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It’s still about the story…

As a fan of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, I thought I’d top off a long day at Adobe headquarters last week by catching an evening movie to unwind.  I had just reread the sixth novel in preparation for the seventh and thought that it’d be nice to review the fifth at the movie house.  Having struck out at catching the imax version, I opted to watch it behind the Fairmont after a quick bite for dinner.  I wish I hadn’t…

It’s not that the movie is awful or horrible per se, but it was the ‘cherry on top’ for a season of disappointing movies I’ve been wanting to see. 

Here’s the rub: Regardless of how much technology there is today, it’s still about the story.  The best movie technologically speaking doesn’t mean anything to me if isn’t telling the story.

In the case of the Harry Potter movie – the story (aka – the book) it comes from is just fine, but like others I’ll mention, it relied on fantastical imagery to carry the film. To be fair, I’ll also mention that they tried too hard to keep all the little side stories going instead of having a good movie.  What they ended up with was an okay film from a great book.

Before Harry Potter, an even greater disappointment was Spiderman 3. The franchise that Spiderman has is just about second to none.  The first two films were in my opinion, very close to perfect.  The story was spot on and engaged us right to the end.  Sadly, I think several people involved with the movie must of said something like, ‘well, one bad guy per movie made a lot of money, why don’t we put three bad guys in there?’ It made the story unwieldy and instead of giving another elegant chapter in the Spiderman saga, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth.  Simply put, I could have done with Sandman or the New Goblin, but not both and certainly not Venom.

I could go on and talk about the Fantastic Four (didn’t need Dr. Doom at all!!!) but rather let me point you to a company that really focuses on the story – Pixar.  They storyboard and pitch the story and then refine it, massage it, beat it, pitch it again…and repeat as necessary…all the way through the movie.  As a result, I saw a movie about a fish that I thought was going to be boring as all get out.  It wasn’t.  That was Finding Nemo in case you didn’t figure that out.  I remember walking out of the theater going, "Wow, that was awesome."  I walked in thinking, "How could PIxar think a movie about a fish is going to be entertaining?  Maybe they’re losing their touch."

Of course, everyone will admit that The Incredibles is a tour de force of storytelling and all of the animation, effects, sounds, etc are just a bonus.

Another surprise for me was The Presitge.  I caught it on DVD and after watching it the first evening, I preceded to watch it again the next night to get more of the nuances.  It had a good script, good casting, good cinematography, good story!  In fact, the movie was so good, I went out and got the book.  In this case, the movie took the kernal of the book and built a story around it – not quite the same story, but related. My point again, is that regardless of how you get there, getting a good story is a quintessential first step of having a good production.

Bringing it back to us who have budgets, we need to remember that having a good story before we start shooting is the first step to a good project.  Look at your story and figure out how you can make it better – you’ll be glad you did…


Oh Dennis…one of the best posts I’ve read in a long time…anywhere! Amen and AMEN to everything you said. Keep up the good work.

[DR – As Goofy would say, ‘aw gosh, I’m blushing’]

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