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The Ultimate Art Form

I went to one of the special effects & eye candy extravaganzas (SEECE for short) at the local cineplex a while back. Unfortunately, for a film that was based on special effects & eye candy, there were many problems with the special effects and the most prevalent special effects tended to be used at times that the script floundered the worst. Now, this wasn't because effects were used to distract you from a flaw in the script or acting, rather the focus on effects stalled both the script and the acting.

As I thought about it later, I realized the sheer lunacy of stalling one's own film in order to showcase flawed special effects which in turn creates a flaw in the script and flow which then must be covered up with yet more flawed special effects.

Of course, I don't know what sort of pressures this particular director was working under or what the studios in old Hollywood were trying to do to him. For all I know, he was in favor of a more streamlined film with more manageable special effects, but the powers that be wanted more over-the-top effects due to the desire for a predictable turnout.

In corporately-owned old Hollywood, there is a belief that, the more money you dump into a film, the more money you will make from a film. As such, pack as many effects and eye candy into the film as possible for a 'guaranteed' blockbuster. In reality, nothing's guaranteed and this idea has backfired as many times as it has succeeded. Of course, this doesn't keep that mindset from prevailing. (There's a whole research article that Pavlov published which explains why this is, but I will not digress further on it here!)

When it all comes down to it, I don't mind a movie that's about effects...or about action...or about any number of things that a movie can be about with actually hitting the bedrock of true substance. But the thing that bothers me is when so few people in our society seem to grasp the concept of film as the ultimate art form.

Am I just biased when I say that? No. For anyone who honestly looks at all the art forms available, from writing, to photography, to painting, to music, to acting, to computer design, to sound recording, can find no other art that is capable of combining them all.

When you read a critique we write of a film, we touch on all of these elements, for only film has the need and the ability to incorporate them. Do you think Van Gogh was told by critics, "That Starry Night was pretty nice, but it needed a better soundtrack."? Do you think Jonathan Swift was told, "Those Gulliver's Travels were great but the acting by the characters wasn't so good!"? Or do you think that Beethoven was told, "Nice 5th Symphony, but I would have liked to have seen a flashback montage to go with it!"?

Of course not. No other art form is so dependent on so many other art forms to be incorporated into itself. As such, there is something amazing about filmmaking that is found in no other art form.

Perhaps that's the thing that frustrates me the most with old Hollywood. It is willing to trade base commercialism for a product that should truly be the ultimate artistic collaboration. It is said in Hollywood that 'you fail upward.' How sad is that? It should be those who push the ultimate art the farthest that become the most acclaimed.

Those of use who make films with our own money tend to have a special appreciation for the collaborative art found in filmmaking, because it costs us all so dearly--yet I'm not sure even we have spent enough time thinking about how amazing the ability to do what we do truly is.

Although making movies with no budget is tough, let's take joy in the fact that we get to participate in the ultimate art form--that we have the privilege to work with a form of artistic expression that a thousand generations of artisans before us never had the ability to work with. With that in mind, let's keep pushing the envelope of this art as far as we can.

God Bless,

Jeremy Hanke

Microfilmmaker Magazine

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