Monday, November 12, 2001

So You Wanna Be a Filmmaker?

Submitted by Herk

What is this movie about?

Americans love a bargain. Not only do they want their money's worth, you better give them a hardy discount to boot. So if they're going to spend nine bucks hard earned and invest two hours on a certain Saturday night to catch a movie, you better not go cheap on the trimmings.
In the end, Americans are willing to pay for the perception they're getting nine dollars worth of entertainment, even if the final product may turn out to be only nine dollars worth of packaging. Movies today have higher production values than movies in the past. Consequently, "film criticism" today is not anymore about film as fine art, it's about whether or not you'll get cheated out of your nine bucks and two hours spent on a Saturday night. Movies have become commodities, as all art eventually will become. As everything will eventually become.

Yet there are forces at work where this makes sense and why it must be so. Fact is, film is a collaborative art and a financial reality to be reckoned with. If you're a person dying to become a filmmaker and you can't accept that, then don't go into filmmaking. Unlike a painter or an author, you can't say "I will make my film. I will realize my vision. Audience be damned."

Film is the most expensive art form and the collaboration of many talented people - many paid talented people. So what to do? Executive producers must finance a film understandably with prospects of at least recouping their money if even a little profit. We are not living the salad days of wealthy aristocratic patrons supporting the arts. Even way back when, there weren't any wealthy patrons willing to pay for food catering, for key grips, script supervisors, and fat cameramen. Film is grounded in an economic reality and any potential filmmaker not also rooted in this reality should find another vocation.

And there is no shortage of self-pitying, misunderstood artist-types who insist on their god-given right to dip ceremoniously into other people's hard earned cash to realize their "brilliant script." Any rejection of course is met by bitter complaints that "conglomerates" have become too commercial. "They're not interested in art," they say "They're only interested in the bottom line." So back they go flipping burgers. Let's see how easy it is for them to pluck down a couple million for their so called inherent right to express. As long as it is not their money who gives a damn, right?

Who is a filmmaker?

The expression of a filmmaker is through the medium, not through a "story." Any filmmaker more fascinated by the subject of his film than the filmmaking process itself, has committed the sin of reducing film to less than its medium - a sin akin to those annoying people who, unable to use chopsticks, stab at their food and then shove it into their mouths. Poetry is not prose, radio drama is not theater. So theater is not cinema. Cinema is told in images, the manipulation of which is its own unique "dialog." Or, as Uncle Hitchcock said, "We're dealing in pictures here! These words, get rid of them!" That's why most wannabes with a "brilliant script" (usually about their domestic life) don't qualify as true filmmakers and why they're never financed. And that is why as brilliant a gift Woody Allen or David Mamet has for dialog, visionary filmmakers they are not and their movies are scarcely watched by the mainstream.

A filmmakers' first allegiance is not to the "story" but to the storytelling. How will he tell the story? Through images? What angle? Through sound? Through dialog? Through editing? That is the work of the true filmmaker. Let these works be brought to life through their original medium, and we will have a much happier, less schizoid society.

If you are unwilling to sacrifice for your vision, then your film was not worth making and probably not worth seeing. In the end, those who want to be filmmakers will become filmmakers, and those who truly want to realize their vision will.

Life will imbue the gifts and the circumstances to realize true burning desires.

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