Filmmaking Thread

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Garrett Gilchrist
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Filmmaking Thread

Post: # 776Post Garrett Gilchrist
Wed May 29, 2013 4:51 am

I recently saw a Kickstarter for a feature film about the making of the bad B-movie The Creeping Terror. The trailer was very well-shot, but the project held no interest whatsoever, because it didn't have the elements a good trailer, and good movie, needs to hook an audience. The characters weren't likeable. The lead was an egotistical jerk making a bad movie. Many TV series have taken egotistical jerks and made us love them, and that's the important part. Tom Laughlin, who made bad movies like Billy Jack, judges every trailer he sees on whether it has nine specific elements, and then based on those elements he writes down how much money it's going to make. I forget all of his elements, but they include:

Undeserved Misfortune
Visible Villain We Love to Hate
Ticking Clock

I believe there was one like Heightened Powers/Heightened Reality. Not sure how he put it, but something that raises the character or the world above the level of usual everyday reality.

Basic hit-movie screenplay stuff which should also be present to some extent in any hit-movie trailer. I would argue as well that these days, an indie filmmaker is not shooting for the same audience as Hollywood is. We're shooting for the internet audience, the Homestuck audience, whatever that means. Nobody's really figured out how to make a feature go viral. My experience is that people want the story behind the story. If the story behind the making and concept of a film is worth writing a news article about, and is interesting in its own right, that's what makes something viral.

I forget who wrote these rules for going viral, but they went a bit like this ....

Things that people like to share:

Things that make them nostalgic
Things that make them feel smart
Things that make them seem funny
Things that make them have an opinion
Things that surprise them
Things they didn't know

Other helpful tips:

Always go with BIG CLEAR images
Try mimicking/parodying events
Making posts for specific social networks
Cute animals
Shocking things

As far as writing a "Hollywood" style movie and concept, I always ran away from that to an extent. I was younger, sure, and wanted to do things my own way. But any good script has to develop organically. You shouldn't just fake it, do formula, write stuff because it'll follow a Hollywood style plotline. But you should work with good ideas that lend themselves to a Hollywood style treatment, something that feels like a movie. Then you can work through that sort of thing organically. When I wrote my early scripts like Midnight Blue, I was playing with ideas rather than any formula, and writing truthfully. I didn't feel like doing formula films at the time. I feel more like doing formula now, only because I've gotten that out of my system. The trick is finding a twist on it all, obviously. Finding many twists, hopefully, while delivering something truthful that feels like a movie. I'm halfway through writing a novel now, and it's much like my early scripts in that it's playing with ideas and not overly interested in keeping the plot chugging along. It's convoluted and strange and I wouldn't have it any other way. But the more novels I write, the more plot-oriented they'll get, I'm sure. Which doesn't mean the lovely ideas have to be sacrificed; it just means that there has to be a drive, a constant motion in the story. If I come round to formula, I come round organically, in my own time, and hope to do it well.

When I met with Helge Bernhardt recently he was building a 35mm transfer rig out of an old projector and had invited a friend over to help him, a man named James Polk of Canstruct LLC, who builds moving mechanical installments and robotics. Helge thinks of him as a man who can build anything.

This got my mind going back to filmmaking more than anything has in five years. When I was in high school and early college, that was the fun of it- exploring the possibilities of filmmaking. A few objects taped together could become a robot. Party-store crap could be used to simulate and spoof The Phantom Menace or Legend or fantasy films in general.

I grew up with the making of Star Wars, and the work of Jim Henson. Dazzling puppet creatures and robots, making magic onscreen that didn't exist in real life. A whole world built from someone's imagination. The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Terry Gilliam's Brazil, opened my mind further to those possibilities.

In 2005 and 2007, I attempted, twice, to get puppets built for a comedy pilot about aliens. I didn't have a lot of money - first $500, then $1000. Both times the guys I hired to build the puppets took the money, did a basic clay sculpt, kept the money and delivered nothing at all. And on Shamelessly, many a CGI artist failed to deliver anything I could use. The possibilities of doing magical things onscreen had been ruined by the reality that unless you're paying people a lot of money for that magic, you probably won't get any. Unless you compromise and create it yourself with what you've already got and can rustle together, as I did on my films.

But that feeling was coming back.

"Oh, what if we built a cool robot and put it in a film?"

