So as we discuss what will really help local film making everybody has a take. Some will tell you that the most important thing is getting Hollywood's attention to recognize all the talent we have...others say we need a meeting about incentives and getting with the state film commissioner, the mayor or some other messianic figure who'll deliver us from our film netherworldlyness into a shangrila, a film-topia created, constructed and delivered conveniently in our backyard, like some kind of amazing and delectible "Zelda's" piping hot pizza...maybe a combonation or my favorite a "Spinocolli"...MMMM.
Only one problem with that scenario. Zelda's doesn't deliver...Don't get me wrong: both Zelda's and the State Film Commission serve a tasty pie. It's just that the meeting we most need to attend is the "How to make and market a good movie" meeting. Kinda like the one we featured to a packed house at the Studio Center the other night.
Understand, the majority of film makers in these parts are not making million dollar plus movies that would qualify for incentives nor major distribution deals. The lion's share majority are barely learning the craft and are on a VERY indie level. Nothing wrong with that. That's how most start. It's just that what filmmakers need most is education. I see many that naively think they have something here that can compete yet, they haven't done the due dilligence...haven't truely studied the medium, nor mastered the craft. The cost of doing business can be very high and I don't want to see another filmmaker mortgage his house for a product that wouldn't even be considered on a "C" level at the local block-buster. I want us to have the best shot possible. That's why I try to learn the craft. Keep Shooting.. low budget, indie...but take myself to class.
And yes, I put myself in that student category. I used to wonder why Hollywood never made the truck up here and discovered all the wonderful things I was doing too! That is until I became humbled by life. I'll never forget the time when Joe Carnahan had just finished the film "Narc' with Jason Patric and Ray Liotta. He brought it down to the Crest theater to take a look at it and check the sound before it's big premiere that night. I was the only other person in the room (save for his two kids).
The lights went dim and the first reel spooled up. As we watched the amazing first scenes that introduced us to Jason's character in a frenzy of drug-deal-gone-bad cinematainment, I happened to glance over at Carnahan. He was watching, silently, with tears streaming down his cheeks. That's when it occuured to me that this man had not only bled for this film, he had prepared. He had studied. He was living, breathing and eating it. Not merely content to say, 'the film industry should be delivered to my door'. Nope, he had moved to be with his dream like the heroic figure in one of Joseph Campbell's classic arch-type scenarios. He had undergone catharsis. He had been transposed, transfixed and transformed by it.
I've had several such humbling moments in my lifetime, where the enormity of the raw talent, coupled with the film knowledge and tenacity was such that I instantly knew what was missing. Folks, hear me. There are true students of film making. It's not for me to decide nor judge your level of commitment. I would simply suggest that when you look at the very few film makers from our region who HAVE made it in this industry, you'll note a couple of things: Number one, they weren't waiting around for incentives...and number two they are COMMITTED STUDENTS of FILM!
Look, you can say what you want about Joe Carnahan. But you can't question is the man's film acumen. He is a walking, talking encyclodedia of film. He can chapter and verse directors, their styles and films. He has immersed himself in film theory and knowledge. Why? I mean isn't it enough to get his hands on a red camera, hire a cousin to do sound and holler "ACTION"! ?? I mean that's really what it's all about ain't it? Well, yes. But just like trying to build a building with no blue-print nor understanding of construction practices, we could conceivably create a product that will be commercially viable. The chances however, aren't with us.
That's why I say that the meeting we local filmmakers SHOULD be attending is the one like we had the other day with Dennis Willis. A meeting that will challenge our notion of what film is; a meeting that will discuss film as a communication medium, within a context of styles and substance. We should, as Carnahan has, learn from the masters: Kurasawa, Truffuat John Ford, Capra, Scorsese, Copolla. Learn from the modern day masters: David Lynch, Terrence Malick, Steven Soderberg, the Coen brothers etc. Learn their styles, their visual and auditory communication cues. Eat it and drink it. That's what is missing for most and that is the meeting we NEED to be attending.
That's why Cal Film brings people to our meetings like Carnahan, Dennis Willis, Stefan Fengmeier, Oliver Stone, Paul Martin of the DGA, and others. Don't get me wrong. Incentives are important. We must know the incentives if we are ever gonna make a million dollar-plus movie. But meanwhile, we should get to know our craft. Attend meetings where the focus is in educating you, not coddling nor congratulating. Focus our efforts on being, like Carnahan, a purpetual student of the craft, a purpetual padawan. With this spirit of humility, we may yet make a movie that Hollywood (and anyone besides our grandma) wants to see.