After nearly three weeks of film education in Hollywood, by people who insist that what they teach is Hollywood truth, I am beginning to form an opinion of what I've learnt and will learn over the next year.
I am beginning to think Hollywood filmmaking is sounding too artificial.
You see, back at home I used to look down a little at our slow but steadily rising independent film industry. I mean, these people virtually started out with nothing, of if they had any experience at all, it would be at advertising. As a result, the films they make share none of the entertaining styles or methods as used in Hollywood films. A simplistic way would be saying that Hollywood films are enjoyable, because they are designed to be enjoyable (even including hard-hitting films like Syriana, Babel, and so on ... yes, they are enjoyable); whereas Malaysian indie films are tedious, because the filmmakers couldn't give it enjoyability.
But, what I've learnt in the last couple weeks or so is that every single frame and its contents in a Hollywood film is manufactured. Themes and reasonings have to be had before a single frame is made. Why is the chair there in the scene? Why is it mahogany in wood and colour? Why is it facing this way? Why is there only one chair? Why is the light falling on it like that? And this is just the chair in the office of a rather pedestrian scene. There are, in any scene, dozens of items, many of them that has to carry a meaning before it deserves to be there. This is the production design part.
Then there is the lighting. Wow - it is so tedious. Plus, I honestly don't have the feel for it - it's like being tone deaf. Change a light here, add some diffusion there, and the scene would seem very different for my cinematography instructor - but to me, it looks the same (echoing Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada). And so much goes into it, all of that, before the actor has a chance to screw up his or her lines. And sometimes I thought - does it matter that much? Certainly, I agree that some scenes requires the mood to be properly set - a horror piece, or suspense. The most powerful and dramatic moments in the film. But sitcoms? Power play scenes?
And before cinematography can come into play, there is electricity. So much time is spent on cabling and setting up lights (tweenies, betweenies, juniors, seniors) and C-stands, an activity that has utterly nothing to do with the artistic nature of filmmaking. I realise that it is a necessary aspect ... but I still cannot get used to that idea yet.
I suppose I'm still stuck in the theatrical mentality: a film should be about the story, the actors, the props, the dialogue, the powerful dramatic moments, the actions. But in actual fact, a Hollywood film, created the way it is nowadays, is sucking in all these other disciplines that seem far remote from storytelling and acting.
And it is now that I begin to crave for the freedom that is enjoyed by the Malaysian indie directors. They don't have anyone to answer to, nor tradition nor customs. They are at the experimental phase, so they do that, they find their voice. Their style of making films. Like the protracted long shots that so many of them adopt. Is it wrong? Let their audience tell them. Point is, they don't have to feel like they did something wrong. They can think, hmm, will this work? Let's try it. (Only to an extent, of course, because they are putting in their own money after all.)
This, among others, is a reason why I feel like I don't belong here.
Certainly, as seen in the film Swimming With Sharks, this is a film industry in which people feel that they have to join the system, to inhabit its rules in every way, just to step inside and to survive there. And I don't want to believe that I'm the sort who submits.
Be annoying, for it is good!
1 day ago