Sunday, 13 March 2016

Take comfort: they've only got our eyes and ears

Stumbled across this delicious nugget in a review of a biography of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown: "Fashion moved on briefly to the picturesque - a dark wood, a tangled briar, an artificial ruin - but it didn't last: the sublime could only work if it were a real gorge or tumbling waterfall, decreed the tastemakers."

You know those bits in CGI-heavy movies, where the producers try too hard, thinking more-is-more?  That's exactly what they were saying, back in the late 1700s.  You can't fake it: the audience are too intelligent.  There's something innate that makes us bridle, whether it's at an unnaturally natural landscape or one explosion too many at the local World-of-Cine.

Which got me thinking: the film-makers have only got our eyes and ears (and nasal passages and subcuticle nerve endings for those novelty 4-D shows).  And, with those, they're aiming for an emotional impact.  It's a bit like traditional horticulture - hope you've thrown the right rootstock and shrub together to bring the best of the two plants' characteristics together.  But it's essentially trial and error.

Except now we have GMO (which I'm all in favour of) - rather than guess, spot the fundamentals of the plant that give disease-resistance and high-yield and bring them together, minimising the chances of unforeseen consequences.  Pick from a menu with your eyes wide open, rather than play blind man's buff in the hope that you haven't gone for red wine with fish.

What if film-makers could do the same?  Rather than hope the auditory and visual inputs brought the desired emotional outputs, what if they could plug directly into the neurotransmitters (as a sci-fi writer, you'll note that the hokum level in my terminology is rising) that make us laugh and cry.  Saying that 'The end of Casablanca always makes me weep' may eventually turn out to be literally true...

Or will great writing always prevail, and a weak script still be seen for what it is?  Will the audience still see through the smoke and mirrors?  I truly hope so.


In other news, Fuzzy Hedgehog Press have picked up my story 'Where do all the Accountants Come From' for their forthcoming Beyond the Hedge anthology.  Inspired by a throwaway line in Robert McKee's 'Story' about him wanting to write a screenplay about an ageing bank-robber, my tale veers wildly off-piste to take in the Devil in a Laplacian universe.  Which, I don't think, McKee had in mind... 

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