As microfilmmakers, one of the most common analogies journalists draw to us as we struggle against our obscurity and our limited financial means is to David and Goliath. Most people think the analogy is strong because we’re small and the odds are larger than we are.
Most people think that the story of David and Goliath is either a simple Bible lesson or, for those who don’t believe, a violent fable, without understanding anything about what the story is really about. Before we can discuss what it’s really about and why it’s more apt an analogy than most journalists or filmmakers realize, we should give a brief overview of the story for folks who aren’t familiar with it or remember it only vaguely from days in Catholic or Jewish school.
The kingdom of Israel, from whom all Jews and Christians draw their physical or spiritual lineage, had just gotten their first king after centuries of having prophets lead them. The first guy was a big tall dude named Saul, who was very imposing, but struggled with serious personal anxiety issues and had a tendency to freak out and try to impale people with spears when he would get agitated. To help keep him calm when he was having a case of the “Mondays”, his royal advisors tried to find a musician who could rock some calming music. There was a kid named David from Bethlehem whose band was getting a lot of publicity and folks passed his name along to Saul’s advisors. Saul invited him to come have a jam session and, after hearing him play and seeing how groovy he felt after the session, Saul offered him a part-time job. Part of the year he would hang out in the palace and play for the king, while the other half of the year he’d do his “official” day job guarding sheep for his dad’s wool factory, where he got to spend his evenings kicking the crap out of bears and lions that tried to eat them.
A few years after this arrangement was set up, David decides to visit his brothers who are in the army. They’re fighting with a group of Viking-like barbarians called Philistines, so Dave decides to bring them some munchies. When he gets out to their camp, he finds that the Philistines have elected their champion to challenge any of the Israeli troops to a one-on-one, no-holds-barred, weapons-allowed UFC match. Whoever wins the match, his team wins the war. This seems like a great idea to the Philistines, who have a 9 foot tall, corn-fed farm boy named Goliath, who just loves a good bar brawl. With this sort of competitor, the Israelis are very reluctant to get into the octagon with him.
Saul rides up in his Porshe and announces to everyone that anyone who’ll beat the guy will get a big purse. In fact, the biggest purse ever offered. He’ll give the winner his totally smoking daughter and half his kingdom if he’ll stomp some respect into the Philistine trash-talking thug. (Despite Saul’s large stature and love of pinning people to the ground with spears, he decides not to personally step into the ring. Perhaps he had retired from the fighting circuit.)
David hears about the monster payoff for whomever will take on Goliath and promptly volunteers. Saul looks at Dave like he’s grown a third head and starts flipping through his rolodex to see if there are other bands that can play for him after David goes down in the first round. David assures his boss that he’ll be good to go because “God’ll give him the victory.” Saul’s not really on speaking terms with David’s God, but he reluctantly signs his employer waiver for David to risk life and limb. However, he insists that David wear his old combat gear. He’s got a full body suit of Kevlar, the newest polymer helmet, and Barrett .50 Caliber Sniper Rifle. David tries it all on, but it’s way too bulky, so he tells his boss, “Sorry, dude. But this junk is totally cramping my flow. I totally poned lions and bears when I was dayjobbing as a shepherd with my bo staff and my sling, so I’ll just use those.”
After that, Dave went out, got some rocks from the local stream, and headed over to the octagon. David challenges the champ, who proceeds to laugh at him and then, to make matters worse, he insults David’s God, his entire people, and his sister. At about that point, David decides to lock and load. Uncertain of what the teenager is doing, Goliath yells, “You must be stoned if you think that a punk like you can take me out. I’ve got the best polymer armor and I’m hand holding a MK-19 high velocity grenade launcher!”
Dave locks his ammo in place, and replies, “Nah. I’m not stoned. But I’m going to teach you barbarian trash why it's our time to rock!” With that he whips his sling around and hurls a granite projectile into the giant’s forehead, where it buries itself completely. The bruiser’s eyes cross and he falls down unconscious. David then saunters over to his unconscious foe, takes the M60 Machine gun he’s got strapped to his back, and proceeds to blow Goliath’s head to kingdom come. At that point, the Philistines decide they didn’t really mean they’d surrender and head for home like teenagers fleeing a kegger when the cops show up!
Now, in modern society, people think that the sling David used was a sling shot. This is the reason most people miss one of the most important elements of this tale. Sling shots are fairly weak elastic projectile launchers. The ancient sling had no elastic but was made of two thongs of leather connected with a large pouch in the middle. A sling wielder would put a rock the size of a softball into the pouch, whirl the straps around, and loose one of the straps when enough centrifugal force had been built up. The projectile would end up going well over a hundred miles an hour and trained sling throwers were so accurate that they could reportedly hit a hair from a 100 feet. As such, the question of what David did had nothing to do with firepower, but all to do with the perception of his weapons, his courage to stand in the face of the giant who could easily end his life, and his belief that there was a higher power that he served who would enable him to have victory.
Much like David, we have a lot of people saying that, if we want to beat the Goliath of obscurity and overwhelming odds, we must be just like Hollywood. Just like Saul wanted to outfit David with all his clothes and weapon. But the thing was, Saul may have been successful in the past, but he was nowhere near as successful as David would end up being. David would end up becoming king of all Israel and the greatest human king that Israel would ever know. Essentially, Saul was trying to make David become like him, despite the fact that Saul could no more have defeated Goliath than flown to the moon, yet David was wise enough to realize that if he did just what Saul had done, he could never surpass him. He went in a different direction by using the weapons and tools he most knew how to use, while his heart and trust in God allowed him to face off against the most heinous opponent and win.
He didn’t care if people made fun of him for using the sling and staff he was very familiar with. He knew that his shepherd’s tools were able to destroy lions and bears, so why could they not be used to destroy a gigantic human?
When we embrace the tools at our fingers as low-budget filmmakers, then we have the ability to create things that Hollywood cannot. Hollywood is old and cumbersome, with very predictable methodologies, whereas we are young, lithe, and have new ways of doing things. Additionally, we’re using tools that our opponents are not. None of the Philistines appeared to have brought slings, as they thought they were “too weak” for serious warfare. Yet the entire fate of the battle was decided with this “weak” weapon that the Philistines despised. Similarly, many people in Hollywood despise the cameras, technology, and software we use. Yet if we know our “weak” technologies well, then we can accomplish things that will surpass their feats.
This doesn’t mean that we throw out everything that Hollywood has done (as the most basic elements are necessary for storytelling), but we must not feel in any way like we need to replicate the way they do things. If we will embrace our limitations and the tools at our hands, then, like David, it will be our time to rock!
Then, maybe one day, our kingdom will be more powerful than the one that was created by Hollywood.