This past summer, when most of my television programs wrapped up for the season, I decided to replace my TV time with the simple pleasure of enjoying a big bowl of popcorn and catching up on my movie bucket list.
There have been times over the years when life got in the way of seeing everything I wanted to in the theatre, and I am OK with that. When I missed one, I usually said to myself, “It’s just a movie.”
But more recently, I have picked up a renewed interest not only in that list of missed movies but old classics as well.
At this point in my life, it’s a whole new ball game. In my 50’s, I know I have a greater sense of appreciation for the artistic effort behind any movie. I also bring to the table a greater ability to admire the masterpiece in its intricate detail.
Plus, in looking ahead to my next career as a writer, I have to admit that the appetite is there to go through as many movies as possible to see what common denominators come up that make a movie work.
Interestingly, my career experience with projects comes in handy, because at the end of a movie, I have been asking myself questions that are much like a post-mortem after the implementation of a work initiative: what worked, what didn’t work, what would I have done differently, what inspired me, and what did I learn from it?
And from there, after having watched several movies, I can also ask myself what the enjoyable ones had in common in terms of themes, characteristics and storyline. Similarly, I also take note of what made this story particularly unique, was it the storytelling style, a fresh perspective, something that was ahead of its time or perhaps very timely. Was it a topic that was particularly relatable, did it stir up strong emotions, or maybe was it something I have never seen on the screen before?
As much as I try to bring out the positive in the movies, I would be remiss in not taking note of aspects that made me think, “Make it stop!”, “This is boring” or simply “Huh?”
If I abandon ship 20 minutes after a movie started, what precipitated that strong reaction? I typically find that happening with storylines that have too many characters or too many details to juggle, stories that are very slow to take off, or stories with extreme, unexplained disconnections.
With the answers I have been collecting through my own self-guided film study, I am hoping that trends and common threads will emerge, that will help guide my path through my own writing in the years to come.
Through the beauty of the Internet, it is also possible to read movie reviews from the notable critics at the time when the movie was released. I have found myself going back to compare notes with the critics to see if our points of view agree and if not, why now? The critics’ analysis of a movie can also be value-added in picking up on points I may have missed in my own viewing experience and in seeing how the movie affected other viewers.
But as much as I may try to gather all this information and develop some type of formula, I am very much aware that respecting a formula does not necessarily guarantee success when it comes to art and creativity.
At the same time, something completely innovative and never seen before, may be too unfamiliar for general audiences.
I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle, in finding the right mix of familiar anchors to ground the storyline, but throwing in a few twists and surprises to keep the audience on their toes and leave them wanting more.
I’d like to think that the time spent enjoying movies and really paying attention to what made me (and audiences) say “Wow!” is another useful building block for my future career as a writer.
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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,