Updated: Sep 2
I know that I started off with the timeline of film and film production, but it’s good to break up the history of it a bit, with a little bit of theory. I know many of you aren’t interested in it, but there are those who are also filmmakers that want to know how to make it big. Well, truth be told, you might not make it into the big leagues, with this knowledge, but no matter what you do, it’s always good to know the theory.
So, that’s why I’m here to talk about it. As a filmmaker myself (or at least an aspiring one), I know quite a bit about the theory behind certain films. Of course, that’s not to say, all filmmakers make films with the theory in mind. Sometimes it comes naturally, but if you want to make impactful films, worthy of those Oscars and BAFTAs, you’re going to need to know the theory behind what you’re making. That way, when you do make a film, you’ll be able to use what you’ve learned, and do it subconsciously.
WE ARE YOUNG
Film is a relatively young medium, and having been invented in the 1890s, you could say it’s a child, compared to art, literature, music and theatre, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t as important as they are. Actually, it’s a much more important media form, since the rise of television and the Internet. With so many people connecting with each other, on a global scale, film and video productions are becoming much more widely used than its predecessors.
In fact, film is used in all sorts of industries, from art to education, from politics to religion, from science to social care. There are so many uses of films; it’s become something more than an art form. It has almost become a way of life. Not only is it used to create stories, it’s also become a community in itself, where people base their whole lives and careers. It’s become a living, breathing culture that spans across all sorts of forms of art and media.
In a play, actors must remain in character, to make a story believable, but film has been used to in classrooms, as a teaching tool, it’s been used by governments to make announcements across the nation, it’s been used to document live events and capture people and animals alike, in ways that haven’t been done before. It’s now become more than just a medium, it’s become both technology and a means of communication, entertainment and information.
You could also look at it this way. If you read a book, you’ll find yourself in a reality similar to our own, or in another world altogether, and while it may do a similar sort of thing as film does, it’d doesn’t quite communicate in the same way. You can’t interrupt a paragraph, sentence or chapter with a command from the author, the same way you can do with a live streamed lecture. You can’t speak back to the author, and they can’t answer any questions you have. With live streams and broadcasting, you can do all that, and at its heart is a video camera and a microphone.
Of course, I could tell you now to pick up your phone, turn on its camera and start shooting something, but what would you film? A tour of your bedroom? A rant you’ve had on your mind for a while? Your everyday life? But what would be the point in that? Sure it’ll be something for someone to watch, but for professional film production, you need to know how to create a good story, so that people, no matter if it’s a specific group, or the masses, will be able to watch your creation over and over again.
Film is a delicate balance of theory and practical, you could almost say it is a science. To create a film, like ones you’d see winning Oscars and BAFTAs, requires much more than just a realistic plot, good acting and a talented crew. It requires a whole range of things, from research into cultures or time periods and world building, to actual construction and carpentry.
IT’S TIME TO THINK
Let me put it this way. Imagine you’re a god, and you’re creating your own universe. What stage in development is it in? Is it a young universe, or an old one? What kind of worlds are there? What are the people like? What creatures roam about the wilds? What are the towns and cities like? Who lives there? What are your leaders like?
These are all the questions filmmakers ask, when creating their own films. Of course, not all filmmakers think this way, it’s mostly those who are in the producing end of the spectrum. These guys are the ones that make up the story that they want to film. They’re the ones that build the world, theoretically, until the story and the universe it’s in becomes so realistic, they almost live in that universe, and once that story is solidified enough, they begin the process of actually gathering the resources to creating it, or a version of it, to film.
Ok, let me give you an example. Think about the Avengers series. Why do you think it’s so popular? If you disregard its history in comic books and 20th century films, you’ll actually be able to see the current Avengers films as its own stand-alone series. Why? It’s because the producers, directors and the entire cast and crew created the universe it’s set in from scratch. Yes, most if it has been taken from the comics and previous films, but if you take a closer look at the films, you can see the intricate details that define each world. In the films, Earth alone has many different aspects that our Earth doesn’t have. While it may be set in our world, that doesn’t mean it’s set in our reality. I mean, S.H.I.E.L.D. is literally on a flying island made of metal. There are technologies in their world that would be impossible to replicate, with what we have now.
However, if you tried to apply the laws of physics to some of its aspects, you’ll find that a lot of it will conform to them. The reason why is because producers, directors, screenwriters and all those that created the world behind the story were so meticulous, they did their research, consulted experts and created the universe, according to what they learned.
THAT’S NOT HARD!
No it’s not, but if you really want to become a professional filmmaker, you’re going to need a lot of patience, because if you want to create a world from scratch, or if you’re going to make a reality that parallels ours, you’re going to need a lot of creativity, a lot of notes and a lot of coffee. Creating worlds like these isn’t easy, because even if you have an idea that may be brilliant and perfect, in your mind, you’ll also need to think about the logistics of creating that world on a screen that looks realistic enough to attract your audience.
Alright, I’ll leave it there for now since there is more to the theory of film, than this. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and we haven’t even hit the water yet! Next time we do talk about film’s theory, I’ll start getting into what makes a film a film, and no I don’t mean the physicality of it. I mean the deeper academic look at films. There are so many psychological effects film has on people, and it’s because of these effects that people keep going back to it, over and over again.
For now, I’ll ask you to do some homework. Yes, I know this is the crafts section of the blog, but there’s nothing wrong with doing a bit of homework, to help you remember what you’ve learned. So, what I want you guys to do is to try looking at a film critically. It doesn’t have to be your favourite film; it can be something you’ve never watched before. Now, what I want you to do is ask yourself these questions when you do:
Is the plot believable?
Is the world it’s set in realistic?
Do I notice the shot transitions (what I mean is can I tell that the camera position has been changed, and did I notice the change in the angle)?
Is the passage of time obvious in the film, or is it too vague?
We’ll talk about these questions in the next theory post, because, while the purpose behind a character’s actions are important, what is also important is how those actions are shot, and how scenes and sets help set up that action.
So, I hope that the next time we do talk about the theory of film, you guys are ready with your critic’s hats on! I’ll be making sure you can answer my questions next time! I’ll see you all then!