“You want answers?”
“I want the truth.”
“You can’t handle the truth.”
That famous quote comes from A Few Good Men starring Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise. It is one of the most misquoted phrases in American film, but the emotional moment continues to reside within the hearts of many viewers today.
During our two-year stint writing “Working Title,” we referenced that dramatic courtroom moment. We wanted our courtroom scene to be just as profound at the film’s climax, but to do it we had to first find and understand the truth.
The truth is something that is very relevant to filmmakers, even though they spend time making fake things appear real. It’s one of those human elements that must be looked at in depth, in order to understand it and use it to stir the emotions of the audience. In other words, to be successful, it’s impossible for a filmmaker to live in denial.
Finding the truth is more than just gathering facts. It’s also about understanding the perceptions of those involved, which complicates the search for answers. Great writers, directors and producers have to deal with the differences between their team’s reality and perception, while translating it into an emotional tool that will stimulate the audience.
The problem is that not everyone in the film industry can handle the truth. They lack the emotional maturity to say that part of their last film was bad. Instead they over state how great the film was, which is not reflective of the truth.
We’ve seen this in the recent surge of the Christian film genre where a lot of bad films are released. The cast, crew and fans state how great the film is, but rarely watches it a second time. The comment about the film being great is actually a comment about their approval of the message, which supersedes their ability to justly state the film was made poorly.
Unfortunately, this pattern of untruth stops the Christian Genre filmmaker from improving or pushing the cutting edge of the industry. He becomes great at making mediocre films. This results in a shrinking audience, less production funds for future films and the eventual loss of attention for the genre.
Great leadership requires more than just the gathering of facts in order to know and understand the truth. It requires the development of a production team that are diverse and gifted people who have learned how to manage working with each other’s perception of the truth with emotional maturity. This will break open any communication barriers and free each artist to excel in his or her craft. Anything shy of this forces the filmmaker to pigeonhole his story to an audience who is willing to live in the same dysfunctional world of denial that he lives in.
As for our film, we have worked hard to look the truth straight on and have rewritten the script 22 times to make sure we weren’t buying into our own press or drinking our own Kool-Aid. In fact, we even had people that were opposed to our film read it and offer suggestions on how to improve it.
The result is a story that is admired by multiple people groups, regardless of their economics, politics, or belief system.
While our story is controversial, it has been well respected between both sides of the issues in the story. The story treats each camp’s ideas with respect based on their own leaders’ recommendations and will give the audience a solid understanding of every major component of the issue raised. I’m counting on the audience being able to make their own educated decision based on the real truth that the story reveals.
As for our climatic courtroom scene, it will not disappoint. We have gone to great lengths to make sure that two of the key plotlines resolve within that inspiring moment. And yes, for those who know my stories, we have added in quite a twist in that very moment when we reveal a surprising truth that’s sure to cause some mouths to drop open in the theater.
Thank heavens for that final sentence, the true CJ trademark! 🙂