Films aren’t just about the wide shot, the medium and the close-up.
The locations, the lighting, the sound…What’s far more important than any of the technical decisions you make and believe me there are many, is the question you must continue to ask yourself over and over again…what do you want your audience to feel.
Film is an extremely emotional communicative art form….in case you hadn’t noticed when sit-ing in the darkness, surrounded by sniffling, laughter and gasps of wonder and fear. It is the most immediate way to make someone feel. More than music, more than literature, more than art even. Film is the sublime leveler, making us all feel…regardless of who we are, what we earn and where we come from.
So the question of how and what to make your audience feel must be paramount in your reason to make a film and must be the focus of absolutely everything you do.
Do you even remember the last film you saw that you didn’t have a big, visceral emotional response to? I certainly don’t and that’s not because my brain is old…which it is. It’s because films that don’t grab you by the heart are not memorable. They might be fun, or pretty good, or even interesting for a few moments on screen and even for a few minutes while you collect your empty popcorn buckets and try to remember where you parked. But I bet by the time you’re halfway home the experience of that film will have been lost….like tears in rain. Which is the perfect analogy and quote…Blade Runner…an unforgettable and deeply emotional film.
So how do you make sure that your audience will “feel you?”
If I knew the actual answer to that I would be running a studio…which I really think I should be if I’m honest.
I think it’s all in the writing…and in the casting.
Thinking about the emotion of the story also makes you think very hard about the purpose of it all. Making a film is such an excruciatingly difficult thing to do in the first place, for goodness sake make all that effort worthwhile. I can tell you how many films I’ve seen, short films, documentary and feature length that make me go “meh.” What’s the point of that!! It makes me so annoyed to think of all the hours of work that went into something that had no effect on me whatsoever. And I am notoriously easy to please. My husband is far tougher on films than I am.
At least it employs people I guess, but I’d rather spend my cash on something better…something excellent…something moving. I suppose that’s why I end up on the couch watching Blade Runner, or Love Actually, or The Great British Bake Off.
As I get older and hopefully wiser I become much more scrouge-like with the remaining minutes of my life. What I choose to make, or write, or even consider being a part of is more and more crucially dependent of my immediate emotional connection to it. In the first few moments of an idea forming, or a story begin told or even a dodger pitch I have to react at an atomically emotional level or it’s just not going to work for me.
Of course we are all different and I am absolutely not the “audience” for everything. I don’t Tiktok for example. So I am not telling you that you have to do what I do, or write what I write or react the way I react. But you do have to make what you feel important, because then, hopefully, your particular audience will connect with that same urgency you connected with in the first place.
Filmmaking is not all about cool shots, great stunts, gorgeous people, the latest paraphernalia and heaven forbid, CGI. Filmmaking is all about what your eyes tell your brain and what your brain then tells your heart. Filmmaking truly is like a box of chocolates…only you can give the audience what you want them to get…it’s magical really and being able to share your deepest emotions in a cerebral and artistic way without even being in the room when you do is more than magic…it’s very nearly divine.
So please, please, please make it as meaningful as anything else you do in life because when a film is made well, with purpose and with heart it can make immortals…