Sunday, September 16, 2007

Analysis vs. creativity

The ability to critically deconstruct successful films is not necessarily indicative of talent in a screenwriter. At least not one who aims to do well in the mainstream. The web is chock-full of wannabe experts eruditely explaining why this blockbuster romantic comedy or that runaway 3-D animation movie is actually no good at all.

They claim a film is too formulaic, or on the contrary, that it doesn’t deliver on genre promises. Sometimes they’ll slam the structure of the film because it deviates from or sticks too closely to a popular screenwriting model. Other times it’s the use of unfashionable techniques such as voice-overs or flashbacks which raises the briter’s* hackles.

And then there’s the subtextual envy of huge box office success for a film that isn’t exactly earth-shatteringly original or artful. That’s just not right!

But even if this criticism is in some way justified, a commercially successful film must still be pushing some of the right buttons, because the audience has already voted with its feet and propelled the film into the black. And this is the same audience the critical authors hope someday to entertain with their own creative efforts.

Contrast this with the common inarticulateness of many successful screenwriters when it comes to how they write. Even the most talented and oft-produced screenwriters are usually at a loss to explain where they get their ideas from and how exactly they turn these ideas into hot scripts. In fact you often hear writers say they don’t want to analyse their method or their ideas because it would kill their muse.

We live in age of analysis in real time. No sooner has a new trend been identified than it is analysed, abstracted and processed into a module which is then offered at a college near you. But of course when it comes to film, there’s no such thing as instant. It takes years for a compelling idea to progress from being an initial scribble on a screenwriter’s notepad to being a well-marketed product showing at your local multiplex.

Trends will always come and go. No amount of analysis is going to change that. Better to spend your time jotting down ideas for films you’d like to see than essays on films you’d rather not have seen. In the end all that counts is a strong, intriguing idea. And the only effective way to find one of those is to keep your creative mind open and be receptive to whatever's going on around you.

* briter = webwriter

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