Yeah. That kind of thing.

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Re: Filmmaking Thread

Post: # 778Post FrankRT
Wed May 29, 2013 8:17 am

I often thought of doing stop-motion or traditional animation when the subject comes round to filmmaking. But to be truthful, I honestly don't think I have the competence to do it - especially since I can't write a good script! Sometimes I ask myself, what if I made a film that was deliberately bad? Surely it would turn out offensive or totally stupid? What if it was trying to prove a point, though? How would the audience take that?

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Re: Filmmaking Thread

Post: # 780Post Garrett Gilchrist
Wed May 29, 2013 9:46 am

It's hard to make a sarcastic film. Generally for a film to work you have to commit to its world and characters 100 percent. Wet Hot American Summer is a rare example of a sarcastic, self-mocking film that works.

The good thing about screenwriting is, it doesn't cost money. It's best to keep writing until you have something worth making. And as far as animation goes, as an amateur you'd do best to focus on making a few good, very short clips rather than some huge scripted project anyway. 30 seconds of animation that's actually good makes much more of an impact than 2 hours of MS Painty garbage.

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Re: Filmmaking Thread

Post: # 801Post Oliver Judd
Fri May 31, 2013 2:44 pm

"Go beyond your capabilities. Shoot for the moon. Otherwise, what's the point?"

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Garrett Gilchrist
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Re: Filmmaking Thread

Post: # 2875Post Garrett Gilchrist
Sat Dec 07, 2013 10:53 am

"I love, love, love the medium of film. But that is the strange dichotomy of film, is that the medium is so unbelievably magical and wonderful, and the business is so--UGH! It`s kind of the price you pay. Some friend of mine said you`re not getting paid to work in the medium; you`d almost do that for free. But you`re getting paid to suffer all the... you know - [Laughs]." - Brad Bird

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Re: Filmmaking Thread

Post: # 2961Post Garrett Gilchrist
Sun Dec 15, 2013 8:34 pm

RIP Tom Laughlin.

Tom Laughlin's 9 Indespensible Ingredients

The single most effective tool – in fact, it is not an exaggeration to say the indispensable way – to tap into the audience’s Emotional Psyche, and evoke emotions that will cause the audience to identify with one or more people on the screen so that whatever happens to that person is actually happening to them is the writing tool of Undeserved Misfortune.

Undeserved Misfortune is the alpha and the omega of the writing art.

It is unequivocally the best way to get your audience to identify with one or more characters in the film. There is no substitute for it. Though other ingredients we will be discussing shortly are extremely important, as I will repeat a dozen times, having one ingredient alone is never enough. As you will see, each of the other ingredients has its own important value for its own sake, but in addition, every one of them intensifies the experience of Undeserved Misfortune.
Undeserved Misfortune is the dream of dreams for a writer in any medium. It is the single most important tool you can learn to use if you want what you write to be a success.

So what is Undeserved Misfortune?
Undeserved Misfortune occurs when we, the audience, see something happen to a character on the screen that they do not deserve to have happen to them, and which results in us, the audience, having either fear or pity for that character. A writer’s secret as old as Aristotle’s Poetics.

If we have both fear and pity, it is a gold mine for a writer, equivalent to tapping into the Mother Load.

Let’s repeat those key conditions:

1. It is crucial that the misfortune be undeserved and not deserved. If a character deserves the misfortune that happens to him or her, it will have the opposite effect of Undeserved Misfortune. The audiences intelligence, sense of decency and fair play will never identify with any character that deserves the misfortune that is happening to them. Instead of the emotions of fear and pity being evoked, which instantly make us identify with a character experiencing Undeserved Misfortune (see Good Will Hunting in examples that follow), another emotion, the need for satisfaction and for justice are evoked, making us want to see the character be punished or at least take responsibility for his actions. The emotions of satisfaction and a hunger for justice are extremely important emotions, and we will deal with them later (see Visible Villain and Comeuppance). However, it is the exact opposite of the emotion evoked by Undeserved Misfortune, the one that will cause the audience to become one with one or more characters on the screen. I’ll give some examples of this in a moment.

