The Difficult Art of Filmmaking

May 23rd, 2011 by Michael Tabor

Norman Mailer (renowned American novelist, 1923 – 2007) stated a few years before his death that if he were a young man today, his dream would to be a great director of films. He went on to say that in his youth everyone fantasized about being the great American novelist – which he in fact turned into a reality. He went on to say that today he could think of nothing more satisfying than bringing one’s artistic vision to film; using actors like pawns, directing the cinematographer to create one’s aesthetic vision, utilizing camera angles, the use of sound, post-production, directing, writing,  and orchestrating  everything not unlike a great general of vast armies.
I do not recall to whom Mr. Mailer made this statement but if he had said it to Woody Allen, I am sure Woody would have said something to the effect of “Well have fun trying because it’s impossible buddy!”Woody Allen was once questioned what his own favorite movies were. If memory serves me right, I believe he said Matchpoint was because the final product came closest to the artistic vision he had in his mind – more so than to any other film he had ever directed before – and it still was not right.
When a writer like John Banville writes a sentence such as: “All morning under a milky sky the waters in the bay had swelled, rising to unheard-of heights, the small waves creeping over parched sand that for years had known no wetting save for rain and lapping the very bases of the dunes. ” Try creating that image onto film and see if you can do it?(On the flip side there are visual images that are impossible to put into words.) The aforementioned is of a very particular setting.

Try to conceptualize the characters you have created and see if you can direct the actors to become the characters you have in your head come to life and have them act exactly the way you envisioned him or her to look or act.
If you are a writer or a painter and you are talented you can artistically express yourself with razor-like precision. There are hundreds of players involved in making a film and it is a team effort in every sense of the word. It is probably impossible to get exactly what you want. I am a film aficionado but I think that 99% of movies that are released are awful. Why are they so bad ? Because it is unspeakably difficult to make a good film because of all the different variables I just mentioned. Let us just say that hypothetically you had a perfect cast with the best cinematographer in the world, now you have to concern yourself with the people underwriting the film. Unfortunately, everything is about money and films exist because unbelievably no matter how awful a movie is, someone, somewhere, at some time thought the piece of garbage could somehow turn out a profit.  Books are so much better than film because typically if someone is reading literature, the individual is smart and the writer does not have to worry about dumbing it down or making it more accessible to the reader. Fortunately, we are getting better films because Independent Niche films make it possible and the director’s hands are not tied down as much. The only problem is finding investors who share or can relate to your dream.
Here is another problem – length. The perfect film would probably have to be about 20 hours long. Character development that is so important and essential for any good story takes time. A few select films like the Godfather was able to do this to a certain degree. I hate sit-coms, weekly TV dramas and Soap Operas but people are drawn to them because they get to know the characters. That is why the Sopranos has worked (one of the reasons). I have probably seen every great movie known to man and nothing comes close to the great books I have read. Please don’t misinterpret what I am saying; there are good movies and occasionally I’ll get that euphoric feeling a person feels from reading a great book. I average watching about a movie a night and lately it seems that I say to myself maybe once every 4 months – “wow, that film wasn’t half bad. Good acting and good cinematography”.
I will close this blog by saying that occasionally there are moments in film that are so awe-inspiring that only film can deliver with the poignancy that an artist is looking for or sometimes it is a scene that just happens accidentally. It is rare but it does happen. This can only happen when self-consciousness completely disappears and the actors forget they are acting and something magical happens. That is why I love film.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. A subject this arcane is difficult to make crystal clear in 750 words and I hope I managed to lucidly make my point.
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