In my last article, I talked about how inspiration struck me for that article… and when. Continuing along with that train of thought, I thought I would talk about my love of film, especially short film. Especially how it inspires me.
It Started A Long Time Ago¶
When I think back to the most memorable times of my life, there are usually movies associated with each of those moments. Before my parents split up, I can remember watching Godzilla movies like Godzilla Vs Mechagodzilla with my cousins at their house. I can remember the many Christmastimes where my mother and I watched White Christmas and sang along with the songs that we knew by heart. I can remember my mother saving up money so that we could see Star Wars together as a family (minus my dad) after my parents divorced. And after my youngest son was born, I fondly remember going to see The Country Bears with my daughter.
I can go on and on, with interesting memories of movies and the times and circumstances around those movies. But there are also movies that I watched just to watch a movie and see if the people behind the movie were going to do something interesting. As someone who is creative in his personal life and professional life, it interests me to see what people come up with. Be it an interesting plot twist or a very predictable plot twist done with style, it does not really matter. It is the craft with which these movies are made that speaks to me. And different movies speak to me in different ways.
For example, let me start with Avatar. I have had interesting discussions on whether this is a good movie with many people. Some people say it is overrated and some say the acting is wooden. Some people say there is too much animation and some people say there is enough animation. I think they are all missing the point. From my viewpoint, James Cameron had a vision of how he wanted the movie to look and sound, and he delivered on that vision. I personally liked the movie’s other qualities, as did many other people apparently judging by the box office numbers. But for me it was more about the cinematography, the animation, the audio, and the creativity that made this a fantastic movie for me.
On the other side of the coin, there is Flash Gordon. I do admit, this is one of the corniest favorite movies of mine, but I will not back down from saying it is a great movie. First off, I am a major fan of the rock group Queen, and they wrote and performed most of the music in the movie. Next are the visuals. The original Flash Gordon movies came out in the late 1930s and I passionately believe that the producers of the 1980 film tried to keep the look and feel of the 1930s movie, while upgrading them to be a bit psychedelic for the 1980s. Finally… it is a movie that does not take itself seriously. From my point of view, which is what completes the movie. Though I must admit, seeing Brian Blessed as a hawkman still makes me smile to this day.
When I am looking for a new movie to watch, I am looking for a wise way to invest a good ninety minutes or more in something that may interest me. It can be schlocky or classic, thought provoking or mind-bending, old-time science fiction or golden-age science fiction, horror or downright silly. It really does not matter to me. It just needs to be something where I can say “yeah, I don’t mind investing that time.”.
As life goes on, the things that you need to do in life build up and consume time. In addition, that thing called “energy”, which seems to be in shorter supply these days than it was in my youth. On top of that, instead of most movies being ninety minutes as they were when I was growing up, it is common for movies to be around the two hour mark, with movies with good stories edging closer to three hours. But the longer a movie is, the more it needs to deliver on its value to the movie watcher. If it does not deliver, people get bored, give it bad reviews, and stop watching it.
Let me use the Rocky Horror Picture Show as an example of that. It is one of the campiest movies I have ever seen, and I love it! But at a run time of one hundred minutes, I must admit that I wish that the movie ended about seven to eight minutes earlier than it did. I feel that there are parts of the movie that could have been tightened up or dropped on the cutting room floor. But with a run time of one hundred minutes (and me singing along with the songs in the movie), I would argue that it has a good length for the film that it is. A longer movie would have to have something stellar added in to make up for the added run time. And I just do not think that would be possible with that movie.
The answer to the run time issue for me are short films. Short films offer me a chance to roll the dice with many small movies and see if I like what they are delivering. Most of these films are between twelve minutes and thirty minutes in length, allowing me to watch multiple short films in a single night. Because I have interesting tastes in movies, I can usually follow the YouTube recommendations and find interesting themes to go with. And because the run time is so low, I do not feel bad if I watch something that is a waste of time.
To be honest though, I rarely skip through a movie without giving it at least three chances. If I find myself looking at what is next in my queue during the movie, that is one strike. If I find myself looking to see what other people have said about the movie during the movie, that is another strike. If I find myself wishing the movie would just end… NOW… that is the third strike. If it fails on all three counts, it is likely not to get any better with any added runtime.
Everyone Starts Somewhere¶
If you are lucky in life, you get to see the early work of someone who later becomes famous. I remember talking to someone from nearby Brantford, Ontario who saw Wayne Gretzky play for his high school team before making it big. The man said that he could just see Gretzky naturally figure out how things worked in that ice rink. He recalled watching Gretzky play later in life for the Edmonton Oilers and the Los Angeles Kings, telling me that parts of his play style matured and parts just remained as iconic as the first time he saw him. It was just magic for that hockey fan getting to see someone at both ends of a stellar career.
In the film world, that person is George Lucas. Lucas wrote and directed the film Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB while he was still in film school. After school Lucas expanded on that fifteen minute short film and directed THX 1138 before directing the Star Wars movies and producing other movies, including the Indiana Jones movies and television series. But without that first movie and its fifteen minute run length, it is entirely possible that the rest of his movie career might not have taken off.
And especially with smart phones being so advanced these days, it is easier to express your creativity than ever before. There are plenty of people that have promising ideas and just want to get them out there. And to be fair, there are lots of people with so-so ideas and nasty ideas as well. But by the time I find those movies, they have usually been filtered out of what I am searching for. But whether I am seeing the next Gretzky, the next Lucas, or just someone living out their dream to direct a movie, if I can see their creativity, it is okay with me.
Short films are a godsend for me. I get to relax and watch something to see if it piques my interest, and I get to see if someone might be doing something interesting enough that I want to see more of their films. That is something that I consider inspiring. Any decent talent can make the second Star Wars movie, but it took Lucas, his creativity, and the willingness to put himself out there to make the first Star Wars movie. That is what these people are doing… being creative and taking a chance that what they produce will resonate with viewers.
And that is what I consider inspiring.
So what do you think? Did I miss something? Is any part unclear? Leave your comments below.