2. In order to evoke either the emotion of fear or pity, let alone both (which increases quantumly the emotional response of the audience), the Undeserved Misfortune must happen to a character on the screen before our eyes. (Schindler’s List, Ghost, The Fugitive, Speed, Elephant Man) While there are exceptions where the Undeserved Misfortune can take place off screen, or before the picture begins, even in those rare occasions when off screen Undeserved Misfortune does succeed in evoking some emotion – and they usually don’t -- they are less powerful, and for the most part ineffective.

For example, if an adult tells us they were physically abused as a child, we, of course, have feelings for them, but they are only about 1/100th of what we would feel if we actually saw them being abused and battered as a child. In Good Will Hunting, at the beginning of the film the therapist is told the hero was abused, but it doesn’t mean a great deal to us because it doesn’t happen before our eyes, and because it is lost in the other information we, the audience, are being given. So though it was Undeserved Misfortune, it didn’t evoke the powerful emotional response in us. However, at the end of the film when the therapist sees pictures showing the extent of the abuse, the Undeserved Misfortune, our emotions are far more powerfully aroused and we truly feel sorry for the young man.
The best way to teach you how to use Undeserved Misfortune is by showing how it works, and has worked, in hit films (Titanic, Forrest Gump, A Wonderful Life), and how the absence of Undeserved Misfortune (Nixon, Absolute Power, Waterworld, Casino), or the wrong use of it (In the Name of the Father, Dying Young, Get Shorty), is certain to condemn a film to failure or limit its success even though it is written by the most talented and high priced writer in Hollywood, filled with the biggest stars on the A-list, and directed by the most successful commercial directors in the industry. Even the greatest commercial director of all time, a man who makes films on a plane far above anyone else, Steven Spielberg – whose gigantic hits, such as E.T. and Jurassic Park et al are flooded over with the brilliant use of Undeserved Misfortune – when even this genius creates a film that does not have in it Undeserved Misfortune, it fails at the box office. (1941, The Rising Sun)
One of the archetypes of Undeserved Misfortune is the Abandoned Child. This was the power of ET. This little alien gets left behind by mistake, and all he wants to do is "Phone home" for someone to come and get him.
This was also the power of Home Alone, especially for children. We feared for this little boy who we believed couldn’t take care of himself, and though it was a tongue-in-cheek kind of farce, it worked because we still worried about him and how he would fend for himself and protect his home from the burglars.
The power of Spielberg’s Schindler's List lies in the fact that the film wreaked with Undeserved Misfortune, so much so that at times it was too painful to watch. We couldn't wait for the people to be saved, and even though we had some knowledge of how the movie would turn out – we didn’t know who would be saved, and who would not, and we were hooked.
It is hard to find a picture that is more filled with scene after scene of Undeserved Misfortune than Forrest Gump, which helps explain its phenomenal success that caught everyone in the industry by surprise, including the executives at Paramount. No one thought the picture would gross over $300 million ($329,694,499) at the box office. If they had known the power of Undeserved Misfortune, they would have easily seen they had one of the great box office champions on their hands, for it is difficult to find a picture as filled with scene after scene filled with Undeserved Misfortune as Forrest Gump, with each incident of Undeserved Misfortune causing us to identify and love this man more.
The picture opens with the boy not only being not normal and somewhat retarded, but in addition is physically disabled, has to wear a leg brace, and cannot run and play like the other kids. We sit with the boy and hear the school principle tell how he’s mentally defective. We sit with the boy as he listens to his mother being used sexually by the principle as the price she has to pay to get him into a school where he will have some chance to be educated. We die with the boy as he’s constantly taunted and teased and chased for being a cripple by the other boys – and on and on. The Undeserved Misfortune never stops -- from his being rejected by the girl he truly loves because he’s not quite right, through the very end where he finally experiences being loved by this woman he has never stopped loving, only to have her die of AIDS, and leave him to bring up their son, who also has the Undeserved Misfortune of having his mother die while he is still a child. If you want to learn about the power of Undeserved Misfortune and how to craft it into your screenplay, scene after scene, there is no better picture to learn from than Forrest Gump.
Another great example of the power of Undeserved Misfortune is the movie Waterboy that shocked the industry when it became a hit in the winter of 1998 against all the mega-budgeted, superstar Christmas releases. What was the reason pundits and studio executives said Waterboy was a hit? Because it appealed to 14-year-old boys, and studios rushed out to make films that would appeal to 14-year-old boys, following that age old tradition in Hollywood of identifying the wrong thing that made one movie a hit, i.e., it appealed to teenage boys, it appealed to teenage girls, or it appealed to Baby Boomers, or because it was a certain genre, say a space film, or a western, and they all rush out to make more space films and westerns in the erroneous belief that that’s who the audience is now, or that’s what the audience wants now.

