Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Disney Filmmaker Stirs SDCC with Video Game Comments

How many of you know who Brad Bird is? Probably not a lot. He's the filmmaker behind animated features such as 'Ratatouille' and 'The Incredibles.' At San Diego Comic Con over the weekend, he attended a panel to promote a documentary behind the development of 'The Iron Giant.' He even joked that more people have seen the documentary in the halls of Comic Con then the original film released in theaters.

But what's catching attention is Bird's comments about video games. A question from the audience asked for Bird's advice on for aspiring filmmakers. His response was two fold: study films that make you feel something, and avoid video games.

"In terms of what to stay away from, I feel like video games are a bad influence for storytelling because they are not directed points of view. They are about floating around universes and I see a lot of films now where the camera is soaring all over the place. That’s okay if you pick the right moments, but a lot of times it feels like there is no point of view, but a lot of time it’s just motion. It bothers me when I see directors arcing around somebody and then arcing back and then arcing around somebody and then arcing back and I go ‘Where are you going? Are you going anywhere or are you just going like this?' "

Before you all raise the pitchforks, let's break down what Bird is trying to say. He didn't cite specific examples of games he's talking about, but I can see what he's referring to. It's not necessarily the content of the stories themselves, but how they are presented to the audience. RPGs, for example, are notorious for introducing a cast of dozens of characters with unique backstories, and we, as the gamer, are expected to learn everything about them in order to achieve the end-game goal. It comes with multiple points of views, plot lines, and stories that inter-weave into one. Makes sense for a 60 hour game. Not so much for a 2 hour film. It can be a whirl-wind if you attempt to transfer the consciousness of a video game into a movie format, and expect people to walk out of the theater in tact.

Seeing the latest 'Star Trek' film, I found myself closing my eyes on numerous occasions to help stop the dizzy spells hitting me. There was a lot of movement of the camera that felt very video game-like. The plot points jumped around and made it a challenge to follow the action. I felt that I couldn't appreciate the movie because I was more focused on stopping the room from spinning.

Bird's words are not meant to incite a revolt from gamers. If one is to take any influences from video games, it should be to focus on the content, the story, and how to piece together interesting narratives that connect to audiences. Not on whirling camera tricks that don't provide perspective.

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