Emotion In Filmmaking

Why exaggerate something that is somewhat insignificant to you? -Alec Baldwin

Constructing a creative reality relies on a thorough visualization process.  To create a world, either as a screenwriter or a director, that resonates with audiences, you must be willing to delve as deeply as possible into the process.  Examining your own ideas, thoughts, prejudices, and relationships helps access the themes that make a fictional world come to life.

Constructing the Ethical Screenplay

Most top screenplays deal in some fundamental way with ethics. For instance, the film Groundhog Day, which seems superficially to be a madcap starry-eyed farce, actually concerns death; it also tackles knowledge, possibility, and closeness. Its basis is a mystical teaching: so to really transform his life, a man must kill his old ego.

The screenplay’s basic premise is that one day in the life of Phil Connors (portrayed by Bill Murray) is repeated over and over again,  and his involvement in that one day’s events has significance for his soul but no results in the world. This causes him to act recklessly, starting with more bold demonstrations of the insolence and self-centeredness he is previously recognized for, advancing to crimes such as robbery, and ultimately leading to suicidal like driving his car off a cliff repeatedly.

Phil wants to die! His cruelty and self-centeredness conceal his intense self-loathing. However, Phil, now separated from the certainties of the people around him, is pushed to scrutinize the similar individuals, locations, and events continually until he ultimately looks past their exterior and moves into truly knowing them. He is taught closeness and discovers self-esteem. The screenplay’s fundamental method, one day recurring continually, provides a whimsical view of the eternal truth that true transformation takes time. Phil’s transformation into a close and engaging individual is thus not unjust and maudlin, but rather earned with difficulty and, therefore, psychologically fulfilling.

To create such a story, both psychologically and narratively successful, the cinematographic contributors (director, writer, actors) must think about, to whatever degree they can, their own ethics, attitudes about death, hope, and transformation, ideas about the authority of knowledge, and their own self-loathing. They should explore these questions until they experience something and those emotions–whether dread, embarrassment, appreciation or a combination of those and other emotions–are certain to be extremely instructive and individual.

Unlike Gilligan’s Island or Hogan’s Heroes, which also included outermost locales, Northern Exposure utilized the location’s harshness and seclusion to place its characters into everyday conflict with life and death. Even though it included delightfully madcap characters-it dealt with tolerating humanity. It was, in some ways, shocking that people would criticize the show because of the sheer number of episodes that dealt with death.  They misunderstood—the show wasn’t focused on death, but instead focused on the human condition which, of course, includes issues of life and death.

Somewhat similarly, The Ice Storm was also criticized because the boy’s death was termed excessively disappointing for a tale concerning the ‘70’s traditions. Once more, the objective was misunderstood. The Ice Storm did not focus on ‘70s traditions. Its ethical point of view revolved around a boy’s death–an unexpected, haphazard, impenetrable, unbelievable demise–and the life that remained, complete with nastiness, callousness, stupidity, self-destruction, study, and occasionally compassion that occurred as a result.

Constructing a Fictional World: The Mike Leigh Technique

“The whole thing is fair game if you observe it realistically, and from every potential outlook, and are inspired by some type of opinion about it.”-Mike Leigh

Occasionally movie directors suggest that they want to create a “Mike-Leigh type” movie, permitting the actors to ad-lib the discourse and circumstances. They believe this style will be some type of shortcut to screenplay writing, but they are disappointed to find that a Mike Leigh project is no less skillfully or intricately constructed than any other.  Few directors are as courageous, overconfident, charismatic, skillful, and enthusiastic enough to successfully complete a project using his technique.

Mike Leigh’s technique, which he describes as “compiling the resources” to create a movie, is neither a shortcut nor a way to create a movie. Instead, it’s a way to arrange to create a movie. Leigh cultivated his technique during his theater years, initially as an actor, then as the writer-director of several plays. He alleges that his theater work was a path to filmmaking; he was learning how to work with performers and how to produce both a character and story.

Leigh’s technique is aesthetic. He hopes to create movies that originated at an art-school life drawing class. “All of a sudden I had this intuitive moment. I understood that my experiences as an art student were that working from foundation and observing something that was in fact real and stimulated you were the solution to creating an artwork.” By “working from foundation,” he implies that he shapes all formed characters on actual individuals. He initially selects a common subject and the actors he wishes to work with, then spends long hours for two to three months with each actor in an interpersonal conference. He has the actor list interesting people in his or her life, well known or acquaintance, and then asks pointed questions about the listed people. During the process, Leigh also shares experiences and opinions.

Sometimes, Leigh selects the characters the actor has been talking about and contemplating, advising the actor to concentrate on and adopt that individual as his or her focus. This work is performed not only with discourse, but by living as the character, one-person ad-libbing. This “study” doesn’t automatically enter the movie, but it enters the undertone, providing textured, authoritative performances. Only after a specific amount of this effort does Leigh start to organize ad-libs with at least one actor. Actors are firmly prohibited to converse about the project with one another. The objective is to “change creative desires into realistic performances.”

The entire procedure originates from his visual and subject. In other words, Leigh wishes to portray characters articulating themselves in the world and interacting with others. He works as long as he does with each actor so that each character can be a completely distinctive person. The tales the actor tells help to shape each character’s distinctive, unattached, solitary reality.

This is not a how-do instruction exercise. Leigh has admitted that even though “in the early years I would be likely to preach about [my procedures], what I essentially, distinctively do is so individual that I think it is completely beneficial to me.” However, there are components of his procedure that are intriguing previews into the creative practice itself.

The process of constructing the ethical screenplay and a look into Leigh’s work helps us understand the premise of “effective visualization.” With any amount of time available, this is what every writer, actor, and director should do with every character–utilize your entire artistic and inspired psyche to supply the structure of an abstract world.