Feature Filmmaker

Ep. 62 - What Should I Watch Tonight?

December 03, 2021 Anna Thalman
Feature Filmmaker
Ep. 62 - What Should I Watch Tonight?
Show Notes Transcript

This week on the podcast:

  • How to pick good films to watch in a media-saturated world
  • Why what we choose to we watch matters
  •  Treating media like a mental diet
  • How consuming garbage can kill your creativity
  •  Too much of any one thing isn’t healthy
  • Ideas to add variety to your watch lists
  • Being open-minded and challenging your preferences
  • Following an artist's line of work or influences
  • A challenge to watch something outside your comfort zone - old, foreign, documentary, or a genre you don’t typically try

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Kent Thalman:

All right. Well, we have a podcast episode here. Ready for you about movies.

Anna Thalman:

What should we watch tonight? You guys, what should I watch? What's

Kent Thalman:

good. Well, this is a nice thing. We should probably let, please email us at Philly. At invisible mentioned.com and let us know what some of your favorite films are and why and why we should watch them. And why you think we'd like them, or you don't even have to think of it like them.

Anna Thalman:

We are always up for good film recommendations.

Kent Thalman:

Sometimes it's hard to listen to movie people talk about movies because I mean, even if you're a movie person, if you don't jive, it's like incompatible personalities. You know, I sometimes feel. People who I find out are really into movies. I get really excited and I want to talk to them about movies. And then I find out like their favorite movies are all movies. I just have no interest in like, oh my hmm. And I tell them my favorites and they're like, Mmm Hmm.

Anna Thalman:

It's a good compatibility test. I feel like you can tell a lot about a person by their favorite movies.

Kent Thalman:

I think over the years, your and I, yours and mine have kind of become more similar. They might've been a little

Anna Thalman:

more different. You become more movie compatible.

Kent Thalman:

Your significant other, because they might like different movies than you.

Anna Thalman:

So yeah, say, we want to talk about. How you pick what films you watch. And I am really curious, how do you pick, what, how do you decide? And we have a few ideas and suggestions that we'll give you, but, we would mostly, most of all, just encourage you to think about how you approach this process of watching movies and that it actually does matter what you watch.

Kent Thalman:

Yeah. So let me ask, I think that's a good place to start. Why does this matter? Like what would be your case for like, carrying so much? Like, cause I think a lot of people just like movies, especially if they're in the movie business, they just, the word movies has like the sacredness to it. But movies are really just like houses, like their houses. We like in our houses, we dislike, you know, I dunno, you could fill in the blank. It could be anything. So why does it matter so much that we think critically about what we're watching.

Anna Thalman:

Well, we live in a world that's so media saturated that it's easy to not think about what we're watching. I think it's easy just to see whatever's stuck in front of us. And yet we have access because of the world we live in to so much rich media. I like to think of media as a. It's because it's a mental diet. It's what you're feeding your brain. And it's what fuels your creativity. And so what you watch is going to inspire what you make garbage in, garbage out. And if you're not thinking about what you're consuming, it might be unhealthy for you. Just like if you were to eat cotton candy all the time. That's what your mom has on hand. I doubt your mom has cotton candy and nothing else, but as a random example, whatever you have on hand might not be what you actually like, and it might not be what's healthiest for you. And any diet that is restricted to just one thing is not very healthy, too much of any one thing. Is not good for your body, we need variety. And I feel like the same as essential to a healthy media diet. You want to have some variety in there. It's okay. If you consume a little bit of sugar, once in a while, as long as you're also getting your veggies and your whole grains and your fruits and you, you have a good rich collection of things you're consuming. Yeah.