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

The success of Waterboy was due to the magnificent use of Undeserved Misfortune – and the picture would have done much better business had it been more intelligent and more credible. The lack of intelligence, or the ingredient of Credibility, limited the movie to 14-year-old boys (and some girls). Undeserved Misfortune attracted them, but the lack of Credibility kept the magnificent grosses of this picture from doing even better, a la Forrest Gump, which was also about a young man who had some mental disability, but appealed to every audience group from teens to seniors. If Waterboy, with its fabulous use of Undeserved Misfortune, and the ingredients of Superior Position and Humor, had more Credibility, it would have easily gone over $200 million. Making movies for 14-year-olds is no different than making them for 44 year-olds. Put in the 9 ingredients, especially Undeserved Misfortune, and they will come. As the successes of Romeo & Juliet, ET, Forrest Gump, The Lion King, Billy Jack and Titanic all prove. Do not put a salary cap on the success of your screenplay that has wonderful Undeserved Misfortune in it by leaving out Credibility and intelligent sensitivity in the mistaken notion 14-year-old boys guarantee the success of a picture and their sensitivity is limited. All of the great comedies and comedians from the beginning of the motion picture industry, from Laurel & Hardy, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, to Abbott and Costello and Jerry Lewis, to Jim Carrey proves that Undeserved Misfortune plus Humor plus Credibility appeals universally to all ages. Instead of studio executives thinking that because of the success of Waterboy that they should make movies for 14-year-olds, they should learn from Waterboy, Forrest Gump, et al to make movies with Undeserved Misfortune, the most powerful ingredient in the world in evoking the emotional psyche of the audience.

There is one other extremely important value every actor who wants to become a star, or every star who wants to remain one (as well as every writer, director, producer and everyone in the film industry), should know about Undeserved Misfortune. And that is the power of Undeserved Misfortune to make a star out of anyone. Have Undeserved Misfortune happen to you in a film, and the audience will automatically identify with you and you will become a star.
Harry Cohn, one of the giant founders and developers of the motion picture industry as head of Columbia Studios, though often maligned and hated, was a genius for knowing how to use Undeserved Misfortune to make a star. Cohn used to boast, “We can make a star out of anyone. Bring me your aunt, and I’ll make a star out of her.”
What Harry Cohn knew was that by creating Undeserved Misfortune for a character on the screen, the audience so strongly identifies and becomes so emotionally bonded with that character, that the character becomes a star (ET, Rocky, Forrest Gump, Stella Dallas, Pollyanna, George Bailey, Sybil). Unfortunately, we actors tend to forget that it is the character we played that is the star, that made us a star. The star is the character, not us. We, as we well know when we are alone at night on our pillow, are nothing but frail, limited, screwed up human beings.
By the skillful use of Undeserved Misfortune, you can not only make a star out of any human being, including Harry Cohn’s aunt, you can make a star out of a dog (Rin Tin Tin, Toto, Benji, Lassie, Boomer, Buck in Call of the Wild), a robot (R2-D2 or C3-PO), a horse (Flicka, Black Beauty, the Black Stallion), or even a funny looking alien from outer space (E.T.). Even a pig like Babe, or a deer like Bambi, or a lion like the Lion King.
Stars are made by Undeserved Misfortune. Take the example of Ali McGraw in Love Story. Though Ali had had a minor success starring in a modest picture, Goodbye Columbus, she was light years away from being on the A-list of stars audiences wanted to see. Then she got Love Story. In Love Story the character McGraw played was an actresses dream, the part of a lifetime in terms of making an actress a star, for before our eyes, McGraw’s character had happen to her Undeserved Misfortune which resulted in not just fear (for her life), but also resulted in pity, for no beautiful young girl deserved to have cancer, and we felt enormous sympathy and compassion for her. McGraw had the incredible good luck of playing a character that evoked in us both fear and pity, not just one or the other.
As a result of playing a role that created in the audience both fear and pity for her character, Ali McGraw became the hottest new major star in Hollywood. That year she appeared on over 150 magazine covers all over the world. The movie was a major hit, and Ali McGraw became a major star. Unfortunately, Ali had no idea what made her a star. She did not possess the same sophisticated knowledge of what makes a hit picture, and what makes a star, that Rosalind Russell and Bette Davis had. As a result, she was unable to pick roles that had that indispensable star making ingredient of Undeserved Misfortune in them, and though she starred in big pictures with big named stars, such as Steve McQueen, she quickly faded back into retirement.
Incidentally, the writer of Love Story, Erich Segal, also had no idea of why Love Story was such a hit. He had no knowledge of Undeserved Misfortune, which was so vital to evoking such powerful emotions on the part of its audiences. Nor was he aware of several other ingredients that, by accident, he created in Love Story, which we’ll discuss when we come to them. Because he didn’t know about these 9 ingredients he was unable to build them into his subsequent scripts. As a result, he too had his 15 minutes of fame and disappeared from the Hollywood A-list of sought after writers.
If you look at the career of every great star, you will see that they struggled for years in bit parts, supporting roles, and even starred in moderately successful major studio pictures, but they did not become a box office star until by accident they stumbled onto a role that gave them Undeserved Misfortune, such as Sylvester Stallone in Rocky, Julia Roberts in Steel Magnolias and Pretty Woman, James Dean in East of Eden, Demi Moore in Ghost, Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, and who will ever forget the unforgettable super stardom reached by the brilliant Tom Hanks who not only had Undeserved Misfortune in virtually every frame of Forrest Gump, but also had incredible Undeserved Misfortune in Philadelphia. Not only does Undeserved Misfortune create instant stardom, as Tom Hanks has proved, it can lead to back to back Oscars as well. (See end of chapter for more on how Undeserved Misfortune makes or breaks a star.)
There is one other way someone becomes a star, and that is when they play the role of the Hero or Heroine who comes in to save the person on screen who we, the audience, are identified with, because they have been the victim of Undeserved Misfortune, and we are dying to have someone come in and save them, or at least help them. We’ll discuss that, and the power of the Savior Archetype, in the chapter on the Hero Ingredient (Chapter 10).

