King Kong is dead.
I broke a heart today. Like a parent finally telling his kids the truth about Santa Claus, I unveiled to some of the students the truth about movie magic. The following will undoubtedly sound incredibly naïve to everyone, so please keep the above analogy in mind before judging too harshly.
The discussion started when we introduced a fairly simple financial structure so they could create a budget for their film. One student asked the question of what the average film budget was back home. For Canadian cinema, I told them a five million dollar budget is considered to be a well financed film. In the United States, however, the average studio film ranges between $20 to $50 million, but that a film like King Kong recently eclipsed the 300 million budget mark. You should have heard the laughter in the room. A student reminded me how the entire Burundi federal government probably couldn’t dream of ever seeing that kind of money. And here we are trying to start a film center in the country.
A few students approached me during the break with questions about a torture scene from the film The Last King of Scotland we watched earlier. The main character has hooks pierced through his bare chest and is raised to the roof hanging in gory detail. They asked me flat out if they really tortured him, to which I took my turn to laugh and say no (although I couldn’t sufficiently explain how they accomplished the shot). Then another student, shyly but with the utmost sincerity asked, “so then, there isn’t really a King Kong?”.
It takes a lot of courage to ask questions you are afraid will make you look stupid. I was taken back by just how much some of the students obviously have to learn about filmmaking, but I’m still very encouraged.
After class, a crowd of students huddled around the Canon XL1 camera we brought to record some of our teaching during the day. Our hands-on training doesn’t begin until next week, but the sight of our camera absolutely hypnotized to them. When they think of filming a movie, they think of the basics – get action in front of the camera, and film it. Explain the rule of the 180 degree line of axis, for example, (which we did earlier in the week), and eyes start to glaze, imaginations become stifled and illusions are shattered. But the sight of a camera completely re-energized them, and probably just in time. I would hate for beauty to actually kill the beast.