Kent Thalman:

Yeah. I agree. I think that it's a really important conversation to have and to constantly come back to. 'cause it's like my diet, it's like, I'll often have to reassess and be like, how am I doing lately? I'm not dieting, but what's my lifestyle. Is it creating the results I want in my body and in my energy levels and at the same thing with like my media, do I feel good about the films I'm watching? And as filmmakers, we really should be thinking about this. Like, am I thinking about the things I want to think about? Is what I'm consuming, inspiring me like as a creative and as a person in general, is there something more I want out of my media, because if you start to find films that do something different than you've ever experienced, that's actually, I think that's really inspiring is when I watch a film and I go, well, I never knew a movie could do that. We've mentioned, created before. And obviously we talked about filming family. The creator. He has a couple of films where after I watched them, I went to bed and I woke up the next morning feeling like I had this drive to be a better father. And to treat my children a lot just differently than I was the day before. And I had never experienced anything like that before that point. And there's very, very few movies that have done that for me. So when I experienced that, that's just an example. That was just a really powerful experience.

Anna Thalman:

So, yeah, and I think watching amazing films can actually be better for our filmmaking then watching or reading about making films. Honestly, some of the things that have helped me be a better filmmaker, more than anything else are just incredible films that I've watched that inspire me. But I think either way, it's about thinking more. Long-term. Like if I'm, I might enjoy watching something or I might enjoy eating something, but long-term, I know it's not good for my health. Like, oh, I'll eat the sugar, but then I crashed later or I have a stomach ache or whatever. And then I eat something healthy and I feel really energized. With film, I think it goes beyond just how do I feel when I'm watching it to even, am I watching what I want to be creating? Am I watching masterpieces of cinema or am I watching whatever's on someone's Instagram real or Tik TOK, which I really disliked I feel like Tik TOK actually makes YouTube look good because YouTube has a little more substantial content. Well, and

Kent Thalman:

that, you know, these are opinions we're sharing, but I do feel we've talked a lot about this principle that what matters most lasts longest. And I've been feeling lately as I've been observing. Media and cinema in particular, is that what lasts longest often takes longest? Not always, because you can take all a really long time on a story that is maybe frivolous or about something that doesn't matter very much, which I think is important. But I don't know. I've noticed that like a feature film that people have put, you know, hundreds of people. Thousands and thousands of man hours into. And they really think about the script and every little detail, and they spend four years making it doesn't always mean it's a great film, but sometimes those are really amazing or, or even something. A few people have taken a significant amount of time, and then you go to YouTube and someone popped this out in a day or you got a tick talk and someone popped this out in 15 minutes and it's like, it's immediately entertaining. And there are some people who are really talented and some people put some significant effort into YouTube videos, but. But it's almost like getting your information from blogs instead of newspapers or newspapers instead of books, or I dunno, there are hierarchies of like editorial thought and, and, and it's not always a black and white thing. Like all movies are better than all short form content. I actually embrace a lot of. Media in terms of its medium or its method or its channel or whatever. So I think there's some really valuable content on YouTube, but, but yeah, I have found that by and large, when I'm looking for like really great cinema, it's a lot easier for me than finding YouTube that I've watched. And then I feel like I'm good. I'm satisfied. I'm not going to watch any more YouTube today. It's almost like I got to watch more. That's what food that is. Substantial does. Right. You always want more and more and more. You're never full. Like you never don't feel energized, satisfied, strong. You feel like you just need more of it.

Anna Thalman:

Yeah. Well, and there's a time and a place. And again, that's where the balanced diet comes in because. For example, I don't mind listening to a YouTube video while I'm getting ready for the day. I don't have to pay as much attention to it. And, and

Kent Thalman:

I've seen some short films and other random video content on YouTube. That's pretty amazing as well. Sometimes there's just really great.

Anna Thalman:

There are exceptions for sure. But that's just sort of to make a case about having a very diet and thinking about, you know, is this what I want to be creating? And make sure that part of your diet includes works that are the kind of work you would love to have your name on. So any film that you're like, I would love to say I made this film is probably a really good one for your creativity.