Why is Undeserved Misfortune so powerful and effective?

Because Undeserved Misfortune creates empathy, and empathy is absolutely essential to evoking the emotional psyche of the audience and having each person in the audience become emotionally involved with what’s happening on the screen. Empathy means that we so identify emotionally with someone on the screen, that what is happening to them is happening to us. It goes beyond sympathy, it goes beyond compassion, though it contains both of those. It is a psychological happening that causes us and the character we have empathy for to become one, so that what is happening to them is actually happening to us, and it doesn’t matter if it is a human being, or an animated character. It can even be a cartoon character like Dumbo, or the Lion King, or 101 Dalmatians. That person or animal does not deserve what is happening to them, and so we pity them, or we fear for them. And we want to save them, or rather, have our Hero save them. If , while watching the movie, we were wired to electronic devices to monitor our heart, or galvanic responses, our brainwaves, etc., they would show that we are undergoing the same physiological and psychological responses as if it were happening to us personally, in real life.
And as I have said earlier, if Undeserved Misfortune is to have its full effect, it is imperative that we see the misfortune happen to the character before our eyes and not have it happen off screen and then later be told about it. We must see it in action. That's what makes a great drama -- experiencing something, not being told about what happens.
Undeserved Misfortune can be created through Fate (Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, Sleepless in Seattle); Diseases, a form of Fate (Philadelphia – AIDS, Love Story – cancer, The Mask – brain tumor, Steel Magnolias – diabetes, Elephant Man – deforming disease); Social Issues such as Racism or Bigotry (To Kill a Mockingbird, Roots, Billy Jack, South Pacific, A Time to Kill); and through an Individual, a Visible Villain we Love to Hate (Hannibal Lechter, Darth Vadar, Iago).
How the Undeserved Misfortune occurs is not as important as the fact that it does occur, and empathy is created for one or more characters that the audience identifies with, and craves to have saved. That’s the gold.
If there is no Undeserved Misfortune in a film, or if it is badly used, even though everything else in the film may be brilliant, or of the highest professional level, that film will die even if it features the best actors and stars in the world.
For example, Nixon. A tour de force performance by the brilliant Anthony Hopkins could not save the picture for one simple reason -- Nixon deserved everything he got.
Years ago I sat in Burt Reynold’s trailer and visited with Burt and Clint Eastwood, whom I had roomed with during the filming of William Wellman’s Lafayette Escadrilles. Throughout the 80’s, Clint and Burt alternated as the top box office draw of the year virtually every year. Now they were teaming up in City Heat, the theory being that, with the two box office champions of the last decade, instead of two plus two equaling four, in this case, it would equal sixteen. In other words, be a blockbuster success. Unfortunately what nobody involved in the film knew was that though the film had these two legends in it, the film did not have Undeserved Misfortune. Even worse, the misfortune that happens to the character in the beginning of the film is richly deserved because he is a despicable, lying sleezebag of a human being, and deserved everything he got. So when Burt goes out to try to undo this wrong – there is no wrong to undo. The audience could only ask itself “Why are they wasting their time trying to get the people who did what should have been done to this lowlife.” The picture died.
In another Clint Eastwood film, Absolute Power, the only Undeserved Misfortune is in the opening moments when the girl is attacked by the sexually sick President, Gene Hackman, and murdered by his Secret Service. To make matters worse, the woman was the wife of Hackman’s close friend who was betraying her husband, so it was really hard to be sympathetic even to her. As for Clint Eastwood’s character, there was no Undeserved Misfortune of any kind, nor was there for any other character that we were hoping Clint Eastwood would save. There was some attempt to have Undeserved Misfortune with Clint’s character’s relationship with his estranged daughter, but he brought that estrangement on himself because he was a cat burglar who was on the opposite side of the law and was estranged from his daughter for years, and she was in the DA’s office. The one moment we felt it was when she was in his apartment and she saw the pictures of herself at various functions – i.e., graduation from law school – pictures he had obviously taken without her knowing he was there, and now she realized that he really did love her. But that story line lacked the punch that would have made us identify with each of the characters in that situation.
