Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Serendipity in Movie Making!


So after seeing some good cinema the past few weeks my mind goes on to wanting to do something myself. I even put on a documentary on the making of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre". Not the remake, but the original by Tobe Hooper. While watching the documentary I began to wonder how does a movie like TCM or "Night of the Living Dead" get made. Now these are two American horror movies but one could also look at such films as "400 Blows", "Breathless", "Citizen Kane", and "Easy Rider" as films that are now classics and will always be classics. It fascinates me on how these films were ever made. A lot of them were made on a low budget, and with a lot of blood sweat and tears from the filmmakers. But the one factor that comes into play about them all is that these films were made by a person with a unique vision who then assembled other like-minded people in order to create the final film. Sometimes it’s just pure luck that the right amount individuals meet at a certain time and create art. Some of these artists knew one another from working on other projects, and other times that person happened to be at the right place at the right time to get introduced to so and so who was gearing up for production.

Surely Tobe Hopper was very fortunate to have such people as Robert Burns, Daniel Pearl, and Kim Henkel to help Hopper in creating a unique horror film that would go on to be stored in the vaults of the Museum of Modern Art. This all leads me to serendipity, which is a moviemaker’s best friend or worst nightmare.

It’s foolish to think that alone you can do it. It isn’t impossible to do, and if you had enough money you might pull it off, but most likely that’s not the case. We may know many people who can help us but our problem is that we have few dollars to realize our dreams, and as I’ve said before good ideas don’t happen in a vacuum. So hence my obsessive compulsion into knowing "how" these films were made. By knowing the "how" maybe I can learn how to make a better film.

No matter the genre or the film it starts with a unique idea. If that idea is crap that idea isn’t going to fly. I mean who would have thought TCM would be a movie that would break the mold. In the documentary on the two disc DVD most of the crew & cast members did not think it would ever get released or be as successful as it was. Most just wanted to get paid, and move on. With "Easy Rider" it was Hopper and Fonda who were the driving force. Many had said that the "biker" genre was dead, yet when Easy Rider came out it became a phenomenon. Again the film was made for almost nothing, and with a guerilla like crew. Laszlo Kovacs was the cinematographer, and he was new to this country, and Easy Rider was one of his first major films. Again it was people doing what they loved to do and getting paid. It was after all just another gig, but it wound up to be much more then that.

George Romero has had more success with this phenomenon. Having filmed such films as "Night of the Living Dead", "Martin", and "Dawn of the Dead" with a local crew & cast. Romero broke out of that local scene and had success on a national level. Not once did Romero probably think that any of his films would become so popular as they are today. Yet the funny thing is that all these filmmakers now have trouble getting financing from Hollywood studios. Holly-weird works in some strange and unusual ways. I mean why did Robert Altman have trouble getting financing when he was so wildly known as top-notch filmmaker? Couldn’t the studios have promoted Altman’s name and create a name brand of sorts? Instead Hollywood produces such dreck as "White Chicks" or remakes of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre". But I diverge, and most likely that’s an argument for another time.

While I was doing my film I thought of nothing but getting it done. I just wanted it to stop. I did have some talented people who were on my crew and cast, but I didn’t have enough money to go full tilt boogie. So the argument of having good people behind you doesn’t work in this case. Maybe I just didn’t have enough $$$$ to get the film done. I was making the film in a vacuum, and what happened between making the film and distributing the film was that the market changed. Now EVERYONE can make a movie, and if you have some exploitable elements (nudity, sex, explosions, and nudity) you can get it distributed. Just don’t expect to get the full pay outs distributors once gave upfront to filmmakers in the past. There’s so much product out there that it’s hard for the one person to get something shown. Would the films I listed earlier like TCM, or "Easy Rider" be successful in today’s market as they would have been in the past? I don’t know, but I’m still always fascinated by "how" a film like TCM or Easy Rider gets made.

Serendipity is something that may happen or may not. The one common denominator in all the films that have reached "classic" status is that they had people working on them who loved what they were doing. That "classic" became what it is today because of the collaboration of its artists. Can anyone imagine anyone else doing the cinematography for Citizen Kane other then Gregg Toland?

Knowing the right people and working with them can make all the difference. That’s why there are so few classics being born today. I know there are people out there with passion. Passion is the main ingredient in most of these films, but the Internet seems to spawn a lot of people who pose as artists when actually they’re nothing but charlatans. It’s hard to sort out the talented people from the posers. The real passionate ones are working, and have little time to taut their accomplishments. So what am I saying here?

Surly I am one of these people I'm writting about since I have a blog and website for my film, but promotion was an after thought for me and my primary reason was to reach out to other filmmakers or cinema lovers. I’ve tried to promote my film and failed, yet I’ll always continue to promote the film because I believe in it. There are a lot of passionate and knowledgeable folks out there. I still have dreams of making that one film that will get through to its audience either if its my own film or a film I’ve worked on with others. My second goal is perhaps to make a decent living through my filmmaking ventures. It isn’t fame, or money that drives me, but a desire to create something bigger then myself. Each of these films I l listed before have done just that, and I guess every filmmaker dreams of that. You can’t hit a homerun every time you’re up to bat, but if you get to bat often maybe one of those times you’ll hit one out of the park. So I find myself wanting to get at bat again, and see what I can do. There’s a lot of hills and valleys I have yet to go through, but seeing good cinema and hearing how it was made is an inspiration and something of an obsession for me, so point me in the direction of that brick wall baby. I got a new sledgehammer I want to try out.

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