Kent Thalman:

Well, I have a couple of personal questions for you, Anna. First is. What are the first three films that pop into your mind? When I ask you, what are some of your favorite movies? Don't think too much. Just

Anna Thalman:

I have too many and they change every day, but because you just said you were talking about what matters most is what lasts the longest. I actually thought about films that took a longer time to make. So David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia was two years and that's a masterpiece two years

Kent Thalman:

of

Anna Thalman:

production, just production. And then I thought of Lord of the. Which that was another two year long, filming you're

Kent Thalman:

in an epic mood, I guess. So I'm going to

Anna Thalman:

not pick me. And then I actually thought of Bambi, which was hand animated and painted. Right. Probably take

Kent Thalman:

forever. So before they could have done anything else,

Anna Thalman:

all of those. Films that I thought of when you said that that are really great.

Kent Thalman:

I love Bambi, actually love that film.

Anna Thalman:

But there's also things that have withstood the test of time. You know, if you think of it that way, what, what matters most lasts the longest films that remain classics? Well, we just watched, it's a wonderful life, which we're watching with our kids right now, and I forgot how cheesy some of it is. Some of the parts are. Are really not aging as well as I remembered, but it's still, it's still forgivable. Jimmy

Kent Thalman:

Stewart's acting will never age, not because he looks young and in some wonderful life. So his acting skill is just as good as any actor who ever lived. So good in that movie. Yeah, definitely. It's not, I don't even know if that's his best movie. I've seen a lot of Jimmy Stewart movies and he has some gray ones, but he's just, he's just great to watch. Okay. So why do I get to ask you a question? Yeah, no, I have a followup question to that question. Okay. Why are those your favorites? Why are those ones that you said, I guess you mentioned a little bit of why regarding why they came to mind kind of a theoretical thing, but like, why do you like. Yeah, because they tell stories, right? This is a medium of storytelling. It's and that's more of the end, but it's not the end. You get to know like, what, what's the point for you? Why did you even

Anna Thalman:

like them? Yeah, that's a good point. I feel like I tend to like films for a few different rooms. One is if they are emotionally resonant for me, then I know there's something there. I don't always know why, but there's something there that is causing me to feel something strongly, which is what's going on here as an artist, something I want to be able to do for my audience. So I want to study that. I think sometimes it's just the craft on display is worth admiring. There are films that. These are all ones that I love the stories, but there are films where the story is. Okay. But I feel like the craft is, is inspiring by itself.

Kent Thalman:

When we get to be a little fan boys.

Anna Thalman:

Yeah. But I think the best is when it's both, when it's something that works for me on a story level and inspires me as an artist, those two combined is a really good combination. I think that Lord of the rings, as an example, The story is really working and the acting is incredible. Some of the director's choices are surprising that they work to

Kent Thalman:

me. Yeah. Like consistently Peter Jackson for me is like, what, how's he doing this

Anna Thalman:

right now? Really, really cheesy. But it's just working. If I was on

Kent Thalman:

set, if I was his DP, I would have been like, You want me to like, just swirl around? Just if I was his editor, I'm like, you want to just like, do like seven cross dissolves in front of each other and have L Ron's. Matt cut out face, floating over Frodo, saying something this just sounds like a joke. And then you're watch and it doesn't matter. You're totally engrossed at that point. He can do anything. It's it's cool.

Anna Thalman:

Um, so yeah, that's what I would

Kent Thalman:

say. And you can tell that, uh, we got a little bit, a little bit off on it, on our Lord of the rings fan fantas. So I feel like you've touched on some of these things, but I want to get a little bit more to the heart of these. What makes a good movie?

Anna Thalman:

For me it comes down to two things. Enjoy films because I like to learn and I like to feel, so sometimes I'll watch a film because I'm wanting to learn whether it's learning. How does this character get this thing that they want, that I want? Or how's this going to resolve? Like this story? Or even just learning in a documentary about a different culture or a different, historical thing. There's all sorts of films. I love because I learn about history and. And people. And then sometimes it's just to feel sometimes I just want to feel differently. I want to feel happy. I want to feel sad. I want to process some emotions. I don't know. I just, it's good to be able to feel something. And when a film can do both, that's kind of the best for me. Yeah.

