A Dreamer Walking

Risk

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on November 23, 2011

These days movies seem to be getting more and more formulaic. Superhero movies and sequels seem to be the only films that are given a big budget. It is becoming harder and harder to have any Hollywood studio support new and original scripts. What the executives want is a formula. They want to take out the “risk” factor. Recent movies like Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill and the new Twilight film Breaking Dawn, are allowed to have weak scripts and be poorly constructed because the executives know the films have a fan base and will make a profit. Yet, slowly the movie business if fading. Hollywood’s formula’s are starting to backfire. Because 3D has been so over and poorly used in so many films the audience is loosing interest. Because the latest Superhero movies are getting more indolent and unbelievable the audience has started to stop caring. Because sequels have become less original and less creative the audience has began to decided just re-watching the original is more convenient.

When talking about the creation of Wall-E Andrew Stanton said he knew the film was going to be risky and that is precisely why he wanted to make it. What happened to this kind of philosophy? The visionaries of Hollywood are and always have been the people willing to take risks. In fact, the film business is directly related to risk taking. Why? Because there is no formula to good filmmaking. Film is an art not a product. We can not expect to create the same type of story again and again and have our audience stay interested. Walt Disney needed to take a risk when he created the first feature length animated film. Nobody knew if it would work. Many people thought it wouldn’t. They called it the “Disney folly” and said nobody would be willing to sit through a hour and a half cartoon. What drove Walt however was his belief in his art form and fellow collaborators. Walt had a vision. A vision that revolutionized the medium and helped keep the art form relevant.

George Lucas received a huge amount of skepticism when he embarked on creating Star Wars. There was no film really like it, yet he took the risk and invested everything he had into making the movie. Pixar was faced with a huge amount of doubt about the possibilities of computer animation. It took a visionary like Steve Jobs to believe in the film medium and invest millions of dollars into creating breakthrough shorts like Luxo Jr. and Tin Toy. Because of these peoples visions and their willingness to take risks cinema has advanced and stayed relevant for today’s audience. Yet, slowly the visionaries of cinema have been dying away, losing interest, or getting pushed out. The people who have taken over are those who are only interested in power and money. They are strangling the art form I have come to love- demeaning it’s true power and vanquishing it’s light. They no longer take risks because they are more concerned about themselves then the art form.

Risk is part of film business. I am not trying to say you should take risks just for the heck of it. What I want is for you to have a great enough vision that you are willing to pursue it no matter where it takes you. The medium of film is vast there is no end to it’s possibilities. Exploring the unknown is always risky. Yet, it is good for filmmakers to get out of their comfort zone. The reason Andrew Stanton liked the fact that his movie Wall-E was risky was because he knew the risk factor would force him to be at the top of his game. Risk heightens ones senses. Exploring the unknown is invigorating because you are going places no one has gone before. Risk opens yourself up to the possibility of loss. Yet, we can always learn from our failures. Risk also opens yourself to limitless possibilities. The willingness to take risks is vital if we want filmmaking to survive and thrive. Those interested only power and money will slowly lose interest in the film medium and desert it as being “finished”. Filmmaking is for those willing to serve the medium not those who want the medium to serve them. I know film, like any other art form, is never finished. The art form of film will always be able to show us new and wondrous things as long as there are visionaries willing to lead the way.

Show Me The Light!

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on October 22, 2011

In every film there should be a light. A light that attracts us to the material. That allows us to truly see the story being presented on screen. I would describe the light as some sort of warmth. Something that reminds us of humanity and gives us a reason to invest ourselves into the story. The light factor is what separates filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese in my mind. As sophisticated as some of Scorsese’s films are, I find few of them relatable and very seldom do I invest myself into the story he is telling. Maybe I neglect to understand the darkness factor. I have heard many people talk about how they are drawn to Scorsese movies such as Taxi Driver, because they relate to the loneliness and darkness in the main character Travis Bickle. However, if movies were about reflecting and highlighting the darkness in human nature I would not be interested in making them.

