A Dreamer Walking

Suspense Vs. Heart

Posted in Film and Filmaker Studies, Personal Philosophy by Jacob on September 21, 2010

I have been studying two directors who seemed to be the best of the best at two very different specialties in film. One is known for being the master of suspense and the other is considered to be the master at creating the heart felt emotion. The two I am talking about are the two that you see on your left, Alfred Hitchcock and Frank Capra. These are two of the greatest film directors in history and both seemed to have completely different ideas on what film making was all about.

Alfred Hitchcock knew exactly how to use the camera in order to create that curtain feeling that completely held us back in suspense. We were both dreading and longing to see what was going to happen next. Hitchcock thought it was his job to be the audience’s entertainment. That is why he thought the audience went to movies, so they could be “entertained”. He created entertainment through drawing our attention completely to what was happening on screen. Hitchcock demanded the audiences complete attention and made us get involved with the film. We needed to put two and two together. He made it so we thought we knew what was going to happen next, creating an extreme suspense because we did not want our theory to be correct. Hitchcock’ mastery was in the ups and downs and twists and turns he was able to put us through. As soon as we thought we knew what was going to happen next, Hitchcock would change it on us. Hitchcock would intentionally lead us  to believe one thing in order to surprise us with the reality of a completely different thing. In the best of Hitchcock movies we were entertained throughout the picture, always interested in what was going to happen next, and completely surprised throughout the unfolding of the story.

Frank Capra was not a man full of twists and turns. His movies were not built on suspense or on a fear that a murderer would pop out of nowhere and kill the main character. Frank Capra’s movies were full of ups and downs. They had some deep and often meaningful but sad commentaries on real life. His movies were full of villains that were not about physically kill the body but instead they were about destroying the soul of the protagonist. Frank’s movies seemed to be more about overcoming the corruption of society through the belief in the best of human nature. Through Frank’s great direction in comedy and depth in character development, he created very entertaining movies. However, it seems that film making was more then just entertainment to Capra, it was a way to make his voice heard in the world, film was his appeal to make the most out of our lives and use the examples from his films as inspiration to make this world a better place.

I no doubt think that Frank Capra’s style of film making is more interesting and meaningful then Alfred Hitchcock’. I think that film needs to be first and foremost about appealing to the good in human nature and a beckoning to make this world a better place. However, I think that Alfred Hitchcock’ suspense is loved by so many people for a reason. Suspense is entertaining and I have been learning a great deal through the way Hitchcock went about creating his films.

So this finally comes to the blog title, Suspense Vs. Heart. The title accurately expresses the difference between Capra films and Hitchcock films. However, I think good filmmakers will learn from both styles of film making, for good films have both suspense and heart. We as filmmakers are essentially entertainers, our job is to keep the audience interested in the story we are trying to tell . It does not matter how powerful of a message we have if we can not attain and keep the audience’s attention. Suspense can often be a powerful tool for holding attention. We need to give enough information for the audience to stay on the edge of their seats and we need a good pay off at the end. Having our worst fears come to realization often creates a strong immediate emotion, however I feel that it often wears off after a short while. I think the greatest pay off is the kind that sticks with you. We want to build suspense and then give the audience something they will talk about later that night and remember for years to come. We as filmmakers should have ambitions to create emotions that go much farther then immediate shock.We need to create emotions that appeal to the heart, where we can start to break molds and create change.

I think entertainment is the best way to get a message across to a group of people. In all my movies I want to create stories and characters that people have not seen before. Both Capra and Hitchcock created the type of movies that were never seen before and have not quite been seen sense. You as a filmmaker want to create an experience that the audience has never had before. However, we must always remember why we are doing what we are doing. I consider film making to be about expressing images and ideas that go farther then plain entertainment. The filmmakers viewpoint must not just be dropped after the audience leaves the movie theater, our films need to appeal to the very reasons to why we live our lives. The greatest type of films are the ones that stay with us and change us. In order to get those kind of films we need both suspense and heart.

How to Train a Dragon

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on April 9, 2010

How to Train a Dragon is one powerful movie. I do not say this very much about Dreamworks animated movies. The reason why this is different then most Dreamworks movies, is that it was driven by the Filmmakers vision.

Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois were the directors for How to Train a Dragon, they also directed the movie Lilo and Stitch. I was able to watch a documentary on the making of Lilo and Stitch, where both directors went into detail on what goes into their story process. Both directors were story artist before being promoted to directors, so they were already extremely knowledgeable on the foundations of story structure. Both of the directors seem to really help fulfill each other. Chris Sanders is a person who is full of energy, where you can sometimes find him literally jumping off the walls with ideas and excitement. Dean is a very steady force and is able to calm down Chris when he needs to be calm.

Both Directors are dedicated to character and story driving the film. In How to Train a Dragon, you can see that the relationship between Hiccup (boy on right of the picture above) and Toothless (Dragon on left of picture above) is the heart of the movie. There is a lot of time spent in getting to know who Hiccup and Toothless are. Even the action scenes are opening doors for the audience to who Hiccup is as a person and who Toothless is as a Dragon. Both Hiccup and Toothless have been taught their whole lives that dragons and humans are enemies. The movie is about both looking at each other in a different light, and realizing that their differences do not make them enemies.

We see a powerful combination of beautiful scenery, powerful music, and wonderful acting, that all get us, as an audience, involved in what is happening on screen. Even the 3D aspect of the film let us see the story in a better light. This tells me that people were able to rally around Chris and Dean to make their vision come to life.

When people have vision, powerful things can happen. Just two peoples vision brought literally hundreds of people together. Even though this movie had a huge amount of action and humor, what kept me interested was the relationship I saw throughout. I would recommend the movie to anyone, it will surly be one of those movies that will last for years to come.