Green Screen Killed the Movie Star

When you go to the movies today, do you ever think about how movies used to be so much better?  Sure, the effects are far more elaborate nowadays, but what about the story they are supposed to tell?

For the most part I blame the green screen and digital technology.  No more are there small models made for the purpose of being blown to bits for a few seconds of a background shot.  No longer are huge glass panels painted to make a backdrop look more like the 1800’s rather than today.  These jobs used to demand respect; now I don’t even know if they still exist.  This technology has made so that more movies don’t shoot on location anymore.  They can just bring the location to the studio, or create a location out of thin air.

I feel that most of this started with the movie Independence Day or ID4-release date July 2, 1996.  They blew up the Capitol in grand form, and the flood gates were kicked wide open.  Movies after ID4 could destroy national monuments, or anything else, with the click of a mouse.

We now have one director trying to out do the last with even more graphic carnage than the movie before.  Each one claiming their movie more EPIC than anything previous.  Twenty years ago a set director would tell a director “We can’t do that”  Now nothing is impossible.

This has also spawned (yes SPAWNED) a remake fever; not of old titles, but titles that some directors think can be done better now because of this technology.  I’m sorry, the story was already told.  Move on.  We also have seen the advent of the Remake of the Remake of the Original (See Superman, Spiderman, Batman, oh man.) Don’t even get me started on Pocahontas.  Oh, I mean Avatar.

Now you can slaughter everything much easier since we can digitally remove body parts and make blood spurt in 3D right off your screen, which is something we all need more of.  Do most of you realize that “Psycho” was filmed in black-and-white so that the blood wouldn’t be red as it ran down the drain?  They knew it would never make it past the censors.  They also knew it would give the movie an amazing effect.  Psycho is a classic for taking a step back from the new technology and also filming a good story well.  BTW, Hitchcock was a genius.

Actors don’t have to be able to act these days, as much as be able to make the appropriate shocked face that fits the green screen behind them.  Once upon a time actors needed stage presence to bring a scene to life and give it credibility.  Today, it’s about hitting the right marks on the soundstage.  Think about it: what actors and actresses have stage presence anymore?  Only the really old ones.  Great movies used to take some talent to get right.  Now you can just photoshop whatever you need into a scene to make it right.  And don’t forget to make it 3D Friendly!

Well, I hoped to offer solutions to this epidemic of Hollywood green screeners, but the only solution that I can come up with is to start with better screenplays.  Stop looking at screenplays for what effects and tricks you can use, and start telling good stories well.  That’s why a lot of us watch movies – to be told a good story and be removed from all of life’s problems for a couple of hours.  And remember, all of life’s riddles are answered in the movies!