Wednesday, November 16, 2005

[Film] How to make an extraordinary movie

"We're going to have to go out on a limb, and then saw the limb off."

When I read this speech by Jack Lechner (4 years ago) it changed my life. The first section describes my idealistic ambitions when I started making films, the second section relentlessly dismantles my dreams and then the finale offered a way forward that immediately seemed right to me:

When I was at Channel Four in London at the beginning of the '90s, the British film industry was in far worse shape than the American independent film industry is now. When I considered a project to fund, I would ask myself, "If this film works, could it possibly help to save the British film industry?" If the answer was no, I rejected it. If the answer was yes, I advocated it. I wasn't always right, of course, but I know I was at least asking the right question.

We have to ask ourselves a version of that question now. If this film works, could it possibly help to save the American independent film industry? Could it break through the wall of apathy, and reawaken audiences to what movies can do? Could it influence other filmmakers? Could it create such a stir that your parents hear about it -- and not just from you, but from their friends?

Whatever you think of "The Blair Witch Project," it fit those criteria. So did "Reservoir Dogs." So did "She's Gotta Have It." So did "Paris Is Burning." What made these movies stand out? I can tell you in two words -- artistic ambition. I can tell you in one word -- daring. These movies were gambles. The filmmakers were doing something that you hadn't seen a million times before.

Folks, every movie that breaks through from here on out is going to need to do that. Instead of making nice little movies, we're going to have to take outrageous chances. We're going to have to go out on a limb, and then saw the limb off. And if your film can't do that -- if it isn't unique enough, if it isn't extraordinary enough, if it isn't dynamic enough to compete with all the other movies that are out there -- then be prepared for oblivion, because you won't even get the chance to find out.

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