Saturday, August 30, 2014

What makes a good film?

Ah yes, what makes a film good.  That is a question which is sometimes very difficult to answer.  We all know why some films are good but not everyone can pinpoint the exact reason why.  Many of my fellow Filmmakers always believe that it is starting with a good script.  I suppose that's true but that is like saying how to make a good hamburger is to start with good meat.  DUH!  For real, is that the best you got?  You can have the greatest script known to man and a film still can be crap.  More often it's the other way around.  A Script can be mediocre or have been disemboweled by producers and execs to make it more marketable to a "larger" audience and still perform well at the box-office.

While this is a phenomena that you really cannot Google, they do exist.  Once a film starts to make money or gets an audience behind it the script is assumed to be a good script.  I mean, how else could it have been a great movie, right?  Lets take a movie like "Armageddon".  The film itself has everything you want and need to make a great movie; Cast, Music, Love, Peril, Strife, Comedy, Tragedy and more!  But if you just listen to some of the dialogue it isn't that great.  The actors did a great job of pulling it together as a great movie.  This is probably why the critics weren't too impressed by it.  The script just wasn't that good.  It made up for all its misgivings by overpowering those things with Great everything else.  Yes, having a great script can help overcome more than having great actors or special effects, but a great script doesn't come along every day.  In fact, it is quite a rarity.

Most scripts are derivatives of larger literary works.  Most of the time the original narrative is 200 to 400 pages long.  For some reason writers cannot seem to make something short.  They go on and on about the color of someones hair and how that makes the main character think about days gone by to set an emotion or the tone of the scene.  Unfortunately, it is next to impossible to do that in a film.  Do you really want me to stop the movie and take you to another place in time that has nothing really valuable to set the tone of the scene in the movie.  Ok, some of you do but most of us do not.  It causes confusion and adds unnecessary length to the narrative.  As a filmmaker I can set the tone with music, color, lighting or an addition of a small line or two that takes moments instead of minutes.  As a side note, this is one reason why books are mostly never like the movie, there just isn't enough time.

I know, as a man who knows how to make a film, that there is a better way to communicate to the audience what I am trying to say than just having more dialogue and more scenes.  It can be done by having a better camera angle, sounds, music and even the color of the film.  It is actually something that you see quite often but probably have never noticed.  One film I like to talk about from time to time is "Gamer".  No, not the film I made called "Gamer".  The film by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor that released in 2009.  It's color palette and sharpness of the film.  It has a very distinct look that brings out the hardness and the unique edge to the story line.  While this wasn't a box-office superstar, I found it to be a good movie.  It is gruesome and far fetched but that's my taste in movies.

Another movie that has a great color palette and a good sound choice is everyone'e favorite (but not mine) Avatar. The films score undertones the emotions that the director wanted you to feel and the coloring was always custom since it is just a really fancy cartoon with live action stuff thrown in.  (Have you ever seen Pocahontas?) These guys had the opportunity to change every aspect of the lighting and the surroundings.  The script wasn't a poor script and that definitively helped.

So, when we make a film we should worry about the script but even if that script is mediocre we can still make great cinema by utilizing the great tools we have in our film-makers quiver.  Lighting, sound, Actor choices and coloring after the fact.  No way is it all hinged upon the script.  There is so much more to it than that.

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