For as long as I can remember movies have been my sanctuary. As a kid I watched Alice in Wonderland, Sleepy Hollow, Beetlejuice, Labyrinth, Hocus Pocus, Mulan and Hook over and over again. But there was something about those ruby red slippers…
There was nothing more entrancing than the sheer magic of Wizard of Oz. When I first saw the magnificent Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow looking out over that flat Kansas farmland I felt far too many emotions for a small child to understand. Like Dorothy, I too dreamed of colorful, imaginative, exciting places far, far away…if only I could get there. Dorothy believed in magic, and so did I.
At story's end when the imaginative and colorful world of Oz is discovered to be only a fever dream of Dorothy’s wild imagination I thought, “You mean the worlds we dream up in our heads can be just as important as reality?” Now, some 20 years later, I recognize this thought as the beginning of my inner life as a filmmaker. And now, I can definitively answer my own question: Yes, they can.
In the simple act of holding onto why we started, we stand together as a community of artists ready to inspire, entertain, and uplift again.
Falling in love with Oz was really the beginning of my practice of creating dream worlds in my work. I wanted to believe, then and now, in a reality where a small town girl could click her sparkly ruby slippers thrice and be in another place, or finally return to Kansas. These sentiments of home, imagination, longing, fantasy, and the gentle, visceral moments of life are still very much alive in my work. My early love of movies is the touchstone throughout my career which keeps me centered, focused, and ever-dreaming. Even now, amidst the fear, anxiety and grief of our present moment I am trying to hold on even tighter to those ruby red slippers, remember why I committed my life to this artform, and keep the dream alive…
As our industry changes drastically and rapidly around us in response to the global crisis of COVID-19, in the face of so much uncertainty, I’m just trying to remember why I started. And as it turns out, so are my friends. In the weeks since we’ve begun compliance with self-quarantine I’ve spoken with friends and collaborators in all corners of our industry about how we’re adjusting, how we’re struggling, and what we’re holding onto. This crisis has hit every industry hard, and Film, Advertising and Entertainment is no exception. It’s a difficult time for all of us no matter who you are, where you’re at in the industry, or what your reel looks like.
In an effort to keep hope alive, and to remind us all why we started, I have been asking professionals in film, advertising and entertainment: What is the first movie you remember falling in love with? And why? The conversations that have ensued, and the hope that has been restored through this simple question has brought me a lot of comfort, inspiration, and light at the end of the tunnel. I hope it does for you too.
Choosing the path of the artist is brave. But it can also be uncomfortable, uncertain, messy, tumultuous, and at times painful. In the simple act of holding onto why we started, we stand together as a community of artists ready to inspire, entertain, and uplift again. Whatever you are feeling, however you are coping, there is joy, love, creativity and work on the other side. The dream is so alive, even if we can’t see it right now.
Wishing you health, happiness, rest and inspiration. I can’t wait to see us all back on set soon.
What is the first movie you remember falling in love with? And why?
Allison Anderson (Director of Photography)
Amores Perros, Tango, The Conformist are all sticking out. I took a foreign film class in high school and before that I barely watched movies. I thought I wanted to be a photographer and that class single-handedly changed my mind when I saw how powerful visuals could be through motion picture. They had a more complete story, context, music, history, art, performance. All of that is captured in a movie.
Amber Grace Johnson (Director, Object & Animal)
As a kid, we watched a lot of movies with my dad. His favorite was Luc Besson’s Fifth Element which quickly became mine on first watch. I was enamored with Leeloo! She was no doubt a babe but also my kind of woman. At the time, most female characters on screen were too perfect and sterile, deprived of any human qualities that I admire. For me imperfections are where the real beauty lies. But Leelo was unpredictable. An alpha, strong, eccentric, a real wildcard.
Sci-fi provides me an escape from reality but with themes that still resonate. This idea that love saves all, love being the fifth and final element. I’m a romantic! I also admire the worlds Luc created and of course his characters are WILD. How could you not root for Bruce Willis, and Chris Tucker’s comedic relief, Gary Oldman as the creepy villain, that iconic blue alien opera performance on the spaceship…
Lastly, I love that Luc wrote it when he was 16 years old and was 38 when it released in cinemas.
