New Year, big question

Today I am answering one question:

Hi there, I’ve been reading a lot of your stuff, and I’d like to have some clarification on your opinions and thoughts. First, what do you like and dislike about Raiders of the Lost Ark? I watched it a couple of days ago and while I enjoyed it, I felt many of the realistic performances wasn’t consistent with the caricatured storytelling and the running time was about fifteen minutes too long for the amount of action in the film. What’s good and could be better in your eyes? What would you change?

What I like about Raiders: the hero who fails & keeps trying. The hero who seems constantly overwhelmed, and gets taken down a peg every time he gets cocky. A girl who matches up to the hero and doesn’t take shit from him.

What I dislike: It’s not something that is hugely meaningful, it’s just for fun - I wish it would be more than that. I wish Marion got to do more after the Well of Souls… I often lose interest after the truck chase (could be what you’re saying about 15 minutes?)

I wouldn’t change a thing, though! I’ve learned how hard it is to make movies work while working on them and directing my own; I could sit and talk about stuff like “That manaical laugh from Belloq is over-the-top at the beginning” but the interesting thing is, if you start moving or removing pieces, the entire thing changes. If the over-the-top villainous laugh disappeared, would the other pulpy stuff feel even more out of place? In a way, the laugh sets your expectations - get ready, this movie is going to be a little over-the-top.

Also dude how arrogant would I have to be to think I could do things better than Spielberg!? The guy’s a film genius! All I feel comfortable saying is what I like and what I dislike as an audience.

My second question is about Pixar storyboarding, and comparisions with independent work. I do not claim to be an expert on this subject, but from previous readings in other How To books and internet readings, I’ve read that Pixar Storyboard artists make anywhere from 80-150 drawings a minute for a reel with an unchangeable script, with very few creative choices involved. Obviously you’ve been involved with this system, what do you think are the pros and cons with ‘Techncial Storyboarding’?

The creative choices vary. Sometimes (even at Pixar or big studios) you get a general pitch of a scene instead of an unchangeable script. Sometimes you get a script, but the director is open to improvements from you as you go. Sometimes you do have to take the script pages and simply execute them as written, and that can be fun (when the pages are fantastic) or frustrating (when the pages don’t quite work, or when the writer writes something like “a giant space battle happens”).

What it really comes down to is doing your best at what you’re being asked to do, and making sure to ask questions so you understand what they want you to do.

My third question is about Brave. The core of the movie is about communication. The mother character has accepted her old age, while her daughter is in the heart of youth and they don’t connect; they have different expectations. The mother portions work very well, but the daughter scenes don’t because the writers do not understand the dynamic of an aggressive selfish kid. Merida never learns perspective or recognizing the problems in her community even begins to looking beyond herself. I have a brother who is just like Merida, and my dad criticizes him more than Merida’s mom. One of the things that he will do, is that he won’t talk about his problems to himself, he’ll find a surrogate (Like me!) to dump his dirty laundry on. We went on a 12 day camping trip in the wilderness. Everybody we were with told me: “Why do you put up with such a selfish person as your brother.” Finally, my brother did something to get me really angry on this camping trip, and I finally explained how I REALLY felt about his selfish behavior, and he listened to me, something he rarely does. He said he was sorry, and that I should do more things in my day that I enjoy. Brave needs a moment like that, it happened with my own mother and father. This is a universal emotion that isn’t properly tapped into in Brave.

And finally my actual question: Brave is a movie with a lot of room for improvement; the people who made it do not understand the dynamic happening on the screen. What needs to change about the studio system to allow for more balance and serendipity in an artist’s career? Thank you very much for your time, I love reading all the tips about story you have to share; they are an enormous educational help for a hobbyist like myself, and I look forward to seeing your live action movie, thanks!
Damn, dude! A few things:
  • You mention your brother. It sounds like you love him, but up until the moment he listened and apologized, he sounds unlikable, unsympathetic (how your dad saw him).
  • Would you want him to be the main character of a movie? Would you root for him to succeed at what he was (selfishly) trying to do? You understand his motivations, I bet - even understanding his motivations, would you root for him?
  • The answer isn’t always yes and it isn’t always no. Some movies successfully pull off a selfish character, some movies fail, and some adjust the character to be less selfish/more relatable/more likable to try and avoid the problem.
  • Your perspective also changes as you get older - if you’re close to being a kid, write this stuff down so you remember it! When you are a kid, your perspective is a kid’s: everything is the best or worst thing that’s ever happened to you, everything has to be dealt with immediately, everything is intense and out of control! When you’re an adult, your perspective is an adult’s: you have ideas about how the world works, you can modulate your response to situations, you can plan ahead and connive, you can take a step back and look at problems from the outside. When you’re a parent, your perspective is a parent’s: I don’t know what this entails, having not been there yet, but it’s definitely distinct from a kid’s. It’s probably difficult to jump back and forth.
  • I don’t know if you know about the difficulties Brave went through in production - a director change, mentioned here (dig around on the internet and you can find more press in early stages with Brenda, and when she was removed from the film).
  • To answer your question about what a studio could do: This isn’t realistic, but a studio with nothing to lose. If you’ve got nothing to lose, you can try anything!
Thanks for your words about my film - I’m sure there will be plenty you want to see improved in it, but look for it later this month!
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