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May 1st, 2005 - Open Knowledge — LiveJournal

May. 1st, 2005

11:51 pm - On Wednesdays, We Make Movies


On Wednesdays, We Make Movies
by Nicholas Johnson

Making a movie where each scene is the perfect length and contributes to the piece as a whole, leaving echoes of images that stay in the brain like aroma, is a colossal pain in the ass. I tried to make that movie once, and it was not only painful for myself but for my friends as well. I had a pool of about eight friends whom I begged mercilessly each week, trying to get at least three of them to show up to film. I thrust liquor at them to keep them patient while I futzed with my camera to assure perfect shots. Inevitably problems would arise: a wind would kick up and wobble the camera on its spindly tripod, a cloud would pass over and change the tone of the daylight, or I would fuck up the pan. I duplicated shots just to be safe, I took a thousand close-ups in case I needed them during editing, and few of the actors escaped without injury — in one case a knee injury requiring medical treatment, the result of quite unnecessary horseplay.

There are many things I could have done to improve the movie, but neither a better camera nor a more precise storyboard would have made the movie less of a pain in the ass. It may seem like I’m stating the obvious, but a quality movie generally requires quality attention, and quality attention usually means more time rather than less time. If making a decent movie, then, requires effort and discipline and time and attention, then shouldn’t one wait until one has the time to make that effort, buckle down, and throw all one’s attention at that movie to assure a quality final product?

This is the steel trap that has apprehended thousands who have confused “making a really good movie when I have the time” with not making a movie at all. Nine out of ten movies that exist on the face of the planet are plain awful, and there’s no reason one shouldn’t muscle in on the excitement. The time to make movies is now. While poor quality and sloppiness are not a desirable end product, there is no reason the end product should always be pampered like a spoiled child in the first place.

While your standard 90-minute bad video takes 90 minutes to watch, it took hundreds, even thousands, of hours to make. What was the result? A bad movie. If the end product was 90 minutes of bad movie, then what happened to all those thousands of hours they spent making the movie? Were they fun? Were they instructive? Were they miserable hours full of dismal tedium that would be unbearable but for the paychecks? The plight of the sweatshop key grip is not our present concern, but it becomes obvious on a quick hike through the aisles of your average video store that our holy reverence for the End Product is not all it's cracked up to be.

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