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September 5 at 8:15am

Why Make This Movie? 15 Answers To A Question That Should Be Asked More Often

By Ted Hope

You are a filmmaker. Maybe you are a director. Maybe a producer. Well, whatever you are, what if you didn’t have to make the movie you’ve been trying to make so long with so much effort? Well, you really don’t. We often work so hard for so long trying to get our precious films made that we also often lose sight of the fact that all creation is a choice. How can we prevent ourselves from forgetting that there is a right time for every choice?  And sometimes that time has passed us by.

Sometimes the process of putting our movies together has gone on for such an extent, we’ve moved on from the reasons that we wanted to make the movie in the first place.

What makes a movie important to make?  And important to make right now?  What are the factors that require us to make it now?  What should we ask ourselves, before pushing blindly ahead yet again? It’s important to make a film when it is truly most important to us — sounds logical enough, but I think we forget that when we are engaged in the process.  If we don’t want to lose sight of what is needed to make a great movie, we have to make sure we don’t lose sight of why we want to make the movie.  It is never enough to do something just because we can.  Most people think the question is “why not make this movie?” but it should be the positive version: you need to know why you should put your labor in service of a work.  I am sure there are many more good reasons, and I hope you will offer them. Here’s 15 to get you started.

  1. You emotionally connect with the material.  When you try to talk about it, your eyes well up.  There’s that thing about it that you connect to in such a deep way that it changes how you feel.  Stop trying to explain it — just do the damn movie and get on with it already.
  2. I want to make movies that are about the time that I am living in, whether or not that is the time they are set in.  I don’t believe that movies are reflective of our time just because they are made in our time.  That certain something, that observation that is truly defining — sometimes expressed consciously, sometimes not — is a reason to make the movie now.  If that reason is not there, maybe it is a reason not to proceed.
  3. I want to make movies that compel people to discuss them afterwards.  I often have felt that the definition of art is that it won’t leave you alone — it demands to be debated.  When I find something I know people will have a wide range of opinion on, it gets me excited.  I love imagining the arguments between friends and love ones that an idea, or an expression of that idea, can spark.
  4. Sometimes it’s enough to go on an adventure.  Making movies is an addictive process as each one is different with a new team and a new set of problems and opportunities.  That’s thrilling.  Movie making is consistent set of discoveries.  How great is that?  The challenge of a particular film can sometimes be enough to encourage it to get made or for one to participate in it.  There are some projects that have certain challenges to the physical making of it, that gives you the confidence to believe that something new will be discovered in the process.
  5. The production of some films is guaranteed to be a journey into the unknown or the uneasy — both being fertile ground for self-discovery or self-actualization.  Whether one is a creative person or one who excels at supporting creative people (or maybe a bit of both) the challenge of the unknown, of what one may be fearful of, or even queasy about, is an opportunity to go further, to test one self and become more as a result.  Sometimes it is worth it.
  6. I think movies can change people.  I want to make films that can change people. I have always been drawn to stories that help us relate to people we might feel we have nothing in common to.  Movies allow people to walk a mile in another man’s shoes.
  7. Certain movies and subjects help us to discuss, confront, even understand subjects and themes that we otherwise have trouble knowing how to talk about.  Movies put subjects into the cultural discussion. 
  8. Some stories have to be told.  Others have been told so many times before, I am not sure why we are returning to them yet again.  Beautiful work, incredibly personal work, work of honest emotion and truth — I get why they need to be told.  Work that exposes what is really going on, or shows another point of view — yes, that too.  There’s so much out there that needs to be told in fact, I really wonder why our business and culture keeps on with the redundant and unnecessary.
  9. You have a relationship with the director or producer or actor or financier that is important to you.  People matter and working with those you like is a pleasure that is hard to match.  That said, you shouldn’t do a movie as a favor, or else you will probably regret it.
  10. The instigating artist, be it writer or director or producer, needs to be championed and/or supported.  There are some artists that you can see that we need (aka the artist for our time) but have yet to be given the chance; you can tell though that they will make great work, even if what you are being offered is not quite that.  Still you must do it.
  11. The film could transform how a participating artist is perceived.  Now, I have not encountered a film yet that I wanted to do for the actor or the cinematographer or another collaborator, but I can imagine it could happen.
  12. I think movies can change the world.  I know that they have.  I don’t really think any of mine have.  And that kills me. I have been at it a long time.  I need to give this a real try.
  13. You are the one — or at least one of the only ones — that can really help this to happen.  It’s good to be needed, isn’t it?
  14. You will make it better if you get involved.  The importance of this diminishes I think the more you get done.  And of course, this one doesn’t matter if some of the other reasons aren’t fulfilled first.
  15. You like it.  This is the final reason on this list and it is last for a certain reason.  I don’t think it is ever enough to go through the challenge of making and marketing a work just because you like it.  It takes more, usually something else from this list.  That said, I can imagine that something will one day find me that I am compelled to make simply because I can.


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  • Joy Marzec

    awesome! Thank you.

  • John W. Comerford

    Wow Ted. Makes me want to well up…

  • Karen

    Movies can change the world. Thank you for all the hard work you do.

  • Deborah Goodwin

    Thank you so much. This list is essential in its clarity, sobering yet inspiring.

  • http://hopeforfilm.com/ Ted Hope

    Glad the post was useful. I wonder if it will ever help a movie NOT get made when it shouldn’t….

  • godzilla’s foil

    So… You can basically use any excuse to make a movie, whether it’s a good excuse or bad, a good movie or a terrible one. You put your hands on the “Battlefield Earth” script and go naively “Oh, I THINK this can change a person” or ” I FEEL a special connection with this sort of s***”, and then you’re completely justified and that film should be made. Right?

  • http://hopeforfilm.com/ Ted Hope

    WELL, ‘zilla’s Foil, one has to be honest with oneself. That’s really what all of this is about. To much crap does get made and most folks are not often honest with themselves that is true. Nonetheless I think if I had done some serious cross checking on my own work I may have selected a different path at times. With this list, I was also trying to be truthful & complete on what would spur me forward. I think good work can come out of any of these choices. Sure I did not go through the business of this, but that is a different sort of barrier. Here, I was trying to keep it personal.

  • Mademyfilm

    Zila I don’t think Ted ever said these rules would automatically lead to the movie being great or commercial. He’s charging us as filmmakers to really think about how important this journey is before we embark on it.

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