While it’s always good to look back and survey your work (I recently looked back at some school projects I did in 2001-2003 and thought of all the things I would have changed if I were to do it today), the extent to which the film industry is ‘rehashing’ the past is a little bit different.
I’ve heard a lot of people complain that ‘we are in the era of remakes.’ It’s not only remakes, it’s sequels to long-dead films that probably should not have a sequel. The Terminator series has about run its course, and yet there was a 4th and a 5th installment in the franchise coming. Spider-Man’was rehashed after the Tobey McGuire and James Franco trilogy for two additional films that rebooted the series, and now it’s being rehashed AGAIN in 2017 (I don’t know the specifics but my friend Jim is an encyclopedia of comic book knowledge).
I’m also not really looking forward to the new Star Wars’ films, ANOTHER film based around Wolverine from the X-Men; it’s getting to the point where you can’t watch other films he’s done without seeing WOLVERINE–he’s in great danger like Jason Alexander and Michael Richards are in of being typecast or being recognized as only their characters for the rest of their careers (I guess there is a Seinfeld’curse, if a TV show has super-brilliant writing that brings out larger-than-life characters, that’s what people remember about the actors who played them. If the actor can’t do character acting that well, it’s pretty hard not to see George Costanza wherever Jason Alexander is.
(of course if you went to the same Acting school I did, you know there IS no such thing as a ‘character.’ But more on that in another article.)
So what’s the reason, how to stop this and how do we become original again? First off, it’s just franchises which have been determined to make money, not just make the producers’ money back, but squeeze as much as they can out of a certain franchise over and over and over again until the public loses interest. It’s like by the time Earnest did his 8th or 9th film, the public had pretty much had enough. Some even after his first film!
I think the most counter-arguments would answer, ‘well, just go watch independent films at festivals or online.’ Well, the problem with this is that there are SO many of these films that can be considered ‘independent,’ and made with such a huge volume (I’m not sure how many videos are uploaded to YouTube every second, but it’s a lot), that the actual art of filmmaking is dying somewhat in favor of watching animals do funny shit or people doing stupid stunts they really shouldn’t be doing. Or ‘man on the street’ interviews, or whatever. The list goes on.
My original training was in the strength of the image. Film is, as much as some would like to argue it, a visual medium. It’s designed to capture (usually) human behavior, not spoken lines from a script. Theatre, actually, has the honor of being the art of the spoken word (and yes you can argue there are performances without any words and just movement such as dances, but the majority of popular theatre is finding the play’s given circumstances through character conversations). So with this huge infusion of more and more films that we can possible consume in 800 billion lifetimes, blurbs and blogs bombarding us every day and turning into white noise–we’ve turned off a bit to seeing film for what it should be–a work of art. While some would argue capturing beautiful images draws attention to the film’s medium, I’d say if it’s in service to the story, assuming it’s an original one and not a rehash, it’s something that enters our subconscious a bit more than the conscious mind.
Try this: watch a film but only look at the edits. You’ll find it’s not only really hard to follow the film, but this effect can last about a week before going away. Or second, focus on nothing but what each character wants in each scene, and ignore the visuals. You get a much clearer understanding of the film this way. Most people don’t do either of the above activities. We’re willing to ‘suspend our disbelief’ and ignore the ‘craft’ of the film. I’m not saying I want my editing work to be noticed and to have people say, ‘wow that film had really good editing,’ I don’t want people to know that I worked on the film at all. The film should flow so well that no one should ever notice the editing without consciously making the decision to do so.
I have a former videography teacher who started an online institution called ‘The School of No Media.’ While it would probably take me a lifetime to figure out what’s going on inside his head and why he chose to go this route after 30+ years in film and video, I’m gauging this ‘School of No Media’ as a reaction of sorts to the huge inundation I previously described-remakes, rehashes, tons of bloggers, webcam videos, family pets doing silly things, etc. The very phrase asks us to step back and question why we use media and what its actuals purpose is. In a world without media, would we still be able to tell compelling stories, capture compelling images and relate them via spoken word or drawing, capture interesting audio tracks by using our voices to mimic and/or change what we heard in nature? Probably, yes; if all of this was stripped away from us, and we were forced to look at each other in the eyes again rather than always at a screen, we’d have something more powerful and more meaningful than the best independent film or the most successful remake–our imagination.
And so we go back to the beginning of how all of this started.
Note: The image at the top of this article is Carlos Gonzalez-Vio in a still from Apocalypse and the Beauty Queen’which I helped edit back in 2005. I really enjoyed the film for its striking visuals (the writer and director was a career photographer) despite some holes in the script. I found that image to be particularly interesting especially because it’s not the kind of thing we see very often–a character who looks somewhat beat-up wearing a fur coat looking at someone or something that is probably elevated above them in front of them. Without knowing what the scene is about or lines from the script, it’s got a lot of story behind it and you can use your imagination to create your own version of what you think is going on there.