It’s the last couple of weeks of the semester (wow, that was quick), so my one credit Cinema Studies class just kicked off. We’re watching a number of classic films and analyzing them, and one thing we briefly discussed in class is how difficult it sometimes is as a filmmaker to not over-analyze films.
I definitely have a hard time with this. I start mapping out the film Save the Cat-style, I ask questions about the camera angles, the blocking, and the script, and I often need to remind myself that I’m not a critic or a film festival jury member. I’m a person watching a movie.
For example, the Chicago International Film Festival (CIFF) wrapped up about a month ago, and it was really insightful in helping me learn to just savor films. There are juries at CIFF, and the filmmakers of a lot of the films are present and do Q&A sessions. You really want to be able to ask them intelligent questions. In witnessing the Q&A sessions, I realized that it’s okay not have super deep analyses of a film, especially one you’ve just seen. Just being somewhat aware of choices the filmmakers made and techniques, shots, lines, etc. that stood out to you is enough. After a screening, people really want to discuss whether you liked the film or not, how it made you feel, not have a cinema studies class-type discussion with you.
That really is the crux of it. Focus on that. I had the privilege of speaking with Chinonye Chukwu, the director of Clemency and I told her how her film made me feel and we connected over our experiences as Nigerians in the U.S. living far from our parents. That conversation, for me, was more impactful than one about anything technical. Also, think about what your goal is, as a filmmaker. You aren’t making films just so people revel in your technical mastery. First and foremost, we make films to make people feel something. If you can keep that in mind, you can enjoy a film. Even when you have to write a 3000 word paper on it.