Kent Thalman:

That's a good, a lot of people talk about catharsis and these kinds of conversations, I think. And I think there's, I think I wrote that off as a film student, I was always like catharsis. You guys just like to use the word catharsis, you know, but. I am finding some value to that. I think that people want to be able to safely experience emotion in a setting where, you can process it and learn from it and not feel so much risk. Whereas in real life, sometimes the stakes are so high for us and they feel so real when we watch someone else go through stuff. We can just watch them go through and know that it's a movie and experience it with them to a degree and then process it afterwards. And it, it kind of helps us. Potentially gain some sense of understanding.

Anna Thalman:

Well, and I think about the diet example, like the kind of food that you eat, why do I eat food? I mean, on the one hand it's because I need to, to grow to, to be healthy. But on the other hand, it's also because it tastes good, you know? So the best combination is both. It's something that gives me fuel and energy. And as good for my body, but that also tastes delicious when you can find both.

Kent Thalman:

Yeah, it's exciting. You know, something that I read recently is that art is gratuitous, which I really liked because it's true. And I think as artists, we must understand this. If we think that the medium or filmmaking itself gives value to what we're making, especially the craft itself. I think we're going to find ourselves making really intentionally destructive, if not, at least innocuous sawdust, if you know what I mean, we're just not going to be making anything of value, but if we realize that we don't need it and that it's actually a means to an end, then we can actually start to make films about things that actually matter most or, or matter more at least to us, which I think will make us more satisfying filmmaking career. And for many people a much more satisfying film watching experience is that we're watching something that actually matters to someone. So that leads to my last question, which is, what are some things for you that matter more than movies?

Anna Thalman:

Oh, well, tons of things, which is something that you and I have been talking about recently is putting film in its place, in our lives. And what that means to us is that we don't become overly obsessed with it. Some of you are lucky enough to be married or around people who don't care about filmmaking very much. And so you don't get to indulge as often. we tend to have the opposite problem where we overindulge sometimes. Um, our children get neglected and our sleep and health get neglected. If we overindulge in our excitement about film, because we just talk and talk because we can talk about it forever. So we've really tried to focus on remembering that film is just. Now it's a job that I really enjoy. I think it's meaningful

Kent Thalman:

work. We're super

Anna Thalman:

passionate about it, but it's also a means to an end for me of providing for our family. Yeah.

Kent Thalman:

Yeah. Recognizing that there are things in life that are more important than film. I think so many people, because they deeply want to make movies. It's like a big dream, right? I mean, it's like the Lala land thing, right. It's the dream dream with a capital D it's so romantic. It is. I mean, it's great. It's a passion and you really want to do it, and that's great, but you don't detract from that. By recognizing that there are things that are more important than film. If you fail to recognize that there are certain things that are just frankly, more important than filmmaking, or then movies in general, then you risk flipping your priorities upside down. Your life falls apart, like, so would you rather have a super successful lucrative film career with lots of movies that lots of people watch and love and have multiple divorces and have children that you don't get along with, or that you don't even know? And not even know how to manage your money. Not really understand the purpose of your life and feel lost and struggled with drug addictions. You know, like, and obviously not every filmmaker has all these problems, but a lot of successful filmmakers have one or more of these problems and there's nothing wrong with having issues and problems. We've all got something that we're working through, but, but it often is the result that we do not want, which is something that comes from putting our careers ahead of. Things that are more important, at least to me, I've found that at once I recognized, oh, my relationship with my kids and my wife. Are more important to me than filmmaking. I've started to actually have something that I feel like I can tell stories about that feels personal and real and satisfying to write down and shoot. And it's, it's actually more exciting to watch because I actually start to like the films that I'm making and I'm not always making films. Like, I don't know, is this cool? Is this. Sexy or exciting or action-y, is this neat? Is this somehow so novel that people are going to want to pay money and flock to theaters to watch it? I just really enjoy what I'm making and I don't love everything about it. I, as a craftsman have my shortcomings. I at least feel good about what I'm making.

