Obsession: The Key to Movie Making

I’ve often read that you need to be very committed to a movie project if you want to finish it. In the last few days I’ve come across a couple of examples that drove it home for me.

The first was a piece on TV about the movie Loose Change. The movie puts forth a 9-11 conspiracy theory. After the work I did on Who Shot the President, I’m pretty sceptical of conspiracy theories.

They made the initial version for $8,000 and posted it on the internet. Despite being free to watch on the internet, they have gone on to sell more than a million DVDs.

What caught my interest in the TV report was how obsessive the movie makers were. They didn’t set out to just make a movie, they wanted to expose what they believed was a real threat to freedom and peace. They made it free so more people would find out. As it turned out, there was an audience that was just as obsessive about 9-11 conspiracy theories as they were.

Loose Change was not the only conspiracy movie made, but it has been one of the more successful. I think the lesson here is that the movie makers’ obsession not only made the movie happen, but also imbued it with a sense of honesty that helped it capture an audience.

 

My second example isn’t a movie. Stephen King’s book On Writing is a combination autobiography and writing manual. I’m only about half way through, but I’ve gotten a sense of just how obsessive a writer he was. From the age of six he wanted to be a writer and from then on he began to write stories. By the time he became an overnight sensation with Carrie, he had been writing for 20 years.

In the book, he talks about how he persevered in the face of financial difficulties, family responsibilities and a huge pile of rejections. Before his success he had a very hard life. It wasn’t just his obsession that kept him going. His wife pulled the first version of Carrie out of the garbage where he’d thrown it, in the belief that it was no good.

No one starts out as a good writer. Writing is a skill that you need to learn and practice before you get good at it. Stephen King’s story shows the obsession a writer needs to persist until they develop those skills. Movie making is also a skill. You will make many bad movies before you make a good one.

 

For myself, I feel that I need to find a story that I want to tell even if I can’t make it into a movie. When I came up with the idea for Who Shot the President I thought of it as a feature. When I realized I wasn’t ready to make a feature, I took the idea and condensed it down into a short. It is that kind of idea that I want to find.

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