A- Z of…. Movies and Moviemaking

A-Z of movies

This is my attempt to introduce a new feature. I’m hoping to do a regular A-Z of film and television related topics, from Action films to Rom-Coms, Bond to Batman. This is a section where I assign each letter something relevant and important to the category I’ve chosen. The real interesting element will be whether you agree with my choices or can think of something better.

So the first category is a general films category, choosing the A-Z elements of films and everything movie related.

A is for Audience – The key part of the whole process. The people you are trying to appeal to. This is something that is both positive and negative. It works well when you make a great film for the people who enjoy that type of film, like a horror film for pure horror fans or a superhero film that will appeal to true fans. In some cases this becomes an issue and ratings for films are adjusted so that it can appeal to the widest possible audience. Something that may well have taken the sting out of more violent films like the Die Hard series.

B is for Budget – The second element that plays a huge part in the film industry. Everyone is in it to make money which means budgets have to be just right to make a return on the cash that people have invested. This is sometimes used to great effect, creating amazing, groundbreaking movies like The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings. The other side of this coin is that it leads to studios taking less and less risks, which increases the amount of sequels, prequels and films from the same genre, over and over.

C is for Cast – You can’t have a successful film if the casting is wrong. The actors and actresses that make up the film have to be right for each part, act well in the film and have great chemistry with each other. Sometimes this can be one great actor, surrounded by a good, supportive cast. This can also lead to great double-acts, putting some heavyweight actors together and creating brilliant film moments. Get the cast wrong, it can jar and you ruin a movie.

D is for Director – I’m managing to tick all the big ones off from the list early on. The director can be the biggest draw for a movie, with Tarantino, Spielberg and Jackson being a key reason for people to watch a film. Its their vision and their unique style that sometimes makes a movie a huge success. Think about The Dark Knight Trilogy without Christopher Nolan!

E is for Effects – This is something that has become more important recently than ever before. Special effects, Motion Capture and CGI of all kinds, means that you can pretty much achieve and demonstrate anything you want on film. This is great in films like The Hobbit or The Avengers, where a man can turn seamlessly into a Hulk or a Wizard can fight a Goblin King. It does have the negative effect of some films being too reliant on it, almost being too fake. Plus if its done badly, it’ll ruin your movie rather than improve it.

F is for Franchise – If money is everything, then its become important to create films that have longevity. The Hobbit is the most recent and best example of this. A film that would fit nicely into two films has become a trilogy that feels drawn out. Regardless of whether you believe Peter Jackson is doing this for creative reasons or whether it’s for the money, the studio has got to be happy with the yearly injection of cash it has created. Add this to The Avengers, Harry Potter and Twilight, the franchise is a big part of the movie industry.

G is for Genre – One of the best thing about movies is that they are so diverse. From Horror to Action, you can see anything you want and there is literally something for everyone. This can be a struggle for some studios and creators, as they can do a bad job of trying to create specific genre films, highlighting a movies flaws even more.

H is for Hollywood – Where it all happens. The central hub and life-blood of most things movie-related. If you want to make films on a big scale, with plenty of studio-backed support (and more importantly, cash) then you have to be in LA. It feels like its beginning to lose its appeal, with most people complaining about how films are made and the business that surrounds Hollywood but it’s still central to movie-making and the blockbusters that appear every summer.

I is for Independent – Sometimes filmmakers want to get away from the interference and restrictions that comes with the big studios and their money. This leads to very personal, innovative and unique, independently created films which bring something fresh to movies in general. It has begun to attract its own set of clichés though, like animated titles, an obscure soundtrack and the constant reliance of Ellen Page.

J is for Jump-Cut – Ok, I struggled with J but bare with me. A Jump-Cut is a technique used in movie-making. Its part of the editing and the work that goes on after the camera’s have stopped rolling. Its recognition of the processes that are overlooked, when the director and actors are getting all the praise.

K is for Kids Films – This is probably one of the most lucrative and successful avenues in movie-making. Some of the best films of all time have been “kids films” from Disney’s greatest animated films to Pixar’s consistent, brilliant productions. It also means that other studios are forced to take this area more seriously and we are getting much better “kids films” which are now becoming “family films” because they can be enjoyed just as much by the parents and everyday viewer than the young audience they were initially aimed at.

L is for Lionsgate – I’ve chosen Lionsgate as recognition of the smaller studios. Its still quite a young company but is behind films such as the Saw franchise. They are one of the lesser known studios but with movies like The Hunger Games, they are showing that even the smaller, younger studios can now compete with the bigger companies.

M is for Music – Alongside director and actors, the soundtrack to a film is a key component to its success. It’s not just the songs in musicals or the iconic title themes from countless (Spielberg) films. Imagine Inception without Hans Zimmer’s iconic, booming theme or Toy Story without “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” Music is just as influential as the performances, and in some cases, more so.