Waterworld, at that time the most costly picture in history, with one of the hottest stars in the business, Kevin Costner, a virtual remake of Road Warrior on water, was a flop because it did not have a scintilla of real Undeserved Misfortune anywhere. As a result, we couldn’t identify with any of the characters, and couldn’t care less what happened to them.
Casino – Again, no Undeserved Misfortune anywhere. The great Robert Diniro, the red hot Sharon Stone, Joe Pesci, and a great director, Martin Scorcese. A world class quality production, as every Scorcese film is, but one that flopped because there was no Undeserved Misfortune for anyone. Not only that, you couldn’t empathize with any of these characters.
In addition to the absence of any Undeserved Misfortune, the wrong use of Undeserved Misfortune is a sure fire way to have a picture fail.
In the Name of the Father – Daniel Day Lewis’ character was another unbelievably narcissistic, selfish, egomaniacal character who ruthlessly and sadistically hurt people he loved, including his own father. Not only did he suffer terribly as a result of his own free choices, he brought incredible pain and suffering down upon his father, who was a good and innocent man, as well as upon the rest of his family. Throughout the picture his father continued to make sacrifices to help him, but Lewis’ character, and his arrogance, made him detestable to us.
Dying Young - You would think dying of cancer would be a slam dunk for Undeserved Misfortune, as it was in Love Story, but here again, Campbell Scott’s character was such a rich, arrogant, petulant person, that we lost identification with him, and wondered why Julia Roberts stayed with him. To make matters worse, the writer violated the rule of having the Undeserved Misfortune take place on screen, but instead had it take place before the picture began. As a result we never were able to experience the painful Undeserved Misfortune experience that comes when you are told you have cancer. From the beginning there is not a whole lot to like about the character, and because we never experienced the Undeserved Misfortune with him, we were never able to understand what he was going through that made him behave so mean to people, especially his father.
Get Shorty was in many ways a wonderful film, filled with great moments, some incredible scenes, and great fun. It was clearly a success, but, because it had so many wonderful things in it, it could have had far greater success if it had only contained in it some genuine Undeserved Misfortune.
Which brings up the point that it is not only enough to know about the 9 ingredients, to know what Undeserved Misfortune is, it is another thing ...and a difficult thing really understand Undeserved Misfortune, how it works, and how to write it into your screenplay. Get Shorty is a case in point.
Just after Get Shorty opened successfully, I was talking on the phone to Stacey Sher, the producing partner of Danny DeVito and his production company, Jersey Films, at Sony, congratulating her and Danny, two of the best quality producers in the business. (Danny is one of those rare mortals who has a genius not only on the screen, but for the business side of filmmaking as well). Stacey, who is extremely bright and knowledgeable about film, after graciously accepting my congratulations, was quick to point out to me that Get Shorty had in it Undeserved Misfortune, one of the 9 ingredients I had previously told her, Danny, and director Barry Sonnenfeld at lunch,.
Though Get Shorty did have in it some of the key 9 ingredients, which is why the picture did $71,944,275 at the US box office -- one of the major ingredients it did not have in it was Undeserved Misfortune, which is why it did not take off and become a break-out hit doing over $125 to $150 million, which it could have done because of the wonderful qualities it did have.
What Stacey was referring to when she said the picture had Undeserved Misfortune was that John Travolta's boss and mentor was killed, and that John had to go to work for his arch-enemy. Because everyone who makes a film knows the excruciating agony you go through before a film opens, not knowing whether it will be a success or a failure, and because the successes are so few and far between that when they come you're happiness is close to ecstasis, I didn't have the heart to tell Stacey at this moment of their hard earned triumph, that she was wrong. Get Shorty did not have Undeserved Misfortune.
Yes, Travolta had a glitch develop in his work as a hit man, but he did not have to go to work for another scumbag, continuing to brutally maim and even kill people who were being terrorized by the new boss in the same way John terrorized people for the old boss. Never forget, the key word is undeserved. There is nothing undeserved about making your living as a criminal monster hurting, even killing, people. You deserve whatever you get, whether you are doing it for one psychopathic sicko or another. Equally important, Travolta's character did not have to continue in his evil profession. Fortunately, the film glossed over what Travolta’s character really was, and because of Travolta’s incredible charisma and magnificent talent, the film’s charm came out of Travolta’s screen presence and his character turning those despicable skills against people who truly deserved it.

