Nov 27, 2009

Inspiring Idea: Film Fixing

Nov 27, 2009
Mutt and I do this all the time and it's an excellent way to refine your understanding of good storytelling.

1) Find a friend who is really into storytelling. If you can't manage that, modify a Tickle Me Elmo to artificially replicate human sentience.

2) Either rent or go see a movie. Now, your choice of movie is important. It can't be a complete joke or it defeats the purpose of the exercise, and it can't be practically perfect either. Find something that's pretty flawed but has potential.

Now your mission, should you feel obligated to give it a go, is to do it better.

Deconstruct it, discuss what worked, why it worked, what didn't and why it didn't. Then discuss how you would fix up the bits that don't work and improve the bits that are already there. Pretend you've been asked by the studio to perfect the film and that you have all the resources you need to do it.

Why? Because if there's one thing Mutt and I have learned over the years it's that you learn a heck of a lot more from the films that get it wrong than the ones that get it right. It's like gravity; If it's doing it's job right then you don't really think about it.

This exercise helps to build up your problem solving abilities and expands your knowledge of pitfalls to avoid. That and it's really, really fun to do. I think Mutt's version of the Felix Felicis sequence from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will go down as one of my favourites in Harry Potter history... even though it never actually happened.

Just remember, it's really easy to find faults in the finished product, especially when you're coming at it from the outside. It's not so easy when it's your own work and it's in development, so be nice.

6 comments:

  1. I watched rushmore recently and my neighbour totoro and I walked away feeling like it happened too quick, or something was missing (this might be because so many people have recommended and built the expectations up for me) so maybe I was expecting too much?
    But I have experienced this with a few other films.
    Ponyo for example, I felt like, "was that it?"
    I dont know if it is shortness of a film or the film not hitting certain emotions I though it would.
    have you two experienced this at all?
    Or am I talking crazy?

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  2. Not at all - Context and Expectation can easily ruin a movie.

    Context has ruined quite a few movies for me recently. Pretty much most Book, Game or Comic adaptation that I was excited about were disappointing (with some very notable exceptions). Sequels of movies I loved are in the same category.

    When you have a personal connection to something, it's almost impossible for someone else to recreate the unique spirit of it that you first enjoyed. The only practical hope is to make something that makes audiences fall in love with it all over again.

    As for Expectation, because as a culture we have really started to understand Trailers, sometimes Trailers can demonstrate the 'core' of a movie better than the movie does.

    I know with Wall-E I had this idea in my head of this perfect, pure concept. But then when it decided to head down other avenues with talking humans and the like, I was disappointed - even if the vision I had in my head was most probably unattainable.

    I know before I watched Beetlejuice I had listened to the Soundtrack so often (which is really unique and evocative) that I had pretty much created a whole movie in my head.

    The movie... sort of followed what I had imagined - but then it ended right before what I had imagined to be the best bit! One of the most disappointing movie experiences I've had, but entirely my fault.

    Then there's movies like Land Before Time (which is one of my favourites) which is just plain old missing a whole act.

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  3. Ha ha! Oh man, The Land Before Time. That movie still gets me every time. It's so emotionally charged and saddening, but Mutt is dead on. It's missing an entire act.

    I have no idea how they managed to miss that.

    One example of a film where my expectations made it, like, the best thing ever would be Kung Fu Panda. I was so used to watching Dreamworks Animation try so hard to capture that Pixar magic and fail so hard every time that I expected Kung Fu Panda to be the same old deal.

    What absolutely blew me away was that not only had they finally understood how to capture that Pixar magic, but they had reshaped it and made it their own. Kung Fu Panda was no a Pixar film, it was a Dreamworks film that perfectly balanced comedy and heart.

    I still remember walking out of that cinema on cloud nine.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thankyou for finally answering my question. I have another.
    Can The Silent Knights do a post on character development? I find I struggle with consitency.
    Do you give your characters back stories?
    Do you have them on a cork board with a profile?
    I want to develop my Ben character but I don't know where to start. I get overwhelmed with all the possibilities of what kind of person he can be.
    (if you have already done such a post, my apologies)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yeah, sorry it took us a while. Without getting into details, we've got a deadline for a pair of scripts, so we haven't had much time for blogging unfortunately.

    I've got a whole bunch of small notes about characters somewhere around - I'll see if I can pull them into some semblance of a post.

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  6. What Harry Potter sequence that never was?!?!
    David from New York

    ReplyDelete

 
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