N is for Name – This has a couple of meanings. The first is the name of your movie. A lot of people put Sci-Fi film John Carter’s disaster down to the bland and meaningless title. It gave little away and didn’t excite the right amount of fans. A name can also attract all the audience you need. A lot of huge film’s success can rely on having the star name attached to the movie in the first place.

O is for Oscars – The Academy Awards are the benchmark of movie-making recognition. In an awards season filled with the Golden Globes, the Baftas and the Raspberries, the Oscar’s are the awards that everyone is vying for. It can make a career, catapulting small-scale stars to bigger (but not always better) things. It’s also a way of showing recognition to acting legends, although whether Daniel Day-Lewis needs another Oscar is a different debate entirely.

P is for Profit – The main reason that ninety-percent of movies are made. It affects everything, from cast to director, from rating to script. Studios are always going to be primarily interested in whether a film makes money and whether this is right or not, it’s an unavoidable fact that is always changing the way we watch movies.

Q is for Quality – As a by-product of making profit, there is a lot of films being made that are just cash-cows. Ace Ventura Jr and a third Lion King film are more than unnecessary sequels. Sometimes this desire to squeeze every inch of cash from a film series can surprise you, like the resurgence in the Fast and the Furious franchise, but most of the time you end up with over-extended, tired series that lost its magic years ago.

R is for Rating – We are now living in a time when a PG13 rating (12a for the UK readers) is everything! A time when Die Hard 4 (Live Free or Die Hard) is cut and trimmed to be accessible to the biggest demographic. Whether you are against this or not (and I am!) it’s a huge part of film making, particularly in the case of summer blockbusters, and is changing the way films are made and written.

S is for Script – The script is where it all begins. A great piece of writing jumps out of the screen, like Aaron Sorkin’s The Social Network. The alternative is cringe-worthy and difficult to watch. Sometimes what’s being said is better than what is going on; Quentin Tarantino proves this time and time again. Its what attracts your big movie stars and the huge production companies. It can also be the biggest key to a film’s failure.

T is for Trailer – This has become such a bigger part of a movies release than it ever has been before. The internet means that a trailer can be watched over and over again, picked apart and studied as if it was the film itself. It can be the most talked about part of a sports event (the Superbowl) and has even become so big that studios now produce trailers for trailers!

U is for Universal – Another letter with a double meaning. Universal is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, studio in movies. It has been producing movies since 1912 and is a benchmark of recognition in the movie industry. Universal can also mean movies themselves. Alongside television and music, nothing is more accessible to everyone and anyone. Everyone has a favourite film or a movie they are excited to see and talk about. Everyone has seen movies and wants to see certain films, even if they don’t consider themselves a “fan.”

V is for Variety – Remakes, reboots, sequels, trilogies. Horror, action, romance, comedy. Films are vast and varied. It is constantly changing and creating something new. Often it will tread the same ground and produce very similar material, but at the same time you will get something brand-new, never before seen, that will push the boundaries and change films forever.

W is for Warner Bros. – This doesn’t necessarily stand for Warner Bros, but more for big studios in general. Paramount could have easily been in this list too as it’s the big studios that make the biggest films. Blockbusters, Oscar worthy movies and everything in-between. Independent films will always try, but without the money, they will never compete with the big studios.

X is for eXpectation – In the age of the internet, expectation for a film is everything. The huge summer blockbusters rely on it and build it to such a point where you can’t help but be disappointed. Trailers, posters, viral videos and talk-shows are all part of a huge marketing campaign that gets people excited for a movie and willing to pay cinema prices to see it first!

Y is for Youth – The movie industry is much more embracing of fresh, new ideas than you’d imagine. Directors are getting younger, especially with the accessibility of digital film equipment. It means that independent movies are a great way of opening the door to studio financed films. You can go from Clerks to Dogma or Monsters to Godzilla or Catfish to Paranormal Activity. It’s the younger, more creative and experimental directors that keep movies fresh and watchable.

Z is for craZy fans – Movie fans are crazy! If a film isn’t up to scratch they will complain, moan and vilify anyone involved. Star Wars, and George Lucas specifically, has had more hate thrown his way than is healthy for any human being. With movie companies increasing the tension and anticipation, fans are expecting so much more and sometimes, films can’t ever match-up. Unfortunately, the internet is a great place to share those angry, crazy views.

So there you have it. My A-Z of movies and movie-making. It was a struggle (seriously J?) which is why I’m interested in your thoughts and whether you would swap out any of my letters for a better, more relevant word instead. Feel free to let me know below.

Poor George…

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