Watch it Again

What makes a movie re-watchable? What makes a casual fan into a devotee? Is it the actors? Is it the story and the writing? Maybe it’s what the director says subtly through the sub-plot. Perhaps it’s the musical score.

I think that any of these ingredients help to make great art, but I truly believe that the perfect symphony of all of these creates the magic that draws us back time and time again.

The story is the foundation, of course. Without a great story, two hours of pretty people is still just a two dimensional way to pass time. We need to care. We long to stretch our feelings—to laugh, to cry, to rage and triumph. We desire a step away from our desks. We want to wander the world through time. Exercising our imagination is healthy.

The actors are the vessels for the stories. They convince us. They fool us, and we love it. A great actor can seduce us and frighten us at the same time. The good ones don’t ever let us know how incredible they are. We just can’t stop watching them, and we don’t know why.

My all-time favorite leading man is Cary Grant. He usually played the hero—sometimes quite begrudgingly—but he could play a villain, too. He played a slick con man, a suspected serial killer, and a ruthless gangster. He made us doubt him. He made us hate him. As a war bride, Grant was an ugly woman, but we loved him all the more.

He was terrific when he played the ordinary guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. He showed us all how to rise above a bad situation and persevere to become that champion.

Some of his best roles were when his character kept us guessing about his motives. He played a bad-boy so well, that every woman who watches is certain she can change his ways. And if not, so much the better. That’s the kind of actor that makes us watch.

Behind the actors is the score and soundtrack. The music is the medium that heightens our emotions. It’s the instant connection that carries us through the highs and lows of the story arc. The right score turns a tense moment into a nail-biter. A sweet exchange suddenly becomes the setting for love to blossom.

The director is the master of the imaginary world. He says when the sun rises and sets. What you see on the silver screen is the story that the director wants you to see. A talented director weaves the sub-plot and hints precisely, revealing details at just the right moment to keep us on the edge of our theatre seats.

Consider Spielberg or Hitchcock. They orchestrate amazing casts into tapestries of intrigue and romance. They inject humor when we can’t take one more second of fear or sorrow.

Think about the movies you watch over and over. What makes them special? What keeps you coming back? I want to hear from you!

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.

I Can Do That!

Have you ever watched American Idol or Survivor or The Amazing Race and thought to yourself, “I could do that!”?

Somewhere in your heart of hearts you just know that if you had the opportunity, you could do just as well, if not better, than the people who are being lauded and praised on TV. They are winning hundreds, thousands, and even millions of dollars, as well as huge career contracts, just for using their God-given talents. You want in, too.

I feel the same way when I watch the Oscars. In fact, when I was in the eighth grade, I had a goal of being the first woman to be nominated for an Academy Award in the four top slots—writer, director, producer and actress in a leading role. Now that was two grown children and forty pounds ago, but I still have the love for movies.

A few years ago I decided to really concentrate on my writing. I’ve always been a writer, but most of my work has been incomplete, sitting in file folders, waiting until the day I could figure out how to make it good. I’m realistic about some things, at least.

One morning I heard about a local group of writers—The Panhandle Professional Writers—which is one of the oldest writing groups in the country. They meet right here in my hometown. I joined and attended meetings. I met another writer who was published. She took me under her graceful wings, and now I have two novels that are in polishing stage. NaNoWriMo got me motivated to get the words out, and Dianne G. Sagan and her editor/ husband, Greg, help me write efficiently and with pizzazz.

But then the Oscars come along, and I see how far away from my lofty eighth grade goal I still am.

I want to make a movie. My first really completed work was a screenplay. My second, as well. I’d love to make either of those screenplays into movies, but my first, The Privateer, is about Jean Laffite. It revolves around the 1814 Battle of New Orleans. The second script, Long Lost, is set in southern California in the late 1940’s. Both of these will be big-budget features. (Notice how I said will be?)

At the present, I have… ummm… how should I say… no budget, and I live in present-day Amarillo, in the Texas Panhandle. Just to film trees would take an enormous travel budget. So what do I do?

My very supportive family and I will be putting together a movie that we can actually shoot right here in literally our own back yard. We will write the script based on a story that a close family friend told me when I was a child. He’s agreed to refresh my memory about what happened to him and his friends, and allowed me to turn it into a movie.

We’ve got a rough outline. We’re working on a cast and some locations. I’m excited. The events that inspired the story took place in the early 1960’s, but the story itself is timeless, so setting isn’t a problem.

The main challenges will be the ones we make for ourselves. I don’t want to shoot a picture that looks like I shot it in my back yard. I want something special. I plan to give the story a real-time look and feel. I want it to have the “one-take” appearance without the Blair Witch nausea. I want the audience to feel the worry and suspense of Rope. I want to direct.

This project is small. It’s a first step. Spielberg, Scorsese, Bruckheimer, Lucas, Abrams, Howard—they all took first steps.

I won’t get Academy nominations for this one. It might not be good enough to show anyone at all. But I’ve learned that you can’t take huge leaps without taking first steps.

Over the next several months, I will occasionally blog about my movie-making challenges. I will blog about the movies that inspired my dream in the first place. I’d love to hear what you think. I’d love any advice you wish to offer. Talk to me!

That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!