I was given an assignment to write about my first cinematic experience, what stage of production stood out to me, and how it relates to audience reactions at the turn of the century.
I had a hard time thinking of my first experience. Movie had been such a big part of my life for as long as I could remember. I would DAILY watch Mary Poppins–I was a little jealous when she picked my daughter to dance with at Disneyland and not me.
Reflecting on this was a learning experience. I learned a lot about myself and how I’ve been primed for a career in film making, and I wish I had realized it sooner. To me, experiencing a movie is really different than simply watching it.
I remembered the first time I was moved to tears in a movie. It was for The Mighty Joe Young, I was only ten years old and saw it with friends in the theater. This humungous creature was so gentle and they illustrated on screen just how human animals are and how they can be the best companion. When he was given a monster’s reputation and pushed to the point of violence, I started choking up. In the deadly scene where he falls, I lost it. The tears started rolling down my cheeks and I tried hiding them. I understood basic storytelling and knew there was no way he was dead, but Charlize Theron’s performance was incredible. She evoked the right emotions of losing a friend, and I experienced them myself. I also knew that the giant beast was a huge puppet. I was impressed with how lifelike he looked and how this machine could show emotions so well.
I can’t remember exactly when in the timeline of my childhood we went to Universal Studios, but I remember everything I saw there. Based on a tour guides recommendation, my mom drug me on the tram tour. This was where we took a tram through all the old studios. We saw the Red Sea parted for when The Ten Commandments as filmed, the lake where Jaws was filmed when he ate the fishing boat, we went underground in a subway station and experienced an underground earthquake (terrifying) and we even walked into a warehouse to be shown pyrotechnics for the making of BackDraft. When the catwalk artificially buckled where I was standing and the flames exploded in front if me, that’s when I lost it. I was genuinely grateful to the man next to me who was comforting me that it wasn’t real. For years after that, I would pray nightly that no back-drafts would ever happen to me. After this tour, we got to be a studio audience and see a set rotate between scenes, see exactly how Doc worked on the flux capacitor and how Alfred Hitchcock achieved his Vertigo and Psycho effects. Seeing all of these studio tricks took the magic of the screen away from me, but it replaced it with an even bigger magic for me. The magic of cinema! I was more fascinated with how they could make a bicycle fly than the belief that an alien was flying in the basket of Elliot’s bike. Since that trip, I would see a scene and try to figure out just how they could make it appear so.
Back when Nick at Nite played the golden oldies, they would also show “behind the scenes” footage of all the good shows: Happy Days, I Love Lucy and Dick Van Dyke. I particularly remember when they showed inconstancies with the set and props on one episode. This was so fun to me, that since that moment, I would scrutinize over movie and TV scenes trying to find anything out of the ordinary. With my analysis, I would also poke holes in storylines at an early age–along with shouting at characters for making things difficult by not speaking up, now I’ve learned this is on purpose.
While this assignment had me diligently mulling over my cinematic history for week and stumped on how to convey it on paper, I was so thankful for the project. I always knew it was “into” movies, but before I really dissected it, I never imagined the actual effect movies had on me, and at such a young age.