There are four key things to be aware of when using Undeserved Misfortune:

1. If you start out with Undeserved Misfortune for a character, and you later make that person despicable through their actions, we will not only turn off of that character, we will turn against that character.

2. The opposite can also happen. If you have someone who is despicable, and Undeserved Misfortune happens to them and we see them change because of it, we then can identify with that character and empathize with them.

3. Undeserved Misfortune will not only make us like a character, it will make us become one with that character. The more Undeserved Misfortune you, as a writer, can add on top of the Undeserved Misfortune you initially create will only make us like and identify with the character more and more, as in Forrest Gump. Then we follow that character anywhere, and whatever happens to him, happens to us -- until and unless, you make the character do something that will break our projection onto him, and make us no longer able to identify with that person.

4. Too much Undeserved Misfortune. Sometimes Undeserved Misfortune can evoke so much fear, or so much pity, that it becomes too painful to watch, and when that happens, the picture can be hurt, either because it wounds the people watching it so deeply they can’t quite recover, or because the word spreads that it’s too painful and people will not come, even though they respect the picture. (Elephant Man, Schindler’s List, Pawnbroker)

If the Undeserved Misfortune becomes an unrelenting downer, obliterating the ego of one or more characters, systematically annihilating them, if there is too much sordidness or brutality, it will turn us off, not turn us on. There has to be some kind of nobility to the resurrection from Undeserved Misfortune that happens before our eyes. There has to be hope, some kind of a love story where, through being identified with the character who is the victim of Undeserved Misfortune, we come out feeling, in some way, something good about the character in order to feel something good about ourselves. When our ego gets identified with some character through Undeserved Misfortune, we don’t want so much misfortune that everything is destroyed, we don’t want to be annihilated. In some way we want to discover some meaning in the suffering in order to save ourselves and feel there’s the possibility of triumphing over this Undeserved Misfortune.
Again, it is not enough to know the existence of these ingredients, it is important to learn how to use each of these ingredients properly, and then how to use them skillfully -- first by learning to use each ingredient skillfully, and then by learning how to skillfully weave all of these 9 ingredients together in one story.
When properly used, Undeserved Misfortune is writer’s gold.