Anna Thalman:

So yeah. So how does that affect what you pick or to watch

Kent Thalman:

and, yeah, so, well, it shifts my whole search, right? I'm looking for films that seem to seem to have this understanding of the priorities that, that I hold, and sometimes it's interesting to watch films that disagree with maybe my view of the world. And sometimes films are complicated, you know? So it might appear on like a character might disagree, even a protagonist might disagree, but the film itself, that doesn't mean it disagrees with a filmmaker's point of view. And sometimes it's hard to read a films or a filmmaker's point of view. I've found a lot of films that have become really valuable to me since I've become more aware of what matters most to me. I think I've alluded to some of them, but yeah. I watch and I go, wow, like Lars and the real girl for some reason affected me deeply about the value of community and the value of people caring about one another. And I don't know that that was just like a really impactful, cool film for me. And it's not like the traditional stuff that I usually talk about. Marriage and parenthood, which are really important to me. And a lot of my favorite movies involve those things and even big epic movies that are like either fantastical or, sort of science fictional or whatever, you know, even some of those movies, I found value in it because of the way I read those films. Like Lord of the rings. For example, I think it has a lot to say about what matters most and. And not just community, but also family. I mean, with the last shot of the whole Trilogy's Sam picking up his children, kissing his wife and walking into their home and shutting the door. Something I didn't notice until this last watch through. And so those kinds of things, like it starts to change the way I watch films and the way I look for films and everyone has hopefully at least a few things that they feel like are not just way more important than films, but that. Worst giving up film entirely for I would totally have a film if it meant that I. To be happy with my family. And so once I've identified that I feel like a way better filmmaker, because I think ultimately I'm really looking for charitable films, films that love humans. And I think there are a lot of filmmakers out there personally that don't like humans or that don't like humans that don't agree with them. And when I sense that I'm like, I don't see the world this way. And I don't think it's actually very productive to see the world this way. And that's just my opinion. That informs a lot of my watching decision-making yeah.

Anna Thalman:

I think something that's really helped me is to try to challenge myself just like a diet. If you're trying to find food that you like, that's also healthy for you. You might have to be willing to try things that you may not like you have to be willing to, to try to cook in a way you may not have cooked before, or, sometimes. One of the best ways to find films that you didn't know that you needed to watch, that will change your life is to set some sort of arbitrary requirements. Like I need to watch a film that is, was made before 1970. We had a friend who did a challenge that was like every other film had to be either a documented. 1970. Is that what it was? I think

Kent Thalman:

so. And that was a good friend of ours, Ian Hawks. Who's a really talented writer, among other things. And, I really liked that role and I kind of, I think we adopted it for awhile. I think now we just kind of were a little more loose, but like, we still think about that. Like if it's been a while, I'm like, I need to watch something silent. When was the last time I watched a silent film or when I need to watch something that was just not an English, you know, or

Anna Thalman:

we like to go to our library. The local library has been, oh man. A jackpot of good fines and

Kent Thalman:

filmmakers we didn't even know about, or yeah,

Anna Thalman:

you can just go and say, I'm going to watch something from the silent film section or something from a different country of origin or a different genre than I typically watch. I never thought of myself as being someone who had like westerns, but. I found westerns that I love, just exploring that section one

Kent Thalman:

of which is the man who shot Liberty valance, just throwing that out there. Right. Great Western. Very good one.

