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It’s Not Just About Being An Artist

Updated: May 25, 2021

While it’s important to recognise film as being art, just like in any art form, creative and artistic decisions have to be made. It’s not just about saying, “I like this colour, let’s use it” or, “hold that flower, it’s pretty”, it’s much more than that. Not to mention, it isn’t just one person’s decisions that are used. The entire team of people working on the film has a say, especially if the team is cohesive and has a collective understand of what the film should look and sound like. Even the actors should have a say in the creative decisions made in the film. It isn’t just about saying a line from the script, it’s about how they say it and what emotions they want to portray.

These decisions can range from what kind of pencil the actors use, to the underlying message the producers, writers and directors want to hide amongst the story. These are artistic decisions because they don’t just make a film, to make money. These decisions dictate how the film makes their audience feel. They help the actors evoke certain emotions in certain scenes or help their music composers enhance those emotions. The props that are in those scenes could give hints to the underlying message the directors want to portray, or they could be used as “McGuffins” that prove important in the film later.

That’s why it’s important to remember, film isn’t just an art because we say it is an art. It is an art because it requires artistic decisions from the entire team, working on the film. From the producers and screenwriters, to the makeup artists, actors and costume department.

The Art Isn’t Just In The Art

Of course, artistic decisions don’t just mean that the cast and crew only think about the art that goes into making the film, it’s also about being creative with the money they have. Most of the time, independent filmmakers, or those starting out in the industry, don’t have the production budget that will give them the freedom to use the best and brightest, so they usually have to be creative with what they already have. For example, filmmakers might be able to save money on creating props, by making them with items around the house, or instead of using the best lighting equipment, they could use a bright lamp, place it in a strategic way to evoke the same lighting scheme they would get from a Red Head lamp.

Even large-scale productions have their constraints. Let’s look at Star Wars, it is the best example of a film that, even with a large budget, all from George Lucas’ pocket, a lot of creativity went into how the sets were made and what they used to make the props. For example, the original hilt of the lightsabres were made from an old Graflex flashgun (think of the early photographic camera, the thing that flashed whenever they took a picture, that’s a flashgun) and other household items, like the bubble strips from calculators and grips from sliding glass cabinet windows. It took a lot of ingenuity to create these lightsabres, because Lucas didn’t have enough money to make anything new, nor did he have the time.

On the other end, like in student films, for example, neither students nor universities have the kind of budget that the Major 5 have. Student films are made even without a budget, and require the help from other fellow students, from other departments, to create credible films. Of course, while these students remain hopeful, they also know that their visions will be majorly stunted, because they don’t have the money to make whatever props, costumes and sets they need. So, by mocking these sets, with things they do have, they can create films that, while not on the same level as those made by studios, can be as effective as them. For example, you could make a mock-up of sci-fi film, by using a room in your house, and use a cutaway to a stock photo of the Mars landscape.

The art isn’t just in the art of the film, it is in also in the way you use the items you already have to create a scene that looks real and feels real to your audience.

Don’t Forget About The Cutting Room Floor

Of course, we always talk about the pre-production and the production of a film, but we mustn’t forget the creativity that comes in post-production. What I mean is the editing style of the film. A lot of the time, we look at post-production as the ones who create the special effects for the film, like the flashes of light that come from an X-Wing Fighter, or the lightning bolts that come from Harry Potter’s wand, but it’s not just that. An editor must put the film together, and edit the scenes, so that it doesn’t just follow the storyboard they’re given, but also emphasize the emotions of the scenes they’re editing. In fact, you could say that the editor has the most creative freedom, other than the writers and producers, on a film.

If an editor could, they could make the film look as ridiculous or action packed as they want. They could even bypass the vision of the director and make the film their own. This is probably why many filmmakers turn to editing. Editing is probably the freest aspect of filmmaking, because they can create whatever scenes they want, especially if the film is made using green-screen technology. Not to mention, the editors can make the film as colour-saturated or unsaturated as they’d like.

Think about it this way, in the last Harry Potter films, the colour palette was very muted, the colours that you could probably remember would most likely be green, black, navy and blue. Now, think about Thor or any of the Marvel Avengers films. You’re most likely to remember the red, gold, bright blues, the emerald greens and the bright purples. This is because the editors saturated the colours in the film to make it brighter and more eye-catching, which is more of a nod to the comics of the original Marvel universe.

Creativity Defines Art

So, the next time you look at a film, try to see what creative and artistic decisions went into it, and see if you can recreate it in your own home. If not, challenge yourself to mock it up with what you do have. Maybe you could make your own lightsabre hilt with your water bottle, or fashion your own wand with a pen and some Paper-Mache. To be a true filmmaker, you need to think creatively and outside the box, not just in your stories and screenplays, but also in the way you make the props, sets and costumes for those stories. Don’t just simply make something new, because you want to be different, make something new, because your story requires it.

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