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Re: Filmmaking Thread

Post: # 3621Post Garrett Gilchrist
Fri Jan 24, 2014 12:28 am

What is a movie? A major release movie that you see in the theaters? The face of filmmaking has changed so much in the past fifteen years. And going back in history, that's always been true. Look at the major films being released by Hollywood in any decade. Skip ahead ten or fifteen years, and it's just not the same anymore. Filmmaking has become something different, something which plays by different rules. Special effects. Camera angles. Screenwriting. You could blame George Lucas for two of the most seismic shifts. Star Wars must by now be the most copied film in history, and The Phantom Menace was as revolutionary as it was reviled. I started watching Pacific Rim and was suddenly bombarded with nonsense. Is this a movie, I thought? Is this what movies are like now? I guess it is. If this is what movies are like now, I guess this is probably a good one.

It's hard to watch this without thinking the entertainment industry, and perhaps the world in general, has gone insane. Okay, it's impossible for me to watch this without thinking that.

RKlein says: Are you referring to the feeling while watching a movie nowadays, like Iron Man 3, that you are watching a video game and not really a movie?

It's not just that. That's the visual feeling of constantly seeing CGI and "action" and nothing but fakery. It's also, and I think more importantly, the feeling that most of what you're seeing doesn't make any sense or correspond to any recognizable human behavior. Or the way movies are normally presented. Things happening extremely quickly, in ways that don't make sense if you think about what you're seeing in any way. It's thousands of little things that are bizarre in every scene - or very few things that aren't bizarre in some way. There's a reverse shot of some folks in a snowy Arctic area suddenly noticing a huge, dying mech-warrior who would clearly have been visible for some time beforehand. What would be the climactic battle of a film as I understand it is tossed off as an afterthought in passing. An entire film's plotline thrown out in the introduction. The Sunny in Philadelphia guy seems frequently to speak without moving his lips, or is otherwise violating the laws of editing.

The lead actor often does not appear to be acting at all (this happens quite a bit these days - it's not John Carter bad at least - he has his moments). Types of filmmaking that were a joke before in America are suddenly taken very seriously - this is, after all, sort of a Power Rangers episode. Star Wars references replace character development. Dialogue scenes are so short that what is supposed to happen during them - a character changing his mind about something, for instance - not only doesn't register emotionally but can barely be discerned at all. And though I've watched thousands of movies in my life, very little of that knowledge of what a movie is like and how it's put together and how it conveys its plot and what makes a movie good or bad applies here. It's a completely different, topsy-turvy, amusement park world. Made for hundreds of millions of dollars.

I'm not calling these films bad; they're a product of the way movies are made nowadays. But watching Pacific Rim makes me feel like I'm watching an insane world. A world gone insane. Where people wear hats on their feet and hamburgers eat people.

The Lord of the Rings films were very much modern effects films, far removed from anything in the 80s and 90s. They're all also over ten years old now. The second Hobbit film is theoretically the exact same sort of thing, but it also felt like drowning in water as opposed to drinking some.

But you're right, it is a fucking video game.

It's a Michael Bay movie. It's Independence Day, times. It's ... I mean, what are movies going to look like in fifteen years? Ugh, I can't deal with this. What a worthless film. Everything that's wrong with blockbusters today.

PS: Burn Gorman seems to be playing his part as Sylvester McCoy.

They had him say "By Jove." What a terrible film.

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Re: Filmmaking Thread

Post: # 3657Post FloorMat116
Mon Jan 27, 2014 8:29 pm ... eflections

In defense of Pacific Rim, I ask that you consider the film as what it was intended to be: A loving tribute to the old kaiju/mech films of the 60s/70s. It was not intended to be Academy material. I consider Del Toro more than competent as a writer and director (The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth in particular), and I don't think Pacific Rim should be panned as just another loud actioner.

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Re: Filmmaking Thread

Post: # 3903Post Garrett Gilchrist
Thu Feb 27, 2014 10:20 am

In Hollywood, more often than not, they’re making more kind of traditional films, stories that are understood by people. And the entire story is understood. And they become worried if even for one small moment something happens that is not understood by everyone. But what’s so fantastic is to get down into areas where things are abstract and where things are felt, or understood in an intuitive way that, you can’t, you know, put a microphone to somebody at the theatre and say ‘Did you understand that?’ but they come out with a strange, fantastic feeling and they can carry that, and it opens some little door or something that’s magical and that’s the power that film has. -David Lynch

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