July 13, 2007

The Silver Screen

t's funny - I just went to see "Pirates of the Caribbean" last night (which was much better than I expected), at a Q&A screening from Creative Screenwriting magazine at Harmony Gold's theater on Sunset. My fellow fanboys from the '80's will remember Harmony Gold as the people who brought us "Robotech". Oddly enough, for all my African-American brothers & sisters out there, WE remember Harmony Gold for bringing us "Shaka Zulu".

If I may digress for a moment - Robotech & Shaka Zulu. "two great tastes that taste great together", right? :-)

Since it wasn't a regular multiplex or theater, there were no ads projected on the screen before the show, and the curtains were open so all you could see was this huge white empty space.

There's that word again.


Begging to be filled.

And it reminded me that, as a filmmaker, it's my job to fill that space - and you can't do that with close-ups all day. :-)

I think it's very easy for those of us still in the early parts of our careers, looking to create opportunities to show our stuff, to just want to shoot and be seen anywhere. TVs. IPods. Cell phones. Computer Monitors.

And we keep whittling down our visions to fit into these smaller screens.

I think about Ridley Scott.

He's a graphic designer by training, and, after working in commercials for a few years, he made his first feature film, "The Duellists". Adjusted for inflation, he spent less than a 4th of the money to shoot in France and achieve a richly textured vision of the Napoleonic era comparable to anything those guys at Merchant Ivory have done as they spent on that rotten "Boogeyman" movie that got made a few years back.

Right before I shot "5", I spent a great deal of time watching Ridley Scott films - I learned so much on how to pimp your budget for maximum effect (particularly in "Alien" and "Gladiator") listening to his DVD commentaries, I should pay that dude tuition.

Say what you will about "Pirates" - the money is definitely on the screen. Now, again, being a history nut and coming from a maritime city, I'm a sucker for tall ship movies (go see "The Bounty" with Mel Gibson & Anthony Hopkins - it's a gem) - but production design can make or break a film. And the design on pirates is so rich.

And then, last night, I caught a peek at the trailer for "The Golden Age", a sequel to Shekhar Kapur's 1998 film, "Elizabeth", which earned Cate Blanchette her first Oscar nomination.

First of all - I'm so impressed that an exquisite mid-budget film that was a moderate box office hit gets turned into a franchise.

But, again - just look at the freakin' trailer! Isn't that just delicious!

But you don't have to do period pieces to get richness. Think of all of David Fincher's films. I once heard George Lucas say that part of the reason why he made "Star Wars" was that he'd been doing so many tiny, guerrilla films ("American Graffiti" and "THX-1138", for example), but that he loved old Hollywood, and wanted to do a costume drama.

Filling the space - I think, in some cases, "Pirates" clearly went overboard. But isn't it better to err on the side of excess?

Again, I'm just musing out loud.....