Moving Into Films: Part 2


Impulse Power

I had taken a course in cinematography upon my arrival to the United States and had a basic understanding of the process of filmmaking. I had also worked on some industrial and student films done mostly in super-8 and 16 mm film, and on analog video. My own student film was done in super-8 and I had even ventured into animation. I did all this because I was curious about the use of matte painting in special effects and trick photography. I figured that if I ever when to Hollywood this would increase my chances of making the progression from muralist to scenic painter -which pays better.

At the time, video decks were the new technology and video cameras where fast becoming a prevalent consumer item. In school many students were experimenting with the new medium and I volunteered to work in a few projects. Most of these projects were really bad "slasher" home movies, really fun to make but not much else in the way substance. Not satisfied with this limited experience, I read and researched any book on filmmaking that I could lay my hands on.

'Impulse research' is a lifelong habit; the public library is my second home. If a thought, a word or a name comes into my mind I want to know more about it -and I want to know about it 'now'. In a lifetime of impulse research my mind has become a depository of useless facts and information. But sometimes I am able to make some connections and build bridges between disparate units of memory (especially after long periods of sleep) and then manage to come up with applicable solutions to specific problems.

Like for example, when I did my first painting (see 'the artist' section in this website) I had never painted before. But, I had read about it and how it was done. Since early childhood, looking at pictures of artworks gave me a pleasant sensation. This initial curiosity lead to more reading on specific artists whose style of painting or sculpture I enjoyed. And consequently, this led to research on art criticism to learn why I though some artworks were just divine while others were simply "pukish". Even though I never picked up a brush before, I understood the process of painting.

I can explain my thought process as links in a chain: boredom sparks curiosity, curiosity leads to investigation, investigation leads to knowledge, knowledge and curiosity lead to understanding, understanding and necessity (or desperation) lead into action. Once action is accomplished boredom returns and the chain process begins anew.

Unfortunately, there are drawbacks. For one, you never have enough time to look into everything. And secondly, it's hard to concentrate on more than three things at a time when your mind is reaching everywhere. So learning how to control impulses is crucial to stay on track; you must decide which ones to follow and which ones to leave for another time. Making a wise choice is not always easy and it has lead me to many dead ends. But, one learns with age.

When I decided to write my screenplay I went into impulse research mode. I needed to find out everything I could about the mechanics of writing screenplays and I needed to address many other related issues such as --how is a screenplay different from a play? What makes a successful screenplay? What writing pitfalls should I avoid?

This was only the tip of the iceberg. More important issues had to be considered, beginning with the question of my own commitment. How far was I willing to take this effort? I do not like the 'if' word because it teeters between caution and pessimism. In my life experience people have weighted the word on the negative side. But only a fool would not consider a cautious glance when walking into the fog. My if-hesitation came with the acknowledgement of failure.

What if I made a movie that turned out to be a business failure? If my first movie were to be successful, would I stop there or continue on making others? My future as a filmmaker depended on the financial success of the first movie. What's more, the financial success had to be significant in order to finance a small independent studio (I am getting ahead of my story). En fin, if I was going to do this right, I had to learn everything from the ground up. That meant going into impulse mode at full thrust.

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