort zone and created interest and suspense. Viewers never knew exactly what was going to happen. There were things I saw in the series that I was morally against and frustrated with. However, the more I thought about it the more I was happy with Milch choosing to go against the audience’s expectations and do the politically incorrect thing.

You will never satisfy every audience member with your movie. Don’t try. Take the audience out of their comfort zone and do things we are not used to. You will now doubt have your share of critics if you choose this path. But, it will make your films worth something. Your personal vision on any given subject is what matters. To take the unknown path is not only scary for your audience but you as well. However, it’s the very thing that keeps the cinema alive. The unexpected keeps the audience member interested, connected, and inspired.

An Appeal To Humanity

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on February 5, 2012

Gosh, I have been thinking about what I was going to write here for weeks now. I am probably making this be way too big of a deal, but this post happens to be my 200th. Don’t worry I am not going to give you a long paper on stuff I have done in the past. However, I have been wanting to make this post be an “extra special” post. I have scratched out a few ideas because I didn’t think they were BIG enough or worthy enough to be my “200th”. I am slowly coming to the realization that I probably won’t think anything I write is BIG enough :/. So without further ado my 200th post…

In essence I believe film is an appeal to humanity. The films that are noticed, that last, are the ones trying to dig deeper into the human condition. Whether it is Darren Aronofsky and his Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream pictures that explore the slow corruption of the human soul through obsession and abuse of the human body. Or Steven Spielberg’s genuine exploration of redemption and relationship through movies like Schindler’s List and E. T.  It is not grand special effects that make a movie last; the special effect that were amazing to the 1970’s Star Wars audience is primitive to today’s movie goer. No, if we want to create movies that hold the test of time- movies that impact our children’s and grandchildren’s generation like Citizen Kane, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Gone With the Wind impacted us- we must create movies that explore the core of humanity and use all the elements of cinema to enhance the foundations that truly matter to a movie- story and character.

The little things in grand epics impact me the most. Even though in Lord of the Rings there are tons of spectacular visual effects and magnificent action sequences- like the Fellowship fighting the orcs in the Minds of Moria or the great calvary charge toward the end of Return of the King– the scene that had the most impact on me was one with just Sam and Frodo. The two are at the bottom of Mount Doom, the place where the One Ring was forged and the only place it can be destroyed. Frodo who’s body is full of blisters, who is dieing from starvation and thirst, and is fighting the power of the evil ring, starts up the great mountain. Soon he becomes too weak to walk so he starts to crawl. Slowly he loses the ability to move any further. At that moment, when he confesses himself beaten, Sam picks him up and starts to take him the rest of the way. This scene impacted me the most in the Lord of the Rings trilogy because it impacted me at the most personal level. I saw the love Frodo had for Middle Earth through his passion to get up the mountain. I saw Sam’s unyielding commitment and love for his friend Frodo through finding the strength to carry him. The scene had a simple theme of music playing and there were no sophisticated camera movements. The filmmakers slowed down enough from the great war scenes and grand special effects to show the two characters’ friendship at its peak and remind us what the whole journey was all about. Often when the filmmakers choose to slow down and celebrate the quite moments in their story we are allowed to see the golden thread that makes their story so worth telling.

I go to the movies to see something I have never seen before. However, I want what I see to matter to me at a personal level. Sometimes the most abstract stories impact an audience the most. Animation is a good example of this. In movies like Bambi, Beauty and the Beast, and Up, we are shown lines from a pencil and pixels created from inside a computer and are told we should care for them. The lines create talking animals and fairy creatures. The pixels create living toys and flying houses. None of this is real. We know this. They don’t even try to replicate reality. Sometimes the pixels create characters with heads that are three times the size as any human. Sometimes the drawings create crickets that don’t look anything like crickets. Yet, Carl Fredricksen with his huge head and Jiminy Cricket whose name is the only thing that really gives us a clue he is a cricket, capture the imagination of their audience. They become real to us because they strike true at an emotional level. Jiminy has feelings just like us, he is quickly offended and has a deep need to be noticed as being worth something. Carl is an old cranky man who is trying to find a reason to live after the loss of his wife and greatest friend. These things resonate with us and make Carl and Jiminy live inside our imagination.

Great films are the ones that appeal to humanity. We need to identify with the characters we see on screen. We need to feel their happiness, anger, and sorrow. The story they embark on means nothing if we do not see them as real people. If we do not understand why they choose to rise above injustice and hatred or why they end up falling into despair and corruption. Moments like Capt. Miller saying “Earn this” to Pvt. Ryan and the touching of heads between Raymond Babbitt and his brother Charlie impact me to the core. They impact me because Steven Spielberg showed me exactly how much it cost for Ryan to be saved and Barry Levinson allowed me to understand how hard it was for someone like Raymond to reach out in such a simple yet personal way. A love scene is not impacting unless you can get us to buy into the relationship. A death is not significant unless you show us the true life that was lost.

All film boils down to is life and death. Most of my films will hopefully concentrate on the importance of life. But to be able to understand the value of life I must know the true loss of death. We need to bring the characters we create to the brink of death if we want them along with the audience to understand the true value of life. The opposite applies if you want to understand death. In order to gain curtain things we need to let go of other things. This is how humanity works. We are constantly exploring what it means to live and what it means to die. This is why if we truly want to be great filmmakers, if we truly want to be storyteller’s who are remembered through the ages, we go out and experience real life. The greatest stories you will tell will not be inspired by books or movies, rather by your own life experiences. Nobody has the same perspective on life as you do. Nobody has the exact friends you do, or lives the same way you live. Your own interpretation of the films you watch, the art you look at, and the people you meet is what makes your perspective so important.

The person you know the best should be yourself. Don’t run away from your perspective in fear that people will not understand it or will not think it to be good enough. I would be dishonest to myself to create films that show no hope for our world. Some people, such as Fincher and Kubrick have a much more cynical view of the world. In their films they stay true to themselves and because of this they have created classics that concentrate on some of the darker aspects of the human race. The audience knows if you are being sincere or not.

The point I want to make in this blog is to be true to yourself and give your audience something to think about. Develop a perspective of this world and an idea for where it can go or where it’s going that needs to be seen and taken seriously. Humanity has so many different faces. Humanity is truly a never ending topic that has been explored in art and film for literally thousands of years. Whether it is through a few lines on paper, a bunch of pixels in a computer, or the lens of a camera, create images that can’t be ignored because they hit at the very core of what makes us hate, love, want to die, and want to live- in essence, what makes us human.