Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Filmmaker Protocol

Over the years, I've been able to talk to several filmmakers about their work. They range from the extremely famous (Kevin Smith, Wes Craven, Sam Raimi), the semi-famous (Jay Roach, Irvin Kershner, John Landis) to the relatively obscure (Jim Wynorski, Fred Dekker, Rodman Flender). Sometimes they're more than happy to talk about their films (Guillermo Del Toro), and other times, they're less friendly (Michael Crichton). And that's fine.

Not long ago, I went to a special screening of Blade: Trinity in Hollywood, and its director, David Goyer, was there to talk about the movie. Because I was a fan of the first two films in the series, I was excited and eager to talk to Goyer about them (he wrote all three). Unfortunately, Blade: Trinity was as bad as the other two were good. It failed on many levels, especially since it had the potential to be great, or at least a worthy sequel. And most of the blame must fall on its director. After all, it said, "A Film By David S. Goyer" as the credits rolled.

So, when it came time to talk to him, I was at a loss as to what to say. I heard one fan complain, and Goyer took it in stride, but I still chose to take the high road. I told him I liked the humour of the secondary characters, since Blade himself is always so sober and humourless. And I quickly changed the subject to Batman Begins, then went my way. Maybe I shouldn't have handled it that way, but that's just me.

I remember the first time it happened. The night Armageddon opened, I cajoled a bunch of people into going to it with me, and Michael Bay (the director) was there, hanging around afterward, asking people what they thought. In retrospect, I imagine he was actually trolling for groupies, looking for hot young things to get into his limo with him, but maybe not, maybe he really wanted to hear people's opinions.

Well, I really disliked Armageddon. I thought it had mediocre performances, a weak script, and absolutely terrible directing (it was as if a nearsighted epileptic had shot it hand held while having a sneezing fit). So here was its director, the man most responsible, shaking hands, accepting blowjobs, and getting feedback from his fans. What should I say? If he asks me what I thought, do I lie? Do I omit certain details of what I thought and focus on the positive?

In the end, I just told him I liked The Rock and looked forward to his next flick (which turned out to be Pearl Harbor, a film that I was one of maybe two fans worldwide). I got a bit of a razzing for not being honest or true to my principles, and maybe I deserved it. Nobody likes a hypocrite.

That wasn't my only opportunity to criticize filmmakers. Joss Whedon (the writer of Alien: Resurrection) and I spoke a bit about the fourth Alien film, but I was hesitant to ask him what went wrong and how awful I thought it was. So, I figured, why not talk about something he's proud of, like the "Buffy" show or Toy Story? As an artist myself (I've been told not to refer to myself as an aspiring artist, or an aspiring anything . . . you either are or you aren't, even if you're not paid for it), I'm sensitive to criticism, and being told that something you worked hard on sucks can't be easy, no matter how thick a skin you've developed.

Maybe I overcompensate because of that. When I ran into Barry Pepper, I talked to him about Saving Private Ryan, even though the first flick I thought of was Battlefield: Earth. I didn't lie and tell Jeannot Szwarc that Jaws 2 was better than Jaws 1. Hell, I even saw George Lucas once, at the American Cinematheque. Though I didn't talk to him, what might have come out of my mouth if the subject of the Prequels had come up?

But, what is the protocol? What if you honestly didn't like the movie you just saw with them or happens to be the subject of conversation? What do you do if the maker of your least favourite flick asks you if liked it? What if he just asks if you've seen it?

I don't know that there's an answer to this question. Regardless of what The Refreshments sang, what's good for you may not necessarily be what's good for me. Some fans might not have a problem telling Janusz Kaminski that Lost Souls sucked monkeyballs, or tell Roland Emmerich that you didn't go to the movies for a year after seeing his Godzilla. I suppose some artists/creators will be receptive to negative comments and some will be offended. Some might even lose their temper.

With me, I guess I'll keep doing it the way I have been. I'll focus on the positive and try not to mention what I didn't like unless they ask. I'll try to remember that all artists have off days (or off projects). Everybody misses the mark once in a while. It's like that old Spanish saying, "Aun Spielberg hizo Hook."

Rish Outfield

1 comment:

What's she thinkin'? said...

PC is playing it safe. It is just that simple. Contructive critisim is helpful, as long as it is contructive not destructive. Don't ignore your film-maker intuition, but don't piss anyone off either. Nothing an artist does ever completly sucks, it may kinda suck, or have a scent of suckage, but the creative process is still creative. It always needs fine tuning and refining. Honest input can help with that, just be gentle or you may cast your self into the pit of "you'll never work in this town again."