Friday, February 13, 2015

Hero Homework #12

Movie Magic
Film and television are extremely powerful communication mediums, extremely powerful persuasion mediums. The viewing experience can have a profound affect on the viewer, sub-consciously as well as consciously. It can shape your beliefs, attitudes, assumptions, expectations, and values. 
And without you even knowing it.
But once you know how the trick works, you can never be fooled by it again – unless, of course, you want to be.

I’m going to recommend three films to you. Two of them are classics. The other, well, isn’t.
I want you to watch these three films, and I want you to be a good audience. That means, with the two classics, both of which were shot in black and white, I want you to let yourself watch them as if you were seeing them at the time they were made. I know you’re much more cinematically sophisticated than those earlier audiences, what with computer-generation now, and so on.  But some pretty fine music can be played on a very old guitar. So focus on the music, not the guitar. Let yourself be the audience of that time and that place.
The other thing it takes to be a good audience, is to willingly “suspend disbelief” and let the movie take you on the ride it’s trying to take you on. Experience the feelings the movie elicits. Don’t fight it or force it.
What we want to discover from this experience is what you feel during the film. There are no right or wrong feelings. You feel what you feel. Then, afterward, you can go back and examine HOW the film-maker elicited those feelings from you. The idea is to identify the “tricks of the trade” so you won't be quite so easy to trick.

Years back, I attended a workshop with Michael Hauge (Writing Screenplays that Sell) and, among the many things I learned over that week-end, I remember two in particular.
1.     The screenwriter’s job is to elicit an emotional response in the viewer.
2.     The audience must identify with your “hero” within the first 10 minutes of the film. Within the first 5 minutes would be better. The first minute, would be excellent.
To identify with the hero means that you will experience emotion through that character. There are specific ways in which the writer/film-maker gets you to immediately identify with the hero:
1.     Sympathy - Create sympathy for the hero by showing that he/she is the victim of undeserved misfortune
2.     Jeopardy – show that the hero is in danger of losing something of great value to him/her
3.     Likability –
a.     Show that he hero is kind or good natured
b.     Show that the hero is well-liked by other characters
c.      Show that the hero is funny
Then you can give your hero qualities for strengthening that empathy and identification. Such as:
·      A high level of skill in something
·      Living or working in a familiar setting
·      Having familiar flaws and foibles
·      Being in touch with his/her own power
·      Power over other people
·      The Power to do what needs to be done, without hesitation
·      The Power to express feelings regardless of others’ opinions
·      Superpowers
·      Serving as the eyes of the audience

The three films I want you to watch are:
·      Birth of a Nation, Dir. DW Griffith, 1915 - 190 min

·      Triumph of the Will,  Dir. Leni Riefenstahl, 1935  - 110 min

·      The Blood of Heroes, Dir. David Peoples/Guy Norris, 1990  - 102 min

After you feel whatever you find yourself feeling during each of these film, go back to my list of tricks and see if you can find when and how the film-maker started to manipulate your emotions.
Don’t feel bad about it. Your emotions are hard-wired in. They come "naturally," without any effort on your part. It’s thinking  --- critical thinking, that is -- that's  an acquired taste, and has to be learned, requiring both time and effort.  
By becoming aware of your feelings and how those feelings are elicited, you will, to some degree, inoculate yourself against being manipulated. 
You may never be "trick-proof."
But at least you won't be such an easy mark.


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