The Bigger Picture: What’s in a Name?

Written by The Bigger Picture

biggerpictureEvery weekend, I sit with my laptop sifting through the remnants of the week gone by.  This is normally scramble time, as I frantically attempt to come up with enough threads to stitch an article together.  Yet, as I sit here today, the subject is obvious.  I have not yet explained the meaning of this column’s title, The Bigger Picture.

So what is this “bigger picture” and how does it relate to movies?  Aside from the obvious fact that movies are perhaps the literal definition of a big picture, I chose the title of this column for the numerous possible interpretations it holds.

The first reason is in relation to the historical meaning that movies take in our lives.  Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20.  Obviously, this means that the solutions to problems are easily seen once they have already been implemented.  However, there is another meaning to this expression, and it lies within your schooling.

History is taught so that we may learn from past failures and triumphs, and apply them to the challenges of our present and future.  It is the ultimate solution for worldly problems, yet society never seems to actually learn from it.  Moviemakers are much the same.

Think for a minute about the previous year’s films.  What would you say is the ratio of great films to poor ones?  What about merely solid films to poor ones?  It’s hard to come up with a definite answer, but I can guarantee that the answer is embarrassingly skewed.  The reason for this is that we have a case in which art is being dealt with as a business.  When your only focus is to make money, you are effectively putting up a screen that often sifts out the great works of art and keeps them from the audience.  Time and time again, studios have meddled with films, chopping them up to a point in which they make little artistic sense.  Later, they release the Director’s Cut, and finally audiences are able to see the artist’s true intentions.  This trend is very evident in the careers of Ridley Scott and Sergio Leone.  How many cuts of Blade Runner have there been?

Therefore, the point of this column is to discuss the films that impact our lives and have a lasting impact on us.  It is also meant as a study of what it is about these films that is so successful, and why we react so strongly to them.

The second meaning behind The Bigger Picture is a more personal one.  As I have mentioned in previous articles, I am a filmmaker.  I didn’t always realize this, though from a young age I would make home movies with my action figures and a borrowed video camera.  It wasn’t until I was in college that I began to see my calling.

I had an opportunity to take a documentary class in which students travel to a foreign country, find a story, and document it with a camera.  So off I went to the Czech Republic, camera in hand, to realize what I would later see as the formative experience of my young life.  I saw many things that, while in also in existence in the US, were easier to see through the eyes of the foreign visitor.  I saw towns built among the pipes of a chemical plant, half the homes razed.  I walked past a junkie as he injected heroin into his veins, then sat and attempted to converse with him in what little Czech I knew.

Then, upon return from Europe, we all split into different groups to work on projects to represent our trip.  My project was an Audio/Visual show, where I had to hire a musician and piece together a story about the people and places we encountered.  This project engaged my mind in a way no other academia ever had.  Until this point, I was searching for something to hold my attention, a project that I could wrap both my brain and my heart around.

That was it.  I then knew what I wanted to do.  This is The Bigger Picture in its most metaphorical sense.  When a filmmaker has a really great project, he knows because his entire existence is shrouded within the cocoon of said endeavor.  His vision is that of a far bigger picture than most people are able to see, as the narcissism of daily life is thus replaced with the concerns of an entire world.

Yet, when a project is complete, he knows that something is missing.  This is the hardest part of seeing the big picture.  The frustrating search for a new project begins, and the narrow, incomplete vision of daily life takes over once again.

We all must strive to see The Bigger Picture, even if we never find it.  For some, it is the search for one’s true calling in life.  For others, it is in finding that perfect life partner.  No matter the calling, the crash back down to earth must come upon completion.  Therefore, we must never forget to return to the search and keep with it.  Filmmakers must constantly be looking to find the project that fits into the jigsaw puzzle of their existence.