One of the most difficult things for the writer and director (and sometimes actors) is to translate something new into something familiar.
You’ve heard it so many times that me repeating it weakens my resolve to get out of bed, but it’s true:
Some fresh, bold vision of filmmaking hits the market, charms the audience and makes hundreds of millions of dollars, and in the case of James Cameron’s Avatar, for example, billions of dollars.
It is not the next week before everyone else—even the ones who scoffed and sneered at the originality and daring of the example film—will be scrambling to imitate it.
And what’s the perennial lesson? You might be able to imitate style or cinematography or special effects, but you cannot imitate vision, or heart.
So, the battle lies in the translation. How do you convince your investors and financiers that your unique vision—you know, the one that doesn’t look or feel like anyone else’s—actually has a place in the modern film market?
If they are not literate or creative enough to understand the novelty of your work—and honestly, there is nothing entirely wrong with ‘not getting it’; they are money guys, that’s why they are investing in you and your imagination—then you have to knead them with passion and hit them with as much documentation and preparation as you can to assuage their fear that this new idea can be profitable.
Here’s the problem: most financiers, investors and studio executives don’t understand the very thing they are in charge of approving. This is why you always hear “filmmaking is such a risk” and “nobody knows what going to be a hit”—there is a kernel of truth to this, but it is not broad, overarching reality so many people want it to be.
Let’s put it in perspective.
If you were entrusted with approving or disapproving something you knew absolutely nothing about—say, a peculiar alloy used in space travel—what would you do? Same thing studio executives do: look at a bunch graphs and charts that follow the use, manufacture and sale of such peculiar alloys in the space industry. Hoping the charts were accurate and up to date, you would make a decision from the opinions of others.
Now, if you were the guy who invented the metal and had intimate knowledge of the metallurgical demands of any given space project, you wouldn’t need charts or graphs—because you have intimate knowledge of your own invention. You know what it can handle, even if the pie chart says it can’t.
Well, there you go.
Now, moving on to the storytelling side of things…
Don’t translate everything.
Something has to be new. It is okay if something is inexplicable or mystical or odd, as long as it is couched in a fairly comprehensible cradle of recognizable drama.
Otherwise, put something new on the audience’s plate. If they want to ignore it, pick at it or swallow it whole, that’s their prerogative.
Just make sure it has the recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals.
If not, add parsley.
Writer | Producer | Director | Designer
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