The Duties of a Filmmaker

picThis morning I was curious about the changes in the film industry based on the generational shift in business. The shift is hard to describe, but instead of handing numerous projects over to millennial filmmakers, Hollywood is still making most of the films with more experienced directors and producers.

I googled to learn what new filmmakers think their duties are and was surprised to read about tasks and software. There were no articles about crafting great stories in regard to a filmmaker’s duties. Nor was there anything I could find about the filmmaker’s core responsibility—entertaining the audience, while exploring the human condition.

Film is an emotional medium, which suggests a plethora of articles about how filmmakers create those proverbial roller coaster rides for the audience, but again there were few articles educating millennial filmmakers on how to build the emotions of the audience.

Story is king in both the emotional arena and in the exploration of the human condition. Story is also pure entertainment that opens the eyes and hearts of the audience to consider the filmmaker’s message. But again, there was little about how a millennial filmmaker could craft a story that changes the lives of its audience.

I think Steven Spielberg summed up the core problem well:

“People have forgotten how to tell a story. Stories don’t have a middle or an end any more. They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning.”

I’m not suggesting that filmmakers take classes on film and story theory. But I do advocate that new directors have as many diverse life experiences as possible to create a cinematic “tool belt” from which to fashion dynamic stories. I also recommend directors read a minimum of 10 books a year to capture and understand the observations of writers who explore the human condition.

Unfortunately the typical Millennial only reads an average of five books a year, keeping them far from the ability to contemplate various viewpoints, let alone draw noteworthy conclusions about our culture. A director must have a life perspective that integrates with, not isolates from, the culture at large in order to meet the audience where their hearts live and guide them to a more hope filled life.

Directors must also live inside the culture at large. They don’t have to be of it, but they do have to be in it. I worked on a major animation project years ago with a professor that was my exact opposite. I was conservative and she was liberal. I believed in sustaining life at all costs and she believed in “mercy” killings. The list continued ad nauseam.

The project we worked on helped over one million kids learn the basics of chemistry in 12 weeks. Even I fully comprehended the scientific principles in that short time frame. Why? Because I lived in the professor’s culture and in my own, which allowed me to bring all kinds of innovative ideas and new perspectives to bear on the project.

Once released, the professor admitted that she had worked with several liberal directors that were unable to simplify here complex teachings into simple animations. None of the previous solutions shared truth in a logical manner. She understood that it was my diverse knowledge and experience that made me the right director for the project.

She shared how much she grew as a person from the experience and offered her future services for free. She was willing to do anything for an opportunity to collaborate again. And, she started to rethink her position on a few controversial life issues.

Directors must be able to enter the worlds of other people and capture the essence of the person’s “why.” He must also thoroughly think through how to thread his message in and out of the entertainment elements of a story. These techniques allow the director to come along side of the audience and draw them from their viewpoint to his by the end of the film—fulfilling the duties of the director.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

Collaboration and Mock-Ups

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Sample Mock-Up

The best products come from the collaboration process and use mock-ups to perfect the concept early in the development stage. Wedding planners use 2D mock-ups to determine seating arrangements. Book publishers use 3D mock-ups to photograph books before they are printed. Filmmakers tend to create mood reels to promote film concepts in need of funds.

Regardless of the project, creativity is key in the collaboration process, which drives some form of mock-up. The tool allows the team to visualize spatial relationships, size and details. It also improves communication and an understanding of how the product impacts the human condition – the customer.

Every businessperson can benefit from using mock-ups by following three key principles.

SPEED

Rapid prototyping has been alive for centuries. It’s ideal for finding the flaws in a product quickly. A mock-up of a book’s main photo or background with typography can be quickly discerned as being too small or the wrong color. The faster you learn what doesn’t work, the sooner the ideal look comes into play.

The playfulness of the mock-up process stimulates creativity that one-ups the previous concepts. Each step moves the creators a step closer to their final design and a clear understanding of the products use and feel. Rapid prototyping trims off months of development as it brings focus to flaws that are quickly corrected.

MASS

Transferring the conceptual into the physical realm gives creators an understanding of the complexities and vast details required to polish the details of their product before production. This not only saves large sums of money, but it also alerts the team to the depth of focus required to turn their imagination into reality.

Without understanding the massiveness of the project, creators are often blindsided by the large scope of their concept. Few professional filmmakers start shooting a script without first counting the cost of time and effort involved in shooting 1,400 – 1,800 shots that it takes to make their picture.

IMPACT

The human condition rarely makes its path known in the ever-changing structure of society. Focus groups are used to hone in on a plausible direction by observing potential customers interacting with a prototype. The perceptions brought to bear by various age groups and other demographic profiles help the team redefine their key market segment.

Since 80% of all books are bought based on its cover design and 15% from the book’s back cover copy, authors are able to obtain advanced customer responses with prototypes. Speakers can test the impact of their topics with one-sheets and sales people can explore presentations with previz.

All collaborators can make use of mock-ups and vision boards to get a sense of how the service or product will make a difference in their marketplace. By focusing on the speed, mass and impact an idea will generate, the team is able to find its flaws and make the necessary improvements so release day is a rewarding celebration.

Copyright © 2016 by CJ Powers

 

Facebook — A Modern Day Memoir

MemoirsI was emotionally stirred this morning, as I read seven accounts of writers experiencing the effects of having written their memoirs. The authors bared their soul to the world and received a form of validation in the process. The artful pleasures that illuminated their past were tastefully raw and revealed the human condition in a universal manner that all readers easily understood.

