Thursday, March 27, 2008


This post was inspired by the witty and eloquent Elizabeth McClung ( who wrote her perceptions of a movie called He Was a Quiet Man ( The film concerns a disabled female character, and Ms McClung, herself a disabled person, had some interesting remarks concerning that.

I have yet to see this movie. That is not the point. My opinion of the movie may be different from those of a disabled female. I'm sure that it would different after reading Ms McClung's blog than it would have been before. It is all about perceptions.

As a film maker, I've become aware of the narrowness of vision. Through the lens, you are presented with an image that is separate from the one beyond the lens hood. A shot is not random; you've framed it, followed the rule of thirds (or not), set the tripod, set the exposure, opened the lens ... even in search of a "natural" shot, you have just altered reality, just by the mere fact of turning on the camera.

That is the point of it. As a film maker, that is what you are trying to do. You are trying to create a vision, a vision that other viewers may not share. Everything in your film, from the script to the shot to the editing, is designed to carry that vision right to the end of the project and into the eyes of your audience. I call that persistence of vision, I call that commitment.

Assembly line Hollywood crap like Will Farrell comedies or entirely redundant sequels (Speed 2, give me a break) leave me cold because I see no vision there, I see no desire of expression, it is just film making to make a film, 90 minutes of motion designed entirely to make a buck.

I love the works of Kurosawa and Ford and John Boorman and the Cohen Brothers because I see, in their work, a vision. Right (Seven Samurai, My Darling Clementine, Point Blank, Fargo) that vision is powerful and compelling and pulls you in and makes your appreciate it because it is not your vision yet you begin to see it. Wrong (Amazon, Hudsucker Proxy) it baffles and confuses you and maybe you just don't get it. Vision was there but some lack of commitment on the film maker's part (or some nagging interference by a studio) has weakened that vision.

Damn, its a difficult thing, expressing your perception to someone else. We are so different, so disparate, I am amazed we can communicate at all. In the field in which I work I find myself working for people often 20 years younger than me and although we should be united by our common interest, I often feel they have no idea what I am talking about. (OK, maybe its references like My Darling Clemenitne that leave these 25 year olds glaring at me)

As a sort of half assed artist, and even inmy most commercial of endeavours, I have often struggled with the need to get that audience to understand my point of view. In that need I find art even in promotional videos and commercials; I see it, but can you? Writing or editing, I become obsessed with that, to the point where something sometimes gets lost: What about my perception? Is the POV I am selling, the right one at all?

I could make a movie about a woman in a wheelchair. I know women. I know people in wheelchairs. But after reading Screw Bronze, I've come to understand that I probably don't know either one very well at all.

Years ago I watched an Australian movie called Shame ( Briefly, the movie involves a tough, biker lawyer chick who rolls into a small town and confronts violence and ignorance and solves it all with her physical skills. I loved the movie, I saw it as a film about female empowerment (like, yeh, now she's cool because she's reacting like a man) and shared it with my female friends. I could not have anticipated the reaction. Every woman who saw the movie found it sad and scary instead of the "Yeh! Kick their ass!" reaction I had.

I began to realize the true difference in perception between men and women. I had always considered myself a guy who understood a woman's POV, all my strong role models (OK, I won't leave my older brothers out of this, they did their work too) are women. I often listened to my male friends talking about women and thought "Boys, you have no clue" Apparently I had no clue either.

I watched Shame again and began to understand its title. The hip urban lawyer chick avenges the rape of the young country girl. She takes the yahoos to task. But the young woman had still been raped, the town still saw the yahoos as boys expressing themselves and the lawyer realized that she really had no power to have prevented the abuse, and even her actions afterwards would really not change a thing.

Back in a century different from this I made a student film that went before a judging panel. In the movie, the main male character is deliberating trying to leave this reality for one of his making; yeh, he's going insane but he thinks he wants to do so. His girlfriend sees him slipping away and tries to pull him back to reality. Our hero responds by going to her house and trashing it. In the writing of the movie, I had envisioned him using a baseball bat but we didn't have one at hand so I gave the actor an aluminum table leg (gosh, I love guerrilla movie making) One of the judges told me she loved the scene where Danny went to town with his "silver sword of justice". For years I laughed at the judge's interpretation of the instrument but the salient point is really this: Danny wasn't out for justice, what he did wasn't right, he was motivated by fear and rage and hatred and if his girlfriend was there, what would he have done? The judged missed this, and she was female. Judge's fault? Or film makers? Irony is, I won Best Script for the movie, even though I may have totally failed in expressing my POV to the judges; didn't matter, they liked the one they saw.

So what do we do? As film makers do we gather 3,000 opinions before making our art? As humans do we refrain from every trying to understand someone else's POV?

You can't create art from a committee and you probably can't ever really know how everyone feels.

But you can try. And when you frame the shot, think of another pair of eyes.

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