A Dreamer Walking

The Future

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on May 15, 2015

“I dream for a living”

This quote comes from one of my favorite filmmakers, Steven Spielberg. It speaks to the essence of why I want to make films myself. If you think about it cinema has more in common with dreams than reality. Not just in the stories that take place in galaxies far far away or lands full of mystical creatures and magic, but also in the very form of cinema. The language of cinema was never developed to replicate reality. Rather the technique of filmmaking is more reminiscent of dreams then anything else. Cuts, lenses, and music are all used to entrance the audience and give them an experience they could never have in reality.

As a child I was someone who loved to live in the dreams of people like Steven Spielberg and Walt Disney. The stories they told made me laugh, cry, and filled me with wonder. Their worlds were so enthralling I would explore them farther in the back yard with my brother. Eventually we began to create our own stories in our own worlds. Little did I know at the time, I had the keys to fairyland and was never happier then when I was able to play beyond these invisible gates.

The sad part is I grew up. And growing up seems to require one to wake up. The famous writer L. M. Montgomery wrote,

There is such a place as fairyland – but only children can find the way to it. And they do not know that it is fairyland until they have grown so old that they forget the way. One bitter day, when they seek it and cannot find it, they realize what they have lost; and that is the tragedy of life. On that day the gates of Eden are shut behind them and the age of gold is over. Henceforth they must dwell in the common light of common day.

The path to fairyland became harder and harder for me to find. Reality had too strong a grip on me.

I began to experience life; where the imagination was dwarfed by my struggles in school, inability to fit in, and the raw reality of the bigger picture. The world I actually lived in was overwhelming. Planes crashed into skyscrapers, countries declared wars, and governments had corruption in every corner. Who could dream in a place like this? The only result seemed to be nightmares. The ideals dreamt up by filmmakers such as Disney and Spielberg began to feel more like naive notions than anything else.

Still, throughout this time of growing up I never lost interest in telling stories and making movies. My gaze however turned from the idealists to the pessimists (though they would simply call themselves realists). Filmmakers such as David Fincher and Martin Scorsese caught my eye. At first I had a difficult time understanding my draw to them. I watched Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and couldn’t believe people hailed the movie as one of the greats. The main character was revolting and lacked any kind of arch. Fincher’s stories took place in a world of cynicism. The first movie I remember watching of his was Seven. The movie revolves around two detectives trying to find a serial killer who uses the Seven Deadly Sins as his catalyst to murder. Fincher never tries to deny these victims were guilty of these immoralities. Even the hero of the movie, played by Morgan Freeman, tells a woman she should have an abortion to keep her child out of the dark world they live in.

I soon realized Martin Scorsese and David Fincher interested me because they were unflinching in their mission to seek out the truth in the darkest corners of society. I resonated with the characters and worlds they created because I saw myself in them. Sure, I wish I could see myself as a flawless human being and the world I live in as this wonderful place where good always triumphs in the end. However, reality suggests differently and filmmakers such as Fincher and Scorsese were not afraid to highlight the dark side of this world; the side most of us would like to keep hidden.

Yet, even though these filmmakers looked at the world through a more cynical lens, they still kept a hold of the keys to fairyland. Scorsese and Fincher’s imagination was just as strong as my childhood inspirations in Disney and Spielberg. Their mission was never to reproduce the world we live in, rather a world where the truths of our society are seen even more clearly. With these filmmakers the camera was a paintbrush. And just like the great artists of the past their goal was to express humanity. Each cut, choice of lens, and use of music represented a stroke made to describe a greater whole.

The more my view of storytelling evolved the more I began to understand the words of writer Lloyd Alexander, “Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.” Just because I had a stronger grasp on reality did not mean I needed to neglect my imagination. At the same time, I refused to get barred down by the dark truths of this world. My goal became to transform the society I lived in. For this is what I believe dreamers do best; they transform our reality through the visions they cast.

Here is where I must come back to the quote from L. M. Montgomery. It would be a true tragedy if she left her views about growing up on such a gloomy note. Yet she goes on from the quote above,

Only a few, who remain children at heart, can ever find that fair, lost path again; and blessed are they above mortals. They, and only they, can bring us tidings from that dear country where we once sojourned and from which we must evermore be exiles. The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and story-tellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland.

As dark as Scorsese and Fincher’s worlds may be and as pessimistic a commentary on life as their story may have, they still play pretend for a living. There is nothing about an artist that is necessary for our society to survive. Yet the artist knows better then anyone, deep down we were not made to survive we were made to live.

I would like to leave you with the words of poet, D. H. Lawrence. He gets to the heart of where I want to live as a filmmaker. “All people dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their mind, wake in the morning to find that it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous people, for they dream their dreams with open eyes, and make them come true.” The greatest filmmakers are those who live in the world of the dream so they may cast their visions into the world of the real in order to inspire the world of tomorrow.

As someone who is determined to dream for a living, my greatest inspirations were filmmakers such as Spielberg and Disney. They taught me how to dream. Mentors such as Scorsese and Fincher helped give my dreams an edge. My task now is to cast my vision into the world and see what future my dreams hold

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.