30 Jul a journey to nerd mecca
this last weekend was the 42nd annual Comic Con. if for some strange reason you escaped the media blitz surrounding this event, let me give you a quick explanation of it.
imagine nerds. now imagine their mecca. now imagine that large media corporations figured out that if they make things the nerds like, the nerds will spend their money on said items. now image the large media corporations decided to sponsor extravagant parties in nerd-mecca.
perhaps a tad over simplified, but the small convention for comic book artist, fans, and publishers has grown into an epic “Festival of the Popular Arts,” that features comics, movies, tv shows, games, toys, original art, t-shirts, and cos-play.
this was my 4th year going. each year I feel like I understand the convention a little more and am able to negotiate the pitfalls a little better. this time I wasn’t in it for the costumes, games, toys, and comics… My goal was to attend the panels and listen to filmmakers and artists talk about making their work. Hopefully, I can apply their lessons to my own projects.
next I’m going to write about the different panels and the specific things I found interesting in each…there’s no real “through line” or consistent theme other than these are filmmakers making the sorts of films that I like to watch…and would love to be making.
the first panel I went to was for TRON, in Hall H. last year, the first day in Hall H was a mad house. “Twilight” AND “Avatar” were scheduled that day…and there were many screaming girls (and their mothers) in attendance. this year, no Twilight meant less girls – although there were a couple NON-comic fans in line near me. it was their first year at the Con and they were there for “Salt” and “Megamind.” both of these struck me as odd…especially since “Salt” was opening that week. why wait in line for hours to see a preview of something coming out soon? but it definitely illustrates that part of the convention’s continued growth is due to it’s more “inclusive” nature.
a couple things stood out about the TRON panel. the first was the use of audience participation. part way through the event they had the entire 5000 person crowd do a series of karaoke style shout-alongs that were being recorded FOR the movie. we said things like “Res-ner,” “Disk wars,” and “De-Res.” we stomped our feet and cheered…and in between NO ONE misbehaved. nobody shouted, or whistled, or yelled “freebird.” everyone played along. it was really remarkable. by including the crowd in the filmmaking process, they had just made them 5000 fans. people want to feel special. and when they feel special, they tell other people about WHAT made them feel that way. in this case, it was the makers of TRON.
the other thing was something that Jeff Bridges said:
“We need modern myths.”
this really made me think. after “Star Wars” – what do we have? “The Matrix?” anything else? there is something deep seated and important about myths. so, how do I tell stories that fulfill the same needs as the “myths of old?”
Peter Sarsgaard, who plays the villain Hector Hammond in the film, told a story of when the director, Martin Campbell pitched him the roll. the director told him the story through HIS character’s eyes.
why is this important? it makes the story REAL for the actor. it shows them the journey that THEIR character will go on. making the character more interesting will help get talent. it’s that simple. why would a talented, in-demand actor want to be in ______ movie? there needs to be a hook, and showing them the story as their character would experience it is a good way to do it.
Cowboys & Aliens + Captain America
both films showed rough, unfinished footage. why do this? why show something that isn’t 100% perfect?
because it makes the audience feel special (just like with TRON). letting them see something exclusive sets up fan loyalty. a core group of committed fans can MAKE a movie even before it is done with production. many would argue that the buzz that the Jon Favreau’s first “Iron Man” earned at Comic Con set it on the early road to success. personally I can’t wait to see “Cowboys & Aliens” his next flick…and I’ve told numerous people how awesome it looks.
Let Me In
when should a movie be re-imagined? rebooted? that is, when should a film be remade? this question was the “elephant inside the room” at this panel. after all, the Swedish film “Let The Right One In” has been rated as one of the best movies. EVER. I’m not sure that the questioned was every really answered, but it was interesting to see the director, Matt Reeves, dance around the question. without a doubt, he definitely loves the source material (a *gasp* book) AND the Swedish version of the film. with his version of the tale, he is not trying to “one up” or “replace” the first film, rather he seeks to add another interpretation to the source material.
he had several intriguing things to say; for me the most interesting were the notes he received from Spielberg regarding working w/ children. since one of my leads for “Certified” is a kid, I paid close attention to these.
first off, let them come up with stuff. no need to feed them everything, let them start with how THEY imagine things. kids have great imaginations and if you can build off those, it will be a more organic process for them.
second, have them journal AS their characters. every day they can write about whatever they want, as their characters, only rule is they must share and discus w/ director. I don’t think this will be necessary for “Certified,” since it’s such a short project, but I’ll keep it in mind for future projects.
while walking around the floor I also had some thoughts regarding my own work, and specifically how I “pitch” it to people.
when people ask me “what sort of films do you make?” I’ve invariably said “short films and music videos.”
this is a horrible answer. it’s a conversation ender. I can talk about my work… and I should. this happened once at a booth where I was buying a plush toy and later that night I was thinking about it. I realized that I need to change how I answer that question, so I’ve been working on it.
what sort of films do I make? I make films that deal with reality and question our perception of it. my work is a surreal, fantastic, quirky, and often funny take on the human condition. what does it mean to be a member of society, to be a co-signer of the social contract and how does our perception of reality affect how we do participate in society? most often I’m working the sci-fi, fantasy, or noir genres.
it still needs a little work, and that might be a little too didactic for some, but it’s a good start.
on my last day at Comic Con, I spent about 9 hours in Hall H. I had the best seats I’ve EVER had…I could actually see the faces of the people on the panels.
here’s a pic of the screen from near my seat.
and then…this GIANT guy sat in front of me. take a look at how much of screen his head blocked out.
ahhh well. C’est la vie.
Or in Klingon, “vetlh ‘oH yIn.”