Tag Archives: oscars

I hate movies; or How to eviscerate an idea

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem.

Photo by Bruno Hamzagic

Assalam alaikum wr wb,

So help me God, I hate movies.

Day after day, week after week, I watch trailers, I look at posters, I scan the cinema listings hopefully, looking for something worth watching.


Less than nothing.  A slap in the face. A grab for my wallet.

I’m not interested in franchises anymore. I’m not interested in movie stars. I’m not interested in explosions.

I am not interested in shock, awe, blood, gore. I am not interested in laughter or tears. Those are empty emotions and can be triggered by practically anything I pull up on YouTube.

I would like a story.

How do you define a story?

A story means something to you. Not to me, the viewer, the ticket-buyer, the audience member, the cat-caller. To you, the story-teller.

Why do I love listening to my parents tell stories? Because they are joyful in the telling and I can see it in their faces. And through that joy, I begin to understand their values, their experiences, their beliefs, however different we are.

As we began to stop telling each other stories, I understood them less and less and we fought more and more.

The fact is, story allows me to empathize in a way that no other medium has achieved.

That is why I hate everything that is in the cinema right now. It’s a blatant insulting play for profit. It desecrates story and the power of the human spirit.

I don’t mean to say that stars, explosions and high drama are bad things. I think they just have to be used in the right way.

I loved Michael Clayton. It showed a veneer of real filth underneath a sterile world. It showed two men coming apart at the seams. Yes it had George Clooney and Sydney Pollack in it. But it was a great story.

I loved Ides of March too for much the same reason. It seemed real to me.

I follow the work of Ryan Gosling, not just because he’s an incredible actor, but mainly because he has a knack for picking exceptional projects. There has not been one movie of his that I’ve seen that I’ve not enjoyed and that I wouldn’t watch repeatedly and that I wouldn’t badger my husband into seeing.

Fo’ rizzle.

So why am I ranting on a Monday morning?

I’ve been generating ideas for The Quest 2013.

There’s plenty of literature on how to test a concept for the marketplace. I particularly recommend Save The Cat’s program of market research.

The question is – how do you know if a story concept is right for you? How do you gauge your level of passion for it? How do you know that it’s touching some deep dark place rather than simply treading tired old ground?

This isn’t just about generating the passion to go the long haul with each project. It’s about having a product at the end, that no matter what happens, you can be proud of. Because you poured your heart and soul into it. Because you told the truth, no matter how much it hurt.

That sort of energy will sustain a career, in my opinion, and that’s what I’m cultivating.

To that end, I’ve been asking a lot of questions about each idea.

As a viewer:

  1. Why would I watch this movie? What elements would make me book that ticket in advance?
  2. What elements would make me avoid this movie? What makes me shriek much like I did above?

These two questions allow me to really get to the nub of what sort of experience I want as a movie-goer.

As a writer (this is the clever bit):

  1. In what ways is this idea within my comfort zone of my abilities, interests, previous writing experience, etc?
  2. In what ways is this out of my comfort zone in the same ways?

It’s maddeningly simple, but for me, it’s helping me shape a story that’s been knocking around in my head for months now.

More importantly, it’s helping me commit to that story. Because I know why I’m writing it. Even if the telling is mediocre and the reception is poor.

Let me know what your thoughts are. And for God’s sake, if you’re a filmmaker with a movie that means something, please tell me about it. I’m starving for something real.

Wasalam and Fee Amanillah (in other words, Godspeed),

The Happy Muslimah

Insights from The Hollywood Reporter’s Producer’s Roundtable

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem.

Assalam alaikum wr wb, fellow scribes,

I wrote some notes on the Studio Executive’s Roundtable organized by the Hollywood Reporter, watched via the Black List screenwriting blog, Go Into the Story.

The lessons I learned below are only lessons because I’m a struggling nube. If you have more to add, please let me know in comments!

What is your take on awards in general? I think it’s nice to get recognition, but some of the most wonderful movies don’t get the attention they deserve and some truly awful or fair to middling ones get far more attention than they deserve.

I don’t put much stock in awards in terms of the kinds of movies that I should watch and gain inspiration from.

Anyways, here what I got:

  1. Producers feel pressure too. There’s a whole lot of money riding on this stuff.
  2. Production issues are far more unpredictable than distribution issues.
  3. The greatest moments are when a movie exceeds expectations – does that mean that we shouldn’t give them high hopes?
  4. They are just terrified of their hard work going to waste. Difference is – their hard work involves tons of disappointed people.
  5. People say that it’s just business, it’s not personal. Movie choices are hugely personal.
  6. What do Academy Awards mean to producers? The achievement of the good life. The achievement of something great in the eyes of your peers.
    1. The difference between profit-loss for independent films.
  7. It starts always with falling in love with the material (that’s our job!) Then the analyses happen.
    1. Once that material has caught you, you find ways to try and make rather than not.
    2. However, there are some movies that are just marketing fodder and some that are all about the execution.
    3. It’s a combination of passion and the amount of financial risk that that project can bear that configures on whether the film can get greenlit. Life of Pi got greenlit because a) Ang Lee got involved and b) The passion of the…someone?
  8. What is the cultural zeitgeist? Hurt Locker didn’t do as well because America wasn’t ready to watch war as entertainment.
  9. Awards season is much like political campaigning. If the Academy hadn’t put caps on it, it would go bananas.
  10. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bgw394ZKsis Impossible trailer.
  11. When your movie has a more intellectual bent rather than pure entertainment value, you always think of awards as a factor in marketing.
    1. However it’s a bit like ‘wishful thinking’ because you don’t really know if you’ve gotten the right elements in place to make this an amazing movie.
  12. Will America stop being a cultural exporter and start being an importer?

Will be posting notes on the Actor’s Roundtable and the Screenwriter’s Roundtable soon insha Allah.

Peace and God’s protection or as we say, Wassalam and Fee Amanillah,

The Happy Muslimah.