Directors Pull in Summer Audiences

popcorn-movie-party-entertainmentDecades ago the major studios drew audiences to the silver screen with big extravagant pictures. A few decades later movie stars became the biggest drawing card to pack out film houses. But recently we’ve seen a shift to a new role that is drawing in millions to the box office—the director.

The audience is no longer willing to sit through a star driven movie just because their favorite actor plays a role in the film. Over the past few years, films that had Bruce Willis in its trailer or on the one sheet poster disappointed many. Why? Because the films weren’t really Bruce Willis type films. He was just in the movies for a paycheck.

This summer we saw a lot of film actors fail to deliver audiences to theaters like Scarlett Johansson’s Ghost in the Shell and Rough Night, Tom Cruise’s The Mummy, Charlie Hunnam’s King Arthur, and Johnny Depp’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

But it was the directors that brought the solid draw as social media buzz surrounded the filmmakers, not the stars. The successful films used lesser-known actors in leading roles under the guidance of strongly directed vision. The box office successes included Jordan Peele’s Get Out, Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman.

Tom Rothman, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group told Variety, “To be theatrical, you need to be distinctive now. That’s what Spider-Man and Baby Driver have in common. Even though they are as different as night and day, the audience can feel both are distinctive, and so theater-worthy.”

Director Alex Kendrick, of the faith-based Kendrick Brothers, has carved out a niche for himself that draws in enough audience to generate about $60MM every time he releases a film. While Sony has rarely understood how he does it, they have acknowledged his distinctive films. In fact, there have been many who have tried to follow in Alex and Stephen’s footsteps, but all have failed to replicate their distinctive style.

One of the reasons I study a lot of film is to make sure I create something that hasn’t been done before. A director’s style coupled with his writer, DP and Production Designer choice makes for a uniqueness that is seldom replicated. The heart and soul of his vision must come through in order to create a successful title that will storm the box office.

There will never be another Christopher Nolan or Alex Kendrick, no matter how often a budding filmmaker suggests he offers a similar style.

I’ll never forget listening to an interview with Phil Vischer, of Veggie Tales fame, before he became famous. In the interview he was likened to Walt Disney, which surprised me since I was familiar with both artists. The two were highly creative and did the voices for their primary animated characters, but their styles and audiences were very different.

The thing I remember most about the interview was how quickly Phil’s distinctive style was getting lost behind the Disney name. Don Bluth, known for The Secret of NIMH, had the same problem differentiating himself from Disney. It takes a strong director to carve out a niche for his own style that is memorable and draws an audience to the box office.

So who’s your favorite director?

© 2017 by CJ Powers

Movies Bring Hope and Direction to Society

Behind the Scenes with CJ PowersSince the Great Depression (1929-1939) the motion picture industry understood their lot in life was to bring hope and direction to society and dove into mass production. This was confirmed and continued during World War II (1939-1945). Even the post war rebuilding years (1946-1952) were palatable thanks to the movies, which only cost a few coins to attend. By the time our country was back on its feet in 1963-64, the cinema’s role in America was labeled the Golden Age of movies (1933-1963, some sources use 1927-1964).

The Hays Motion Picture code was enacted during these early years to make sure films for the general public were appropriate, respectful and encouraging. After all, hope and direction were important causes worth monitoring. But by 1964 the committee that managed the code and approved scripts that made it to the silver screen was pressured by its denominational headquarters to leave the “ungodly world of Hollywood.”

While some films continued to bring hope and a wholesome and unifying direction to Americans, other films brought the opposite. Freedom of speech was challenged beyond what was wholesome. Directional bias toward liberal and aggressive thinking rose in power. The movies moved into a period known as post-classical cinema followed by the angst and spectacle periods.

Today, America is in need of a new hope and a new wholesome direction. It’s the movie industry’s job to provide it, as it did during the Golden Age of cinema. Unfortunately most producers today are looking for message films to support their politics or their religion. Few care about making the types of films that will bring hope and a healthy perspective to the general public.

The more polarized our communities become, the more important it is for the movies to help bring a sense of unity back to the people. But who will heed the call?

Until artists of today find a way to bring unity back into the lives of our beloved characters, stories will continue to divide the population. It’s the duty of filmmakers to reach the general population with new ideas and unifying stories that can emotionally move the audience from our old destructive path to a new thesis world filled with hope.

There is a hungry world waiting anxiously for such films. They long to embrace them, but can’t find any in our noise filled market. Someone must step up and kickoff this new trend that is sure to be supported by people from various walks of life. Where is the first filmmaker ready to take the risk and cross over? When he or she steps forward, will you support that new breed of film? If so, you’ll be a part of bringing a new hope and direction to our society.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

Leveraging the Creative Subconscious

CreativeAfter watching a dozen documentaries about screenwriters, designers, directors and editors, I’ve come to the conclusion that these artists, at least the good ones, know how to leverage their subconscious. The art they create not only has a footing in reality, but their perspective is greatly enhanced by a highly creative filter from deep within the right side of their brain and their heart.

The most exhilarating creative ideas that pop into my head come early in the morning or at times when my mind is off playing or well rested. The pros take advantage of those moments to strengthen their work and bring new entertainment value to bear. This same moment allowed me to write this blog in the fraction of time it normally takes.

To leverage this strength, my friend David did creative work in the morning and analytical work in the afternoon when logic ruled his mindset. That’s not to say he was never creative in the afternoon, but the level of creative play was typically reduced after hours of exploration and work.

There are three commonalities among professional creatives that are worth understanding.

PLAY

Deadlines and pressure never increase creativity, but the opposite magnifies the creative flow. The strongest fuel of imagination is play. It’s made up of the same elements we explored as children and allows our inner child to come out to have fun. It can’t be taught or demanded, it can only be given a safe environment in which to let go so the creative can be free to pretend.

Play allows hearts to touch or bond without being romantic, which non-creatives don’t get, as they’re convinced something more has to be there, but its not. Play also allows passion to rise and solidifies why a work of art is important. Without it, people can’t understand what the artist saw in the work.

PROCRASTINATE

Non-creatives who have watched the procrastination process of the artist assume the person is lazy; not realizing their mind is going a million miles per hour. The percolation process is what gives flavor to the creatives’ work. A long bought of what appears to be boredom turns into aggressive workflow that can easily go late into the night or until the creative has to flop onto his bed.

Many creatives will plan ahead for their moments of procrastination by determining in advance the item they want to ponder. Most find their breakthrough by morning or in the drifting of their mind. Harnessing this natural phenomenon gives professionals an added benefit of what appears to be a secret weapon of the imagination.

OBSERVE

The best writers I’ve met or learned about through blogs and short films take time to watch a movie every day. They also peruse scrapbooks, magazines and other mind stimulating products. Not only do the myriad of observations fill them with ideas, but it also helps them to know what to avoid because it has already been done.

The most fun is watching others live their lives. People have the funniest idiosyncrasies that inspire. While some might suggest these oddities are a sign of the person’s weakness, the artist sees it as their humanity emerging in a unique fashion. These peculiarities make the person wholly them.

Being able to leverage the elements that feed the subconscious, the creative can explore matters of the heart like no one else. The more this process was protected by society, the greater was the renaissance of the time. It’s no wonder that most movements were birthed in the church, which at one time was a protected place for many hearts before the decades of judgment that ensued.

Over this weekend, as America celebrates its Independence, find time to play, procrastinate and observe. See if anything arises within your soul that must be reduced to some form or expression of art. Take this weekend to determine if being more creative will give you insights into humanity and a wisdom found by few.