Why I got over my shit & started watching films & TV shows again.
NOTE: I wrote this blog post in October of 2018, lost it in my notes, & just found it now so pretend you’re reading it in October of 2018. “Recently” in the context of the article means “October of 2018”. [Yeah, I know if I say ‘October of 2018’ again, you’re gonna throw a pie in my general direction]
There’s going to be a new feature on this blog & I am SUPER DUPER EXCITED.
Recently, I’ve began watching a lot of movies again.
I didn’t watch many for a long time because I got into this extreme hustle mode where if something didn’t seem absolutely productive, I cut it out. Many forms of “entertainment” were reduced or eliminated. I thought that only things that were educational mattered.
Which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be constantly learning. It’s just that after so much learning & deep intense thinking, your brain does need to play.
And movies are perfect for that.
I used to watch movies all the time, typically at night before going to bed. I’ve always been obsessed (read that as OBSESSED) with movies. As a kid, I watched tons of movies. My sister & I would frequently wear out video tapes or scratch up our DVDs in the pursuit of watching our favorite scenes over. And over. And over. And over…
Anyways, I would endlessly emulate my favorite characters. I’d try my best to dress like them, look like them, act like them. This applied to books as well as movies. Violet from the Boxcar Children. Hermione & Luna from Harry Potter. Indiana Jones. Jack Ryan from The Hunt for Red October. And like hundreds more. SO many characters have had an impact on me throughout my life. I wanted to be like ALL of them.
As a teenager, I also watched a lot of movies. This was sometimes limited to what I could find on DailyMotion or other video sites, because I had no Netflix & I was too awkward to tell my family about movies I wanted to see. They were also judgmental about movies sometimes or movies being a “bad influence” or not appropriate for my younger sister who was almost always home. So I was on my own as far as finding movies, which lead me to watching (*cough* *cough* pirated) versions of them from video sites (the ones that were free & not “free” but requiring a credit card, obviously. Those were shady. And I didn’t have a credit card anyway). But I DID watch a lot of amazing movies from what I could piece together from YouTube, DailyMotion, & other sites.
To quote actor Jim Sturgess,
“Actually, I feel like [the film that I’ve just seen] every time I come out of the cinema. If that film’s about being a hippie, then I’m like, ‘That’s it, I’m gonna grow my own vegetables.'”
Still, through the years, I eventually lost my zeal in watching movies. “I’m too busy.” I complained. Which was sometimes true. I have had patches where my work schedule was very demanding & if I wanted to SLEEP in any given day, there was no time for movies. (Or much else, to be honest).
Then when I DID have time, I cited the lack of “educational” value in TV & films. “Bring on the personal development!” I would shout to myself. But it wasn’t like I watched documentaries. Usually I just watched nothing (& crapped around the internet instead, to be honest).
Fast forward to NOW. A few months back, during a rough patch when I was going through some stressful family problems. Not only was I trying to process my own emotions, but I had to be the rock to help others as they processed THEIRS. So I needed an easy, reliable form of stress relief & routine to start my day off right so that I wouldn’t get overwhelmed.
I began watching episodes of Arrested Development each morning. I was stuck in the second season & hadn’t watched much of anything for a while. Bob’s Burgers wasn’t on Netflix (bummer), so I went back to another of my favorite shows.
It really helped. Watching something funny always has been highly restorative to me. I give that show a lot of credit for helping me get through the rough patch only mildly scathed. It was like therapy, for only the cost of Netflix each month. (On days when I didn’t have like 25 minutes to watch a whole episode before I got up, I’d watch a five minute episode of one of my favorite hilarious web series, Yacht Rock.) My objective was to start the day with something funny each day.
The rough patch ended, things got busy again, & I didn’t watch any movies for a few months.
Fast forward slightly to very recent times.
So a little more than a week ago, I felt kind of an “off” energy in my life. And I thought, “I need to watch something funny.” I decided I’d just pick something from my (long) Netflix watch list & watch like 20 minutes of it so I could still go to sleep at a reasonable time.
So I selected the 2016 movie “Masterminds.” I had no idea what it was about aside from the three-line Netflix description. But it had Owen Wilson in it, & I’ve never seen an Owen Wilson movie I didn’t like.
I watched twenty minutes of it. It was hilarious! So the next night I had a bit more time & watched like 45 minutes more. I didn’t have time the next night. But the night after that I finished it. I loved it. (I’m going to write a review about it very soon – it will be the first film I review here).
Not only did I love the film, but I loved the way watching a movie felt.
And I realized (again, because I technically had realized this before but hadn’t used this logic in a long time) that I didn’t have to wait to watch movies until I had two hours of free time. As long as 20 minutes wouldn’t impede upon my sleep (like if I got out of work late & had to come in early the next day), there was no harm in taking the time to watch a movie.
