Friday, January 4, 2008

RePost: Perspective Changing Movies

This is a post from my short story musings blog from my last film.

With the movie on hiatus until august/when we find a useable deck, I decided to convert this into a sort of behind the scenes of my mind for the month. It will be back up to a production blog with other tidbits soon, don't worry.

But, I wanted to talk about independent film for a moment. A little background on me first. Surprisingly, I don't go to the movies much. Everyone will say the same thing to me when I tell them...don't you love movies? You make them. To them I say, yes I do love movies. I deeply, passionately, and unabashedly love movies. I love them enough to know when NOT to go to the movies. I know enough to know when NOT to get my heart broken.

In all the time I've studied film, I can usually tell a good movie from a bad one, in any genre. And, to be honest, there may be 4-5 movies a year that really spark my interest. I'm not one who only likes independent films or will only go watch blockbusters. Instead, I have to feel it. The soul of the film has to speak to me. If I really connect with a film, then I'll go. But, that so rarely happens.

Usually, I will find one film a year that I can really get behind. A film that "restores my faith in filmmaking". I'm always felt that while studio flicks are going for commercial appeal, independents are trying to be obtuse, gritty, and "nichey". But, there's usually one film a year that can break through all of that, and just be honest. A movie that doesn't need hollywood money or indy "cred" to tell a story. They just take an amazing concept and tell it better than anyone could at that moment in history.

Last year, that movie was "Little Miss Sunshine" for me. I was down pretty low after directing two short films I wasn't happy with. I was broke, broken, and depressed. My fiance couldn't pull me out of it, friends couldn't pull me out. I was simply miserable. I was seriously considering ditching film and going into something safe, like finance. But, "Little Miss Sunshine" turned me around and gave me the second wind.

This year, I just finished my first feature project. I've been rejected from two festivals from my short. I have yet to see one second of digitized footage, and I'm not quite sure what my next step is. Once again, I was in limbo. Then, I saw "Waitress" and it all turned around again.

I know its cliche to talk about "Waitress". Everyone loves it, raves about it, and talks about the tragedy. In will admit, I went into the movie with all of this information. I did not think it could possible meet the expectations others held for it. But, every since I heard about it the first time, I wanted to see it. I didn't even have to see a preview. I didn't even have to hear about Adrienne Shelley. I don't know what compelled me to see it. But, the moment I heard about it the first time, I knew I had to see it.

That visceral feeling is what I remember drew me to film in the first place. The feeling of not just wanting to see a movie, but needing to see it. It sort of tugs at your gut strings until you can't let up and you cave. It almost never happens to me. Sure, I would like to see a lot of movies that come out, but I don't usually have that gut reaction. In fact, I often go through the movie listing, hoping for one to tug at me, but hardly anything does.

What I loved most about it was the simplicity of the film. there were very few camera angles, but each was so meticulously crafted it looked amazing. The acting was subtle, understated, but still powerful. Even though each pie she made was innovative, the humble thought of the pie is so simple, and pure. The story was so relatable, even though I've never been through anything similar. It really grounded me.


Yes, I got sucked into the most expensive internet show ever produced. I set up a profile, I posted my comments, I uploaded pictures, and I was incredibly excited to see it was coming to tv. It meant that everyone has a chance of their little show getting onto tv...provided you have experience with network shows, have an experienced show runner, and have half a million dollars to kick around.

However, it seems like since it got the news, quarterlife has quit trying to pump up excellent content, and is content with mediocre and downright bad content. Their latest offering is just Awful, with the whole debra situation (watch the show, I won't give it away).

It seems like they planned for about 10 episodes, and when they got past ten they didn't know what to do. Well, it should be known, that you should plan for your season. Have a story arch which is compelling and takes people on a journey.

I don't care that Jed is an artist, give the client what they want and don't be a whiny puss. Your commercial stunk anyway. I don't care that Dylan was at one point a lesbian (by the way the dialog on the scene between lisa and Dylan at the bar seems like it was written by a drunk monkey. And if it was not, but one on staff, it would be hilarious). I don't know why it's such a big deal the chick from the dealership is banging her boss, or why Danny is so horrified about it. And most importantly, I don't know what's so great about Debra. She's not interested, she's not attractive, she's not a great motivator of me. She's not profound in any way. She seems like the most stale person in the entire world. However, Danny, Jed, and Dylan (it seems) are all in love with her. this boring, bland, vanilla, self-centered, dullard.

Another thing, when the show came out it was like 15 minutes long, not it's barely 5. It goes right into my conclusion that they have no idea where the story is going or how to create compelling dialog to get it there. The best thing this show can do is hope Debra dies and that story arch makes the show compelling and believable.

and before you label me a hater, please know I want this show to succeed as much as or more than anyone reading this blog. I want to believe a great show, regardless of the format, can rise above its status and be raised to network television. I want to believe great shows like Prom Queen, Sam has Seven Friends, Life From the Inside, Buddy Jackson, and the rest can get above their station and find an audience. However, I don't think Quarterlife is a good representation of that and it's rise to network level could detrimentally hurt the movement, because people unfamiliar with what the internet has available will watch this show and say: "that's it. F those internet shows."

But I would implore those people not to give in. There are amazing shows:

They actually deserve a bigger, better audience. They deserve people to enjoy themselves and not question what the writer was drinking. They deserve a show to serve as a beacon to the rest of the television watching world that the internet does have incredible show. Quarterlife should be that beacon, but unfortunately, it is not.