The one comment or point of revelation shared by all seven was that of making choices. In reducing ones life to the page, a selection of entries were decided upon. The chosen stories were filtered for entertainment value and truth. A morsel of revelation was also present. A modern day “ahha” moment, if you will.

I contemplated if I were capable of sharing the intimate parts of my private life publicly. Would I be condemned or praised for sharing my reaction from a conversation with Mrs. Van Husen, a gold medal Olympian from Germany who became a publicist for Adolph Hitler? Or, in our politically correct society would I have the courage to share the internal thoughts I debated in my childhood, while holding a woman’s swimsuit in my hands after talking with a gay neighbor?

Having grown up in the world of theatre and motion pictures, I’ve had more experiences within our liberal world than most would see in a lifetime. The stories would certainly shock the weak minded and amaze the intelligent with insights into the human condition. But, few would expect to learn, that with all the freedoms and generous offers afforded me, I chose to live a conservative life.

It’s all about choice. Not tendencies or leanings, but decisions.

We are free to Facebook what we want others to know about us. Some write too much, giving us no room to contemplate the depths of their soul. Others write little for fear they won’t be accepted. Then there are those who write only the positive, trying to make us think they are perfect, removing themselves from any form of humanity.

Facebook is like memoirs. Every entry is a choice to reveal something about ourselves. We can chose to entertain or bore our readers. We also chose how vulnerable we’re willing to be — Demonstrating our true self or creating a false image to hide behind.

The seven authors were courageous and opened my eyes to the power of revelation through vulnerable sharing. It made me wonder how many followers a person might have on Facebook if they honestly shared their thoughts and feelings. Would their numbers rise incrementally or drop rapidly into the basement? Would the person be praised for their comments this year and be haunted by it twenty years from now?

I have learned that the more tolerance community requires, the more judgmental those around us become. When the Ten Commandments guided our nation, camaraderie was present because we all had fallen short. Listening to each other’s experiences and stories gave us insights into life that helped us fight the good fight. But, today we hesitate to hear those who may disagree with our position or beliefs, for fear we may not be able to defend our perspective with persuasion and dignity.

The risk of revealing our true self is greater today than forty years ago. Yet society needs truth more than ever. Unfortunately there are few willing to risk their future in order to share elements from their dysfunctional life for the sake of humanity. Instead we are entertained by extremists who seek only attention, rather than the common good that benefits us all.

Today, the greater the spectacle the more followers. But our hearts need the truth. We need some imperfect person to remind us of our humanity, while instilling hope into our lives. We need real people to live as an open book. Then we will have the courage to decide what revelation from our life is worth sharing in our modern memoir published on Facebook.

Copyright © 2016 by CJ Powers

Directors Share Insights in the Human Condition

Book Option to FilmI’ve chatted for a few minutes with numerous directors over the years and I’ve found that the top one percent all think alike. They are captivated by the human condition and explore each character they meet, finding the underlying treasure deep within their being.

This newly exposed treasure always contains a form of entertainment that fascinates. The story that rises from the personal backstory brings understanding to the attentive audience. Regardless of ones personal perspective, empathy is drawn and reveals the human condition.

Philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum, in her book “Upheavals of Thought,” speaks to the intelligence of emotions. She argues how storytelling rewires us. Her argument can be easily extrapolated to explain why motion pictures alter our culture. She further argues that our emotion is the very fabric of what forms our moral philosophies.

“Emotions are not just the fuel that powers the psychological mechanism of a reasoning creature, they are parts, highly complex and messy parts, of this creature’s reasoning itself,” says Nussbaum.

A director who is aware that emotions are not a motivator, but instead part of the character’s reasoning can form arguments that change the way people view themselves. Thereby changing our culture.

I met a lesbian pastor a year ago and we chatted about what drew her to other women. After she gave me the programmed and politically correct answer, I asked the question in a different way. She carefully shared how she was always beaten by males as a small child and comforted by females. Women provided the only form of love she understood.

If I were doing a character study for a film, I’d draw from the pastor’s experiences that shaped how she felt about men and women. Her reasoning was molded by her emotions and the only thing that could change her course in life is the demonstration of a higher love that she does not know exists.

As a director, it’s my job to acknowledge the audiences reasoning on culturally hot topics and introduce them to another perspective. When I demonstrate through a character and his or her circumstances similar ideas and feelings, I hook the person long enough to consider the new perspective demonstrated through the main character changing by the end of the story.

Top directors always talk about the thesis world, antithesis world, and the new thesis world. The thesis world starts the audience where they are socially and politically concerning their reasoning. The antithesis world demonstrates the things that can go wrong with their version of the thesis world. Every thing is turned upside down and looked at in a fresh way. This is followed by the new thesis world where the director leaves the audience with their version of what our culture can look like.

The human condition is where we all must start. It’s where we all live with our flaws and unanswered hopes. We can then explore all the things that could go wrong based on our current worldview. This opens our hearts to better solutions that we consider when presented in love or entertainment. If the information we consider includes a demonstration of what the new perspective proposes, we are ready to embrace it and test it out in our own lives.

The logic is sound and it makes sense why all Hollywood films follow this format. What seems illogical is that faith-based films, which are supposed to have truthful answers for our lives, do not follow this process. In fact, many Christian films do the exact opposite and don’t stand a chance of changing our culture.

Film is one of the greatest art forms ever created and it’s the only one that directly impacts our culture. Some say its because it includes the other art forms within it, but top directors say its because film starts the audience with the reality of the human condition, explores the flawed alternatives and gives rise to a great demonstration of what life can look and feel like when embracing the main character’s choices in the person’s own life.

Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers