As a filmmaker and a student of the arts, I think it is important to spend some time processing art. It allows us to have a better understanding of the whole process, and helps us look at films from a new perspective; different than what a casual viewing would allow.
When I was 13 years old, my father bought the special edition of The Lord of the Rings. Although I loved to sit and watch the movies, I enjoyed even more taking a look at all the behind the scenes (BTS) content over and over again. Eventually, I cared more about the BTS than the actual movies themselves.
For the first time in my life, I began to understand how a movie was made and more importantly, everything that makes up a movie.
I could no longer watch a movie the same way again.
As the American Beauty marketing prompted me, I took a closer look into the movies I watched, and began asking myself questions about them.
To help both you and myself out, I came up with 5 starter questions to get us thinking about the movies we watch, on a deeper level.
1. What did you think of the the movie and how did it make you feel?
It’s important to ask this question right after you finish watching a movie. It matters just as much what the audience thought and takes away from the movie as the people who are creating it.
Art does not exist in a vacuum.
An example of this would be to notice how does a movie make you feel, emotionally. What do you think works well about the movie? What doesn’t work well? Does this movie make you think more about life or does just entertain you?
2. What did you think of the script?
The script is the foundation of the entire movie. It is where the story begins. Therefore in reflecting on a movie, it is important to think about the script. However, this is tricky as you cannot actually see what was written in the script when you watch a movie.
What you can notice is the character development and structure. Do the characters change over the course of the film? Were they well defined? What do you think the theme of the movie is?
Being able to answer all of these questions will help reveal the script and help in your crafting of a story.
I think in our creating films art it is important to see how other filmmakers make us feel and manipulate our feelings, analyse it and make it our own.
3. What would you change about the movie?
Imagine for a moment that you are the director of the movie you just watched. What would you have done differently? Would you have chosen different actors, locations, or shots?
This question allows you to figure why you may have come to a particular conclusion.
As a filmmaker this will be helpful as you plan and visualise the movie differently. It can greatly affect the outcome of what you create.
4. What were the filmmakers trying to say?
This may take a little extra work, like finding articles and interviews online. However, I think it is very important to know what the people who made the movie were trying to say and how much effort actually went into making it. The special features on Blu-Rays DVDs are great for this.
Asking yourself this question can tell you exactly what the filmmaker’s intention was and what inspired them to create a piece of art that inspired you by watching it.
I remember watching Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain, starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz, and coming away with the conclusion that I was just plain confused. However after watching some of the behind the scenes content, I was able to discover the true intention of the movie and understood the story much better on a second viewing.
As a filmmaker, this exposes us to new and different ways of communicating and helps us in the “how” of saying what we want to say.
5. What could you take away from this movie?
As a filmmaker, I am constantly looking for inspiration for my own work. A lot of that comes from other films. Think of some recent films you watched. Think of a few moments from the film, or a particular shot, or specific bit of music that inspired you.
Remembering these moments for when you are creating something can be helpful; giving you a good reference for what you want your project to be like, and help visualise it.
I think questioning things is healthy. It allows us to process, and apply what we learned to our own art.
This is by no means has been a comprehensive list of questions, but it can be a good start in understanding movies from a deeper perspective. It can help you appreciate and enjoy movies you watch, even more.