It is not like Steven Spielberg does not go into dark subject matter at times. You can’t get much darker then the holocaust. Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List just happens to be my favorite movie I have ever seen. I have had many friends tell me the film is too dark and too sad for them to really like. However, even though I think the main subject matter of Schindler’s List, the holocaust, is sad I do not consider the actual story sad. No, instead in the middle of one of the darkest chapters in world history Steven Spielberg shows us a light in Oskar Schindler. In Schindler’s List we are given a story about the redemption of a German citizen and his effort to save hundreds of Jews from almost curtain death in German death camps. This light amongst the darkness is what makes the film so powerful in my mind.

A frustrating thing about most critics in my opinion is that they seem to put more value on filmmakers who make movies that go into dark subject matter and end on tragic notes. People like Walt Disney, Frank Capra, and Steven Spielberg on the other hand are written off by some critics because their material is too full of “fluff” and not realistic enough to true life. In my opinion if you want to see something completely realistic to real life, just go outside. We are not supposed to just copy what we see in real life. Many filmmakers goals are to represent something to strive for and look up too. I am tired of critics downsizing a film because it had a predictable happy ending. The truth is there are only two ways to end a film, either with a happy ending or a tragic one. Each ending could easily become predictable. For example, the majority of Martin Scorsese’ films end in a tragic way. It is just as easy for me to predict the type of ending Scorsese is going to have as it is for me to predict Spielberg’s. What we should be concentrating on is whether we buy into the ending the movie has.

In film the director is showing the audience a new world. They are giving us a piece of art that hopefully entertains and impacts us. Directors like Martin Scorsese and Stanly Kubrick have never been known for being commercial artists. They never claimed to be making their films for the mass audience. They are more interested in exploring deep and usually dark ideas. Scorsese’s movies especially have a lot to do with violence and corruption. After watching a Scorsese or Kubrick film you usually begin to doubt humanity. The stars of their films are rapists, drug dealers, and murders. There is hardly any warmth in their films. Warmth is either something they feel they are beyond or something they just don’t want to incorporate into their film. Instead what we get is beautifully shot and visually stunning pieces of art that usually go unnoticed or uncared for because the audience doesn’t have a reason to invest.

I can’t say Scorsese and Kubrick are bad filmmakers. I personally respect almost all of what I have seen them develop. However I, unlike most critics, think Scorsese and Kubrick’ films are far less impacting then the ones of Steven Spielberg or Walt Disney. It is like inviting someone into a room. You can have a room full of wondrous material all presented in a superb way. Yet, if you do not have some sort of warmth in the room, most people will walk away or not be impacted. If you have no warmth in a film everything looks foreign. We need the characters in our films to be relatable. Even if you are making a movie about a villain, you need to show us something that makes him connect to the audience. There needs to be some sort of light expressed in that villain’s life that allows us to understand his or her perspective. It is not because Scorsese’s movies end tragically that they are not impacting to me. Scorsese usually has interesting characters in his films. But the characters are people who I never run into in real life, and Scorsese hardly does anything to shine a light on why they are so different from me. He keeps his characters in the darkness and thus when they are gone I don’t see much of a difference, I am not impacted.

I don’t consider Steven Spielberg or Walt Disney’s films fluffy. I do not consider it a bad thing that most of their films end happily. What I care about is whether or not I can buy into the story they are telling. Movies are less about the final result and more about the journey. If you want your audience to participate on the journey you are taking them on you need to give them a reason to stay in their seat. Give them some sort of light that allows them to invest in your film. The light allows the audience in and it gives the darkness contrast. Even in the movies of David Fincher, where we go deeply into the worlds of serial killers, rape victims, and corrupt power seekers, we see some sort of light. Whether it is a detective who still believes in humanity, a comic artist who is devoted to justice, or a visionary devoted to revolutionizing the world, Fincher gives us reason to stay and invest into his films.

The tragic events in both Walt Disney and Steven Spielberg films are impacting because we all had something to lose when the events happened. The death of Bambi’s mother and the sacrifice Captain Miller makes to save private Ryan, hits us hard because we experienced the warmth of both those characters lives. The light is the reason why I will stay. The light needs to be the most important thing about your story. It allows us to understand and be impacted by the darkness. By no means am I telling you to make your movies end happily. It’s your choice. I am just saying that it’s the light that gives both happy and sad endings clarity.