Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What's a director's vision and how can I get one? (Part 1.a subparagraph ii)

I want to make another point about that stuff I said back on March 12th about how humankind deals with the discovery of extraterrestrial life. Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Neil Blomkamp, and Barry Sonnenfeld were all drawn, for one reason or another, to the same material. Just in time for their movies to come out when the public wanted to see them.

Think about it.

What that means is that these directors all happened to be on board with the story two to three years before the audiences were ready for them. They had to be. It takes years to make a movie, from the time it's written through its development, shooting, post-production, marketing, and release.

The genius of Spielberg, I'm convinced, is that he wants to make what people are going to want to see two or three years before they even have a clue that they want to see it. And it's not just Spielberg, although he's probably the most consistent.

Remember 'First Monday in October'? That came out just after Sandra Day O'Connor became the first woman justice on the Supreme Court. Want a freakier one? How about 'The China Syndrome'? Twelve days after that film was released, Three Mile Island melted down. The producers couldn't have asked for better PR for the movie. Suddenly, everybody needed to see it.

By the way, I don't think Spielberg –– or any successful filmmaker –– knows how he knows. He's kind of like Wayne Gretzky, who could only explain why he was so good by saying, "I just skate to where the puck is going to be." Something just gets under his skin. It has to. How else could you work that hard on something for two, three, sometimes four years?

Here's the bottom line on material: You can't know. You can't know what's going to resonate with the fickle public any more than you can project what the Dow Jones Industrial Average is going to be on May 13, 2012. So don't try.

Find the material that speaks to you. If you're lucky, it'll speak to an audience as well. If you're not, at least you won't have spent years of your life pretending to care.