A miscellany of weekly ramblings on comics, art and film by Ted Mathot, storyboard artist and writer/artist/self-publisher of graphic novels and comics

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Real Reality

Most of the programming that passes for "Reality TV" today is obviously not real at all but some kind of quasi-scripted, controlled-environment entertainment product of big studios, that is shot and cut in order to manipulate audiences. This kind of stuff is giving the word reality a bad name and unfortunately threatens to change its very meaning.

I much prefer what can be called "real reality", the kind that appears in films like CIRCO, which I just had the pleasure of seeing. Aaron Shock's first film documentary is a beautifully shot and moving story of a Mexican family's circus company that is struggling to stay afloat.

CIRCO is one of the more memorable docs I've seen in the past few years and will most likely be one of the best this year. There is a great score to accompany the film as well, provided by Calexico.
Support independent film and filmmakers and go see it!

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Friday, April 15, 2011

How Does It Make You Feel?

To me this is one of the most important things in any artistic endeavor, whether it be film, painting, dance, music, theatre, etc. When I was writing and drawing Rose and Isabel, the number one thing on my mind (aside from trying to make the deadline) was "how do I feel when I read this? Do I care about these characters and their situations?" If I wasn't reacting strongly enough to a certain scene or bit of story development, if I wasn't thinking about it in the off hours when I was away from the story, I would scrap it and come up with something else.

For all the staging, blocking, composition and general story boarding stuff I post here, the number one thing should be "does the story elicit an emotional reaction from the audience?" Are they going to bring something away from the experience? Will they discuss the film on the way out or debate where they're going to eat?

I understand that for much of the movie-going public, movies are entertainment...an escape from the everyday world -- and that's fine, but because of what I do for a living movies need to be more than that. When the summer movie season lets me down in this way, I look for other outlets, either older films I haven't seen, foreign films, or I read (actually I am constantly reading, but even more so right now). Steinbeck's East of Eden was one of the most emotional and moving books I've ever read (not to mention some of the best characters ever created in Cathy and Samuel Hamilton). Cormac McCarthy's The Road, John Updike's Rabbit series (especially Rabbit Redux and Rabbit at Rest), Philip Roth's American Pastoral, and Upton Sinclair's The Jungle are high on the list of recent reads. Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny spun my head around and really made me think about how we perceive things differently from one another based on our experiences. It's a clever piece of manipulation by the narrator (although "manipulation" isn't quite the right term for it, since he doesn't know he's doing it).

Naturally, as I expressed in my comment about The Caine Mutiny, people are going to come away from a story with different feelings based on their experiences; but what seems to be a common thread in movies, books, music and all other forms of artistic expression is when an artist creates something for his or herself, is honest to it, and crafts it well, chances are it will resonate with others in a powerful way.