Are we dreaming? Imagination and cinema

William B. Demeritt III
August 8th, 2012

When I first decided to get into filmmaking, I was first drawn to the notion of helping people dream. As filmmakers, we help bring our director’s vision to screen, aiding them in shared dreaming with the audience, but not in an “Inception” way. We don’t mean to fabricate or mislead the audience; rather, I again go to the quote from “The Prestige”:

“The audience knows the truth: the world is simple. It’s miserable, solid all the way through. But if you could fool them, even for a second, then you can make them wonder, and then you… then you got to see something really special… you really don’t know?… it was… it was the look on their faces…”

I’ll admit right now: my dreams rarely make any sense. I dream of hotels, landscapes and farscapes, things that defy logic, physics or even realism, but when you’re dreaming, it’s real. We experience film much the same way, like that magic trick: we were fooled, and we wake up knowing we’re back in the boring, solid world with gravity, lack of control and death.

I have to wonder, then, with all that we’re capable of when it comes to filmmaking, why we have nothing truly “other-worldly”. A few recent films come to mind, some with very enjoyable stories and others with little or no stories. Some make the point for complete immersion in that world, others just take a journey through the world without ever giving a reason to stay.

Films like “300″, “MirrorMask”, “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”, “Blade Runner”, “Star Wars”, “Minority Report”, “SuckerPunch”, “Lord of the Rings”, etc. I don’t really want to comment on which of these films I consider either a great experience or both, but I really appreciate the fact that they went so far into that world.

I guess I have to wonder why we don’t have more films like that? Perhaps budget? The original “Star Wars” trilogy did so much with a modest budget, and they legitimized science fiction fantasy for generations to come. “MirrorMask” was filmed in approximately 30 days of production, rendered in a basement and was incredibly clever, witty and inspiring.

I had a lot of hope for a “Bioshock” movie, considering it’s steeped in potential for art direction, story and style. However, I think the “video game” genre has never gotten a fair shake, as any budget for a video game adaptation is slashed in half upon uttering “Super Mario Bros: the Movie”. Or “Doom”. However, I anticipate with the adaptation of “Deus Ex: Human Revolution”, we’ll see the genesis of a new genre for cinema the same way “X-Men” broke ground and gave way for comic book movies, which are arguably the highest grossing features in theaters today.

I like the collaborative spirit of filmmaking, and the end result. Unlike dreaming, or even playing make-believe, the results are on the screen to be shared with everyone. Experience is not just story, as even oral tradition engages the imagination with embellishment, emphasis and energy. Our medium can literally take the mind away to another earth, another world, another universe even…

…so why aren’t we?

William B. Demeritt III