No one tells you how much fun it is to make a movie.
They’ll talk about George Clooney and J-Lo, million-dollar paydays, red carpets, exotic locales, and hotel suites: all the bling and glitter around making movies, if you happen to be one of the lucky few.
And then they’ll fix you with a serious look, drop their voice and say, “But that won’t happen for you.”
You won’t make it in film. There’s no money. No one will listen. The theatres only care about selling candy bars, the studios will never hire you. Audiences numbed by years of Transformers and comic-book movies don’t want to see anything different. Certainly not something authentic. Heartfelt. Real. The kind of story you would tell.
I don’t believe that for a minute. But even if I did, even if I knew for sure that my films would never make a hit, I would still want to do it.
Because making a movie is just so much fun.
Imagine one day you’re sitting in a cafe and an idea comes to you. Not just any idea, but the kind of tingling, electrically charged, somehow magical idea that shows up of its own accord, strolls through the doors of your mind, and proceeds to unfold itself in all its glorious wonder.
A story. A great story. Something at once personal and exotic, relevant and new, the kind of story you can’t wait to hear the end of.
And it’s in your head! And you get to write it!
So you write it. And then the fun begins. Working through a venerable, highly-structured process – a craft, an art, passed down from generation to generation since the first silent movies – you break the script down into pieces. Rebuild it into shots and camera setups and rehearsal schedules and floor plans, expand it into actual locations, sets, costumes, props and visual hoodoo, formulate plans every bit as complex as a construction schedule, working not alone but with a team of talented, creative, highly skilled experts, so that a kind of collective germination happens, ideas come from everyone, the best of these rise to the top, becoming something better than any one person could have come up with.
And that’s all before you bring in the actors.
Actors are amazing. The hairs go up on the back of my neck when I see a talented actor take a script – really just a few lines of dialogue written on a page – and bring it to life, picking up nuances in the words, the story, things pulled out of the air, until they embody the character, they actually are them. Their face, their eyes, their body – on screen, it will seem so real that you can’t imagine there’s a camera involved.
Then you take all these elements – cast and crew, location, shot lists, cameras, time and space, budgetary limitations, weather, sound, the quality of light – and turn on a camera. You capture all that on a photographic lens, and suddenly, somehow, if you’re lucky – Boom. There it is. A new reality, something which never existed before.
To be a filmmaker is to have the power to create something from nothing. To put an image onto a screen which is so real, so compelling, that people will put their hands over their eyes at the scary bits, and laugh when a character laughs. They will sit in a darkened theatre, eyes shining, watching with all their heart, quote lines to friends and revisit it when they’re sad, so that the film becomes a part of the fabric of their life.
That story, that little spark which came into your head, has come alive. It’s grown to life-sized, entwined with the thoughts and dreams of your collaborators and cast, and become real, as far as our minds and hearts are concerned.
That’s why we do it. Because to create something which touches another person’s heart is the greatest thrill and honour I can imagine.
So I’ll be here, making movies, as long as I am able.