Friday, May 13, 2005

Earth to Fanfilmmakers

Mike Verta offers his take on the bathrobe-loving, lightsaber wavin' amateur filmmakers in the world. I have more to say on this subject, but Mike's sharp writing is a very interesting read. Here, with his permission, the full text:

Star Wars Fan Films: A Review

You Know Who You Are

A writer writes, always. A writer reads; reads with a critical, adoring eye and an insatiable appetite for both new material, and classics alike. Even the layout of text on a page is art, to the writer. A writer has whole paragraphs of great literature memorized – solid pillars in the foundation of their craft. A writer cannot read a menu without mentally expanding the descriptions of entrees. A writer has difficulty ever focusing completely on a conversation, for one part of the brain is scrolling the dialog in real-time, and taking copious, detailed notes. A writer reads this editorial, and instantaneously one-ups it in the mind; irrevocably sensitive to its clumsy rhyme and meter, the missed opportunities, the ham-handed metaphors and shallow insights. A writer would delight in reworking this paragraph. On a desert island, the writer would be content with a stick.

Just as the photographer - whose eyes are the world’s best cameras – sees composition, light and shadow every waking hour of every single day. The photographer sees the bluish hues of shadows on a snow bank, while others blink and squint and shield their vision from the glare. The photographer loves the weight of the camera, the music of a transport turning; the delicate click of the shutter closing. The photographer’s eye, after a lifetime of training, sees the world in utter slow-motion, able to perceive the subtlest shifts in expression and composition, and watches vigilantly, always, for that one defining moment in time. The photographer reads about photography; will talk for hours about photography, looks at photographs; dreams of taking pictures. A photographer sees the world with such detail and sensitivity that they can capture the whole of an experience onto a tiny sliver of emulsion, and yet evoke the most powerful of emotions in those of us who have merely eyes.

The composer, too, can never escape the music. Turn signals become metronomes; the elevator bell rings in D-flat. Composers hear music swelling when they kiss; and war drums in the washing machine spin cycle. The composer taps pencils all day long, and whistles, and hums, and sings and claps… and practices, and practices and practices and practices.

It’s like the director, who sees the world by its drama. The director hears an accent, and pictures an ancestor’s journey in musty, cramped quarters on a sea-weary boat. In a crowd, the director sees the silent loner; in a subway, the director’s watching the deadly third rail.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could make a film - one that was moving, or truly entertaining, without need for caveat, disclaimer or excuse - without having to spend a lifetime learning, and struggling, and training, and honing your craft? Wouldn’t it be great if you could reap the personal, fulfilling rewards of leaving behind a piece of art that meant something to someone, that contributed in even the smallest way, without need for talent, dedication, and experience?

Well you can’t.

Having a camera doesn’t make you a photographer. Final Draft software doesn’t make you a writer. Telling your fat friends in Jedi bathrobes to make mean faces doesn’t make you a director, and the world doesn’t care about lightsaber fights. Making films that are worth the time, worth the energy, and worth presenting, is really, really, really hard – no matter what Apple Computer tells you.

You haven’t mastered your craft, and you have nothing to say. Your film is nothing more than a narcissistic fantasy; a shallow piece of self-loving, masturbation fodder: insignificant, irrelevant and insulting. You believe the raving press from the psychologically desperate, with their impossibly low standards of expectation, because it’s exactly what you want to hear. You’re either too self-centered to care about the truth, or too ignorant to see it.

The truth is, the world is full of photographers, writers, composers, directors, actors, and editors, who have made their craft a life’s pursuit; who have more to contribute to the world than meaningless ego-glorification pieces. Maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll never have to face them in a darkened theater. Until then, fill up the world’s bandwidth with your incomprehensible, uninteresting stories and painful, cringe-worthy dialogue. Humiliate your friends in costume and watch your film over and over and over. Proclaim yourself an emperor in your shiny new clothes; but don’t call yourself a filmmaker.

You have to earn that.