Andre Muir (Director, Smuggler)
There were tons of MOVIES I really loved. But I never really respected them. But the film that made me decide I wanted to be a filmmaker was Wings of Desire by Wim Wenders. It’s the first time I realized filmmakers put purposeful thought into films from the style, direction, color, and cinematography to the use of dialogue.
Aristotle Torres (Writer/Director)
Lion King because it taught me about death, renewal of self, the importance of friendship, and what teamwork can accomplish.
Ayumi Ashley (Colorist, NTropic)
Most definitely Nightmare Before Christmas! That film led me to have a deep obsession with Tim Burton, and then Danny Elfman. I literally got into film as a scheme to meet Danny. It was something about the MAGIC of that film that just really drew me to it. It really made me believe in the immersive nature of art and filmmaking, and film as a vehicle for transformation.
Elena Parasco (Director, Sibling/Rivalry)
The Man in the Moon (1991). A coming of age film [about] growing up with sisters and always wanting to be free. To be seen. Although it was such a total departure from how I grew up, this movie crushed me. I remember seeing it before the Internet was a real thing. Just caught it on the television with me and my sisters. I was sobbing. Laughing. In love. Enamored. And then I tried to look for it, tried to remember it’s name and for years and I couldn’t. And when I finally could search for it, it was a wild feeling. Returning to a film that inflicted such emotion right out of me. That and Now and Then. Top early early films I drew an unwavering connection to. It’s that special and absolutely ineffable quality about coming of age films that strikes an unparalleled bond between you and the film.
Elle Ginter (Director, Sanctuary)
Pocahontas because she looked like me! And Ever After because she got her fairy tale…
Jenny Montgomery (Colorist, Company 3)
Oh man, I love this question. I’ve always felt that I came to film through the back door. I didn’t have the call, the moment, like most did. I was a fine arts kid that landed in this world almost by accident, so I often feel like I’m playing catch up. It wasn’t until I was in college or maybe even after, when hanging out with film people [led me to] start exploring it more actively and intellectually as an art form. But one early memory I do have was my parents renting Royal Tenenbaums. They didn’t like it and that made me want to watch it even more. I remember thinking I’d never seen anything like that before.
Julia Pitch (DOP/Director, SLMBR PRTY)
In the Mood For Love! That movie is just proof that film is an emotional medium. It explores failed and forbidden love in a sensual, sophisticated way. The strong visual aesthetics bring new meaning to the subtle actions between the characters….each look filled with longing, each gesture demonstrating anguish. And of course, the sound track is iconic.
Kate Arizmendi (Director of Photography)
Buffalo 66. I feel like I got completely sucked into the visuals in a way that felt so much more tangible than other films. The stock they shot on and the colors felt so new and original. And the overall direction and choice of editing. How they would hold on her while he’s the one talking and the whole dinner scene coverage. It’s all so original.
Kath Raisch (Colorist, Company 3)
Y tu mamá también. The slowness, the realness & the sex!
Kris Mercado (Director)
Rocky was the first film I saw with my family so it connects to my feelings in that way. It’s really powerful and simple, and tells an outsider story. Before it became a franchise it was a true indie film. I think the original has filmmaking qualities that endure.
Laura Gordon (Director, Weird Life Films)
A Little Princess was one of my absolute favorites as a kid. Through incredibly lush imagery and art direction, it illustrated for me the power that a young girl can have over her own circumstance—a message I desperately needed as a kid. I didn’t even know that Alfonso Cuarón had directed it until I was an adult working in film. Without even consciously paying attention to him, his works have had a profound influence on me through every major stage of my life.
Mah Ferraz (Editor, Forager)
Cinema Paradiso by Giuseppe Tornatore. I felt connected to the kid's love for film, living everything through movies and eventually becoming a filmmaker himself. I remember getting so emotional seeing him go back to his hometown after his success and get in touch with his past again. I always knew that I was going to leave Brazil to pursue a career in film somewhere with bigger opportunities, so I kind of felt I was him and felt his nostalgia and melancholic return to his roots, remembering where his passion started. I was a very dreamy kid and this movie is about the power of dