Story Effect I

by zenquaker

The Film Foundation ads are really starting to annoy me. I see them all the time on the movies I rent from Netflix. Even on the TV shows I rent from Netflix, which is kind of odd. If you haven’t seen them, they show Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood talking about the movies they loved when they were younger, and they show how much better the films are when restored. It’s not that I have a problem with restoring old films, but they want me to donate money to this. Why should I pay to restore the films? Why shouldn’t the people who made a lot of money off the movies in the first place pay to restore the films? Why shouldn’t the people who are going to make money off the films once they are restored pay to restore the films?

I went to their web site to try and figure out what was going on. It was not very informative, and only irritated me more. They had a section on artist’s rights, and I thought, “Okay, artist’s rights, that sounds like a worthy cause.” So I click on the link about Michael Mann and Heat. I like Heat. It drags in places, put has some good characters and good action. The movie is almost three hours long. NBC got the TV rights and wanted to cut it down so it could fit in a three hour slot with ads. Michael Mann disagreed, and suggested on adding material to the film so that it could fit in a four hour time slot. NBC went ahead with the three hour time slot and Michael Mann insisted that they take his name off the cut down version.

This is the sort of whiny insistence that there is one true way to tell the story that I find so irrational. I noticed it first with fans of books that are made into movies who get upset when the movie isn’t exactly like the book. NEWSFLASH: the movie can’t be exactly like the book. Movies and books are radically different media. There are certain kinds of content that you can put more of in a book than you could ever hope to put in a movie. A very instructive point that I got from a book on novel writing was that there is the story, and there is the novel, and that they are two different things. Likewise the movie, the novel, and the story are three different things. If you can’t accept the movie as a different way to tell the story than the novel, you shouldn’t go to the movie in the first place. Which isn’t to say the movie can’t screw up the story. I’ve even seen movies that screw up the story because they try to remain true to the novel.

You see this with creators too, and the NBC/Michael Mann/Heat thing is a perfect example of this. TV is a different medium than film. Three hours is pushing it on TV for an action movie (and really for film too). Four hours just isn’t going to work. So I side with NBC on this. If Michael Mann had felt that was NBC’s way to cut the movie down to a three hour TV show was the wrong way to present the story, and suggested a different way to cut it down to three hours with ads, I would be on Michael Mann’s side.