In fact, doing so was valuable. I realized my idea that “watching movies was a waste of time” which would be better spent on more “austere” activities (*cough* *cough* surfing the web) was utter BULLSHIT. Of course, there are some activities which would have more value than watching movies, instead of the phone-surfing one. And of course, if I spent all my time watching movies I wouldn’t be very productive, would I?
But I thought back on this video by Allen Gannett.
“‘Aha’ moments [are subconscious only once you have] the ideas that pop into consciousness. And scientists have found that the way to have more of them is to consume more. […] What you find is that these great creators are actually mass consumers of culture because if you wanna connect the dots, you have to have the dots to actually connect.”
Consuming RELEVANT entertainment can add to your mental toolbox & help you create better things.
And I know for one, even if that wasn’t even enough of a benefit how much watching movies BENEFITED ME. (Movies, or engaging for short periods of time each day in other non-developmental activities, aka “entertainment”). Watching movies in this manner actually ADDED a lot to my life. And they actually did have developmental & educational merit as well.
Mostly because (*drumroll*) I AM an actress, director, & filmmaker. So I had a DUH moment when I realized of COURSE I should be watching movies so I can study movies, in the same way I listen to & study music because I’m a musician, look at people’s art in galleries or on Instagram because I’m an artist, or read books & articles because I’m a writer. IT IS A LOGICAL THING TO DO. Not a low-level activity like I was convinced it was.
When I watch a film, it’s more than just entertainment alone. As far as acting, I look at:
- The character development
- The unsaid things behind what a (good) actor is physically expressing
- The acting & how the actors show certain emotions, or develop the mannerisms of their characters, etc. Then I can emulate their acting of a scene & learn boatloads about acting. I mean, there are some scenes in movies that have taught me more about acting than anything else (example: the suicide scenes [1, 2] in Lethal Weapon taught me how good acting is subtle but strong). Character observation is invaluable to my development as an actress & as a fiction writer.
And I observe the story as a whole.
- How does the story unfold?
- How does it match the “beats” described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat?
- What makes it funny? Are there moments of comedic tension among an otherwise dark film?
- What makes the antagonist so creepy & hate-worthy?
- What makes you care about the protagonists? Why do you love these characters so much?
- How does the story build in suspense?
- What is the climax like & how did they set up the rest of the film for that? Does the climax, or any other scene, contain callbacks to earlier scenes?
Etc etc etc. This is invaluable for my work as a writer & a screenwriter.
I also consider the filmmaking process itself:
- How was the movie filmed?
- What cinematography elements do they use?
- How do they build the feel of the world they’re trying to create?
- Do they use certain lenses to make it look darker or more magical?
- What angles do they use? What makes those angles effective? How do they switch between camera angles & why?
- What flashbacks do they use, & what specific shots of those do they use & why?
- Why were the stylistic choices that were made, made?
- How did the director work with each member of the crew, especially the actors, to achieve the end result?
- How was the film edited together? Why was it edited that way?
- How were the stunts performed?
- How were the sets built?
- Where did they put the equipment so it wasn’t visible in that shot? Etc.
All of which are vital lessons in directing & filmmaking.
And films even have value for their FASHION, which is something I am totally obsessed with:
- Side one of that is why the costume designers picked those outfits for those characters. What does each item of clothing they’re wearing & their physical appearance say about them as a character? How does a character’s clothing inform us of small details of that character that otherwise wouldn’t be spoken about? How do those clothes help the actor feel like their character?
- And side two. If I incorporate that item of clothing they’re wearing, how will I feel? What do I want my clothes to say about me? Not to mention the boat-ton of excellent OUTFITS that I want to get or make myself because I STILL love emulating characters or copying their fashion vibes. Because as a fashion designer, those types of insights are also invaluable. And until you see how the clothes make the character & how the outfit moves on them…looking at still photos can’t do a lot of outfits justice.
So it seems like watching movies could teach me almost as much as going to acting & film school (but for so much less money! :D).
On top of ALL THOSE BENEFITS, watching movies is FUN.
And the thing I’ve learned about a lot recently (a current “experiment” I’m beginning to engage in, & will write about soon) is how vital fun is to your health & your lifestyle, & how enriching it is to your mind. And how important it is to feel good as often as you can.
So watching movies is good for my health. It teaches me almost a degree’s worth of knowledge about acting, filmmaking, directing, cinematography, character development, story writing, & fashion design & principles. It enriches my mind. It’s fun. It adds so much to my life.
It helps me level up my life.
That’s why I’m back to watching movies again.