Saturday, May 26, 2012

mind-control

Movies are manipulation, and I guess that's why I want to be a part of making them: I want to control your mind.

A good movie is a precisely-calibrated, clockwork piece of art. Dozens, and sometimes hundreds of people bring their talents and abilities together for one, unified purpose: to get you emotionally invested in the story. Everything - from lighting, to sound, to costume, to set design, to acting, to music - it's all engineered to elicit an emotional response; getting you to care about the people (or elves, or toys) to whom the story events are happening; to follow them in their struggles so that you feel what they feel, and learn what they learn (or refuse to learn) as they come out the far side.

 But how?

I think the thing I love most about it is that there is no scientific, once-and-for-all answer - it's an unsolvable mystery. But if, like me, you enjoy a good mystery - well, the best place to go looking for clues is, I think, the script.

I have read ninety-five scripts in the last five months, on my way to my goal of one hundred. I have read good scripts and terrible scripts. I have read Oscar-winners, and I have read scripts where every page felt like torture.


I have read all these scripts and I still don't know the answer. 

This excites me immensely: First, because as Neil Gaiman said recently, "Where would be the fun in making something you knew was going to work?" and Second, because my intuitions have improved, and I have a much better, gut-level instinct for how to create a mystery of my own.

Scripts are more than just dialog and actions. When they are well-written, they provide the framework and inspiration for all those other creative voices to come together - to add their own vision into one, powerful emotional experience. It is a beautiful, communal thing, and it all starts with the structure of a good script.

But why?

Why would I want to write movie scripts?

Well, a cynic would say that it's to get something from you. Not just an emotional response, but also your money and - if it's a really good movie, your willpower.

This is a fair charge, and in my saner moments, it scares the bejeebus out of me. Stories are powerful; and I am a selfish, narcissistic, scared little whelp of a human being. What right do I have to try to take control of other people's minds and emotions? Am I deluding myself, like Boromir in THE LORD OF THE RINGS, into foolishly believing that I'm the sort of person who'll only do good with this power?

Probably. 

Power corrupts. 
Period. 

But still... I am a story-telling animal, and it is through story that I most clearly discover the significance of the otherwise scattered and nonsensical happenings of my life. Story is powerful, yes, but I think it is perhaps a different kind of power. Story contextualizes experiences - makes them coherent and melodic and meaningful - but it never tames them. If there is truth in them, that truth is a mysterious, uncontrollable force that just sort of happens.

I'm blabbering incoherently now, I know. Gushing, almost. But that is because I just finished watching TEMPLE GRANDIN, a beautiful film that moved me to tears, even though I knew I was being manipulated. The manipulation was done so skilfully, in fact, that I took my soma and then thanked them for it. And why? Because in the end - when the credits were rolling - I felt that my spirit had been enlarged. I felt I had grown in my understanding and compassion for autistic people, cattle, and life in general.

In watching TEMPLE GRANDIN play across the screen, I felt more alive.

And I want to stay there as often as possible. I want to create those moments... to play a part in helping others connect to the joy of being alive, and to help guide them toward an understanding of the world that is driven by empathy and, I hope, love.

I used to feel guilty about this. I used to feel that if I wanted to change the world, I ought to do it in a more direct way - a way less easily subsumed to the base fear that drives me to try to control others for my own gain.

I'm starting to believe, though, in the beauty of this mystery. I am starting to believe in story.

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