AS CHRISTIAN Lat and his production group WULF garnered awards abroad, his former teachers in the International Academy of Film and Television spill some industry secrets.
Alex Murphy, a professional actor both in American and European films, television programs and theater, is one of the acting mentors in IAFT Cebu. He said that filmmakers should have a good story, in order to make a good film.
“To make a good movie, first and foremost, is (to have) a strong doable idea for a story. You should deal with what you know and what you understand first, because people want to see stories about other people and the people that you know best are the people in your life. You know them, your grandmother, your uncle, your aunt, your best friend from high school and things happen to them. Their lives unfold and all of that is a good basis to tell the story.”
Murphy shared that good stories are critical: “The cheaper the budget for a movie, the more it relies on the story.”
But whether it’s a low-budget or big-time film, Murphy stressed that good stories are indispensable.
“Without an interesting story told in an interesting way, then you’ll probably make something that’s already been made a thousand times, which is called a cliché.”
The next most important thing to make a good movie is good acting. To spot good acting is easy, said Murphy.
“You can tell a lot in the first five minutes of the interview; you can tell something by their auditions. Certainly, you can tell if they’re basically talented because you can tell a lot how a person’s mind works just by talking to the person,” Murphy also said.
But to be a good actor is a totally different discipline and part of the prerequisites are knowledge and confidence about one’s self. As an acting teacher, Murphy talked to Sun.Star Cebu about the behavior of people with good acting skills: “They have a sense of presence and confidence about who they are and who they are not. You can’t act if you’re not bright. You have to be bright.
That doesn’t necessarily mean academically bright, although, many of the best actors are. A lot of them are big readers, right? Because they love stories, they love the specificity of the novel and how people think and they’re just interested and curious of the world.”
A good story coupled with good acting needs good cinematography and sound.
“Good sound is very difficult. We all watch movies but as long as there are no problems, we don’t think about the sound. We only think about it when we go ‘What was that?’ That’s why you need to fix your sound,” continued Murphy.
However, Murphy believed that even without these two—cinematography and sound—an outstanding story will be enough. Because even without the necessary equipment to perfect other technicalities, a good story will make your movie worth watching.
“I’ll put good writing first. A good story told in an honest and interesting way. These three other technical elements, if you can grasp that, great. But if you have an iPhone or whatever camera phone or if you have a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera. Every year, people succeed in festivals with very little money. It’s the good story, right?” Murphy also said.
Good writing, good cinematography, good sound and good acting. With all these things put together, one can now make a good movie and affect people’s lives.
Murphy admits that money is an important factor in making a film. But to win a competition, and to be recognized, it’s hard.
“Writers aren’t treated with enough respect. But don’t be sad about that because when they do sell a screenplay, they make enormous amounts of money.”
An extremely original story told in an interesting way is rare, said Murphy. This is why the academy is bent on teaching its students about writing a good story. Students are also encouraged to write a good story.
“Are they going to? Who knows? Some do, some don’t. Some, at least by the time they finish here, understand that this is if you want to succeed in the film business where the competition is really tough. This is also part of what we do here in the academy, to get people to face the reality of their choice. You’ve made a choice? You think you want to do this? Okay, are you ready?” Murphy concluded.