Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Movie-making, not nearly as distant as it once was

Probably for most of us, outside of being employed in the film industry, the idea of "making a movie" would still seem pretty far-fetched. There is a lot of fascination and glamour in this industry, and even careers in stage setting, wardrobe, sound, etc., are highly sought after. Prior to the late 1970s, and the advent of VCRs, relatively few movies were produced. This began to change rapidly in the mid-eighties, as independent direct-to-video (or direct-to-cable) movies were produced for video stores and new television networks. Investors could then immediately gain entry into the film industry without having to ingratiate themselves to Hollywood or devoting their lives to a film-related career, and make a descent profit. By the late-eighties, relatively inexpensive movies were popping out like hot cakes. The paradigm had been altered.

Today, with the advance and accessibility of technology, along with a wide industry landscape, movie-making is literally within reach of people of modest means. In fact, within a few miles of where I live, there is a company which rents motion-picture equipment. Anyone with Comcast or DirectTV knows that there are many channels, and a good number of them produce their own original films. To cut to the chase, we would like to see some of our history depicted in film, even if this was accomplished via "low-budget." In reality, low-budget is actually expensive in it's own right; but if frugally and creatively done, can achieve the desired result. It should also be noted that entire topographic backgrounds can be created with inexpensive computer graphics, so that an entire ancient Rome or Egypt can be created without much trouble or cost.

A perfect example of this was the 2007 movie 'Marco Polo'. This movie was produced by the Hallmark Channel, a small cable television network. The film turned out pretty well. The environment and props (architecture, dress, wagons, ships, etc.), whether Venice or Asia, was believable. Although it wasn't as dramatic as 'Gladiator' or 'Braveheart' (it could have been with a similar budget), it gave a good account of Polo's life.

Had Marco Polo, or an entire host of historical figures from the history of our people, been of a number of other racial or ethnic backgrounds, a massively-budgeted Hollywood blockbuster would have been made a long time ago, and would have joined 'Sparticus' and similar historical figures dramatically depicted on screen. As the old saying goes, "the squeaky wheel gets the oil."


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