Bad Movies Happen To Good People
By: Marjorie Galas
No one sets out to make a bad film. The film industry is a business after all, and every business must make a profit to stay alive. Unfortunately, not all films connect with their intended audience. What began as a promising venture fades away quickly, unceremoniously being dubbed “a flop.”
Summer seems to be a time when flops arrive at a fairly steady pace. In pondering this phenomenon, I was reflecting on a conversation I had with Oscar winning costume designer Jeff Bridges. He’s worked on acclaimed films such as “Silver Linings Playbook,” “There Will Be Blood,” and the little black and white gem for which he earned his golden statue, “The Artist.” He has also worked on a few movies that didn’t ignite the public’s interest, such as “Land of the Lost.” When I asked him if he imagined “The Artist” would strike such a loud chord while he was working on it, he informed me that you just never know how a movie will be received, and cited that as the beauty of the filmmaking process.
If an artist, be it an actor or a camera man, could look into a crystal ball and see the future of the film they were about to sign on to, would they still agree to the misses as well as the hits? I suppose it really does come down to the reason they’re interested in the project in the first place.
There are those artists, such as actor Michael Caine, who aren’t embarrassed to say they took on a project simply for the paycheck. A Los Angeles based editor recently confessed that being choosy isn’t always an option. For many people who do not want to travel for a production, their options have become increasingly limited. Many big productions chase tax incentives forcing them out of state. When money starts getting slim, local film professionals have little choices and can’t always afford to be choosy. Often times, film professionals turn towards commercials (still a vibrant form of production in California.) Many cinematographers will have long breaks between features on their filmography – time that’s filled with shooting countless commercials while they wait for a project that interests them. For many, shooting commercials fulfills their creative interests, and allows them to test the latest camera, lens and lighting options that have hit the market.
There are also those artist who will sign on to a project for the chance of working with a particular director, actor, fellow craftsman, or new technique they’ve been wanting to try.When Bridges was approached to work on “The Artist,” for example, he didn’t know what people would think about a black and white silent movie, directed by a French director who was virtually unknown in the US.However, the opportunity to create costumes for the 1920s setting, and the challenge of relying on fabric textures to make them pop on the black and white film, was something he was extremely enthusiastic about.
And sometimes, people just love their craft and are wiling to do anything that allows them to practice it. Does a gaffer spend hours setting up lights and track because he knows he’s working on a horrible piece of crap? Perhaps, but he loves setting up the lights, and watching the result of his handiwork too.The same could be said about a makeup artist, or a script supervisor.
So, films will come and go…some will be a hit, others a miss. What I like to keep in mind is that many people gave their “performance,” whether it’s the director of the stars or the crew or those who wrap up all the post production, their best effort.Even the worst films can have redeeming qualities because of this, and they may just be worth taking a look at for that very reason.