Anna Thalman:

I think also following a specific artists line of work has been something we've really enjoyed. For example, Kent mentioned creata and we love his work. He's a Japanese filmmaker. We've loved almost. We've loved every film we've watched by him. And we've watched almost every film he's made. so you can follow an artist's work. You can follow the artists that inspired that artist and find more people whose work. You love. Some people do this with actors. Sometimes they like a specific actors taste and they'll watch everything that actor is in. So you can do that with actors, directors, even DPS, you know, writers

Kent Thalman:

I've, I've started to. Become more and more aware of writers and what they've written. And even some of these old Hollywood guys did a lot of plays and you can buy the play or check it off from the library and read it. And sometimes the writer, especially if it's not a writer director that you're following, you'll find if a movie affects you, affects you deeply, because of its themes or what it's dealing with. You can find writers that. It's the writer that's giving a lot of the narrative perspective to the film, even more than the director sometimes. And, and so we watched, for example, the best years of our lives recently, uh, William Wyler film, really cool direction going on in that film. But, Robert Sherwood, I believe wrote that film and I looked him up and it was finding plays that he wrote and other films. And I was like, okay, let's dig into this guy because. I just think he had this wonderful point of view that he approached taking these scenes in. I was just impressed by how like, wow. How did you put these scenes together? I liked the way he dealt with the themes and the themes that he chose to deal with in that film. It's really cool stuff going

Anna Thalman:

on. You can also go back and see award-winning films, lends that have received Oscars or, won awards at festivals. You're interested in. Hopefully, this gives you some ideas of how you can vary your media diet. We'd encourage you to try something a little outside your comfort zone. Try watching something that is old or that's a documentary, or that's a genre you don't typically watch and see what you find. and maybe be a little more thoughtful instead of just saying what's new on Netflix and

Kent Thalman:

a documentary even better, even more rare. you know, something I realized about myself. Is that before film school, I was kinda like a little kid who was like, I like macaroni and cheese. You know, it was like, I like star wars and I like back to the future and I like Indiana Jones. And then I got into film school and I was like, whoa, there's a ton of really cool stuff. And there's all sorts of things. And there's all sorts of ways to tell stories and make films. And the medium is really rich and diverse. And then as a film student, you get this. I have to like everything attitude, especially if my professors like it, I should like it. And then I realized that that's probably a good attitude to have at least for a couple of years. And then you just soaked lots of stuff in, and then you start to realize what you actually do. Like, and you didn't really know before film school because he didn't watch anything. And maybe you go to film school, or maybe you don't, but you could put yourself through some sort of film education. And then once you do that, then you have watched enough to realize more about yourself and more about what you actually enjoy watching. And I found that to be a really satisfying experience. And maybe there's a little bit of flip-flopping sometimes I get back into a zone where I'm just gonna watch movies that I already know. I love cause I need some inspiration and I need. Remember what inspired me. And then sometimes I think I need to challenge myself and watch some stuff. That's going to challenge my perspectives or change my view of what's possible with this medium and, and ebbing and flowing between those two things I think is healthy.

Anna Thalman:

Definitely. I think the more you watch, the more your taste refines, because you have more to compare it to, more awareness of. Exists in the

Kent Thalman:

world. Well, Billy Collins, a great poet said in a masterclass that I watched from him, he said a lot of people, artists, poets in his case say that your voice comes from in the universe or it comes from deep within you. And he says, I believe that's wrong. He says, I think your voice comes from the bookshelves on the library catalog. You go to the library and you read tons of poetry and then you read something you. Man. If only I had written that I feel so good about myself. And he said, when you start to soak that in, that's where your voice is going to come from. And now what's important to you is going to come through that voice. But I really agree with that. And so as a filmmaker, like Anna said, your taste will refine, but also your point of view in your skill as a craftsperson, we'll refine as you find your voice through. The, to the library, right? The, whether it's the real actual public library or whatever your library is. Yeah. Whatever movies you're watching and scripts and books, you're reading and other media you're consuming in life. Your living will soak into what your voice is and, and then it becomes craft at some point. It also becomes a little bit of you at some point,

Anna Thalman:

too. So. If you're talking to someone who has an accent, you might accidentally start speaking in their accent or speaking with their mannerisms on accident. Like it can go the other way around. You kind of absorb what you're surrounded by. So not to say, you shouldn't listen to anyone or give anyone a chance. Definitely. You should. You know, if you spend too much time around media that you don't want to create, you might end up accidentally creating that exact thing.

Kent Thalman:

So. Awesome. But what are we gonna watch tonight?