One of my favorite films released this year was The Hunger Games. It absolutely captivated me. I loved the film so much, I saw it twice in the theater. (This is a big, big deal when you’re a self-employed family man with little time as it is to go out and see movies. So to use two movie-going opportunities to see the same flick is huge when the number I have is limited.). I also read the remaining two books in the series. (I’m not a big reader, well, not as big as I’d like. So, again, it’s a big deal for me to actually read an entire book. One of the reasons I blog about the books I read is because if it was good enough for me to actually read, it’s worth blogging about).
The writer/director of THG was Gary Ross, director of Big, Dave, Pleasantville, and Seabiscuit. In the DVD special features Gary talks about his filmmaking process and a number of other creatives behind the movie talk about how surprised they were on just how successful (both critically and financially) the film was. There were three aspects of how Gary made the film that I think contributed to its success:
- The Look. He purposefully didn’t go for a slick, sci-fi look. There’s an edgy and retro feel to the film. Yet there is just enough futuristic technology to keep plausible as an advanced society technologically.
- Kept it Human. Hearing Gary talk about his process is like listening to a zen master. He really focused on the human side of the story, not only in how he wrote it, but also in the tone he set for the set. There was a strong camaraderie among the child actors and the crew. He was partly able to do that by #3.
- Out of Hollywood. He kept the making of the film out of the studio’s backyard. Filming mostly in the woods of North Carolina with no trailers and no sound stages, often with no internet connect as well.
Doing it His Way
Gary made a very poignant remark near the end of one of the behind-the-scenes docs. He said that if he tried to please millions of people and make a $400 million movie (it has since even surpassed that amount), ironically it would NOT have become that. He had to trust his vision and make the movie that HE wanted to make. That’s all an artist can, and should do. That’s all he or she has.
Are you staying true to your vision?
Jamie Abbott says
Good thoughts, as usual. One of the hardest things to do is stay true to your vision, especially these days when everybody has a niece in film school or a nephew with “a DSLR and a Mac”. And when there are certain people you have to please to insure that you get paid, or gigs where you follow someone else’s vision to pay for the chance to follow your own.
While I enjoyed Hunger Games (after they left behind the handheld shots at the beginning), I think Pleasantville remains Ross’s best work as a director. (He wrote Big and Dave, which were directed by Penny Marshall and Ivan Reitman, respectively.)
Ron Dawson says
Thanks for the correction Jamie. You’re right. Before HG I wasn’t familiar with him. He mentioned Big and Dave in the bts, so I assumed he directed them.
Thanks for the comment.
Too bad the next installment isn’t being directed by Ross. Hopefully that “staying true to vision” will remain, though the history of sequels isn’t stellar. . . .