My generation, AKA: the millennials have a conveniently immediate library of film history built by the gods of cinema spanning the previous century at our finger tips and yet we only seem interested in what ‘the Joneses’ are doing online.
Truth be told, I used to be one of those individuals who tossed what I now know to be good films by the wayside. Before my undergrad years, if I didn’t understand certain thematic premises presented in cinema and figured if the communicated message wasn’t clear after the first viewing, there wasn’t a need for a second. I even jumped on the internet bandwagon and started a YouTube series with my friend, Drew Thomas, titled, “What’s Wrong With This Picture?!” where we evaluated current and independent films using our newfound knowledge of cinema while studying it at Augusta University. The series went on for a few months, but eventually we both decided to delete the entire thing. We felt unqualified to express our opinions about things we didn’t fully understand and in turn, didn’t want to cause others to avoid phenomenal films due to our lack of professional experience. What I learned through this blip of life was no one should avoid seeing a film because someone says it’s bad. It’s utter nonsense!
Looking back, my goal was never to be a YouTube celebrity. It was to publish my academic findings of filmmaking similar to that of The Criterion Collection, but with each video I posted, I found myself shifting and manipulating the content to obtain more viewership. Now there’s nothing wrong with this – it’s called marketing for a reason and for those who’ve built their business in that fashion, ‘golf clap’ to you my friend, but it wasn’t my intention to build something sellable. Our intention with the channel was to view film whether they be products of commercialism or abstract exhibit galleries, as art and Drew and I concluded that films should not be avoided because someone online (who you don’t know and probably has zero credentials) masquerades as your pal and gives the world a list on why the current film in the cinema isn’t worth your money. Now, not all online video channels are like that. There are many who are in fact incredibly well researched and should be noted. Here are a few channels I personally take pleasure in learning from on a weekly basis; Now You See It, Every Film a Painting and Lessons from the Screenplay. What I’m gesturing is that you should take it upon yourself to find work which speaks to you and not be a constant follower of hot media. It’s tough ask… I know.
To not to follow requires a personal effort and though it is needed at times, one who is wanting to be creative, I think needs to find their own path of inspiration. Look, I’m to blame for following as well. Through it is a fantastic show, when Peaky Blinders (2013) became a thing, I joined the group of bingers without hesitation. Same thing happened with Stranger Things (2016), but if I listened to the person who told me Godless (2017) wasn’t worth the watch or The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019) was boring, I would’ve missed the great pieces of cinema! One film which I was told not to watch which I absolutely fell in love with after the third viewing was Bronson (2008). Yes, it took me three viewings over five years to finally connect with it, but I wouldn’t trade this ‘on again, off again’ relationship for the world. I had to grow to a point in life to understand the narrative, sure, but I wouldn’t have even seen it if I took the avoidance advice.
If you think about, following the masses is similar to that rhetorical question about your friends jumping off a bridge. If you’re fine only experiencing the things which you trust to be true – fantastic. Be a supportive fan, however, I believe what has gotten me to the professional point that I’m at now as writer hasn’t been by staying within my comfort zone. If you’re familiar at all with the French New Wave, you’ll find most contemporary commercial film built for the four quadrant masses is actually a byproduct of this past foreign phase of filmmaking which was all about breaking the rules! In this current world of ours, it’s difficult not to be influenced by what everyone else is engulfed by and though there are those who are dedicated to the said current event, I don’t think most who unfortunately develop a high ratings trail even know what they’re taking about when they share their thoughts about film. This high ratings gives the illusion of popularity when really it’s only an act of people fleeting from one thing to the next. Like a herd of cats who are constantly trying to catch the laser dot… until food lands in the bowl. Again, it’s okay to follow for a bit, but every now and then step out of the ticket line and watch a film which isn’t on some else’s radar. Who knows, you just might get inspired!