15 February 2008

on mummy movies

I write. That's what I do, what I've wanted to do for a ridiculously long time. And, like anybody who's been pursuing and perfecting a skill for half his life, I don't think I'm bad at it. I'm certainly not the best out there, but I do what I do pretty well.

I used to want to write books, but I prefer writing dialogue. There's nothing more interesting to me than characters speaking: how they choose their words, how they say those words, deciding why one word was selected over another... This is an experience I relish not only in my own work, but in experiencing the works of others.

Words are awesome, particularly when they're interesting.

While it might not appear as though that has much of anything to do with mummy movies on the surface, if you bear with me, I think you'll see where I'm going. I've been working on editing this movie for almost two months now, and the light at the end of the tunnel is starting to shine brighter. With the exception of a few "special effects" that I don't know how to do yet (thank goodness for the tubes) and some more black and white rendering, the picture portion of the movie is all but complete.

As of right now, I still like the movie; the jokes still make me laugh, I discover new nuances in the actors' performances, and I'm still fairly blown away that we managed something like this in the span of time that we had available to us. Sure, it's an amateur horror/comedy with parts that are significantly less than auspicious, but I think it's greater than the sum of all those parts. It's trying really goddamn hard, and for me, that's one of its most important qualities. It's not that it's a low-budget horror movie because doesn't care enough to be more than a low-budget horror movie, it's that it is by virtue of its birth. It's trying to be the best low-budget horror/comedy it can be (emphasis on the comedy, to be honest).

The point of all of this is that I am not anything remotely approaching "skilled" at any of the other elements that go into making a movie: directing, cinematography, production design, acting, editing, scoring... Anything that isn't arranging words in their appropriate order, I'm not so good at. Admittedly, I won't let anyone else do these things for me, but that stems more from an "if someone's going to fuck this up, it might as well be me" personality flaw than genuine feelings of compassion or attachment to the production/post-production phases of movie-making. Plus, I'm usually so attached to my projects at the end of the writing process that I feel I'm more emotionally and intellectually qualified to direct/shoot/cut it than anyone else. That's probably ego talking.

This post wasn't intended to be a rambling apology for the fact that, under the guidance of a better director, the mouse arrow of a better editor, the eye of a superior cinematographer, all the things that I can do by virtue of my education, but that I lack a specific "zing" at the more technical, visual, and aural elements of moviemaking. This is just a statement of fact.

And I'm not saying I'm not up to the challenge. If there has ever been anything in my life where I've displayed a serious curve of growth (assuming that such a phrase exists outside of my mind - if it doesn't, I'm calling it), it's the pursuit of this film thing. I've gotten better; I'm certainly nothing resembling a master or a professional or anything like that, but I'm better at it.

My heart still resides in words, in that all-too-often-mused-upon relationship between a writer and a blank page. You don't have to shift people's schedules around to write, you don't have to trudge through the internet to uncover the mystical secrets of a computer program you could screw around with for years and still not master, and you don't usually have to do things by committee.

Film is, by its nature, a collaborate medium (unless you're one of those experimental animator people) - actors, writers, producers, directors, crew, post-production staff, projectionist, etc etc. If you contributed to the piece in a substantive way, you deserve a voice in it (assuming you want one). I'm certainly not arguing that. I don't want to marginalize anyone's contribution, anyone's opinion, particularly since I'm not some sort of virtuoso when it comes to this. But trying to please everyone results in pleasing no one.
Somebody has to have the final say. I think it's going to be me, and even if it's imperfect, I wouldn't want it any other way. But I still like words more.

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