Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Old Stuff: Crucial Oddities

Do you question your film? Do you ask the ESSENTIAL question - "What is my film about?" For me, this is a very different question than asking what happens in a film? When I ask myself the ESSENTIAL question, I am not asking for the catalogue of incidents that comprise my film. Nor am I simply asking about the film's thematics. I'm asking about ALL of it. What am I exploring? What am I challenging? What experience(s) am I trying to create? Why does my film need to exist? What is the core, uncompromisable essence of my film?

These are important questions no matter what kind of film you are making. The answers will guide you through the phalanx of creative and practical problems that emerge during the creation of the film. Answering them will help insure that when the dust settles on your filmmaking process, you will not only have exactly the film you wanted to make, but also a film no other could make.

Filmmaker Rob Nilsson (whom I profiled a couple of months ago) has a great term for that sometimes undefinable element that defines a film (or piece thereof) - the "crucial oddity". Think of the crucial oddity as that special element that not only sets your film apart from any other, but is its reason for existence. Crucial oddities can be found and/or nurtured in characters, scenes, moments, bits of dialogue and single shots. Crucial oddities are often forsaken in favor of some other shiny object - a beautiful shot, a great action sequence, the star magnitude of an actor, a witty line of dialogue - usually to the detriment of a film. The crucial oddity is what our films are truly about and we must discover them at every turn and protect them at all costs in order for our films to have their own unique voices.

Crucial oddities, however, can often be difficult to articulate and/or clarify intellectually. Asking some of the questions above will help bring them into focus for you, at least on an intuitive level, so that you can recognize them when they emerge. And you can develop your ability to spot them by looking for them in your personal, as well as your creative, life. What are the crucial oddities in the people/things in your life? What is the crucial oddity in you?

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Each new film project is a mysterious journey that inevitably involves tackling a set of ever-emerging questions. The key to creating an amazing film is simply knowing the most important questions to ask then doing what is necessary to address them. Don't be afraid to ask yourself the ESSENTIAL question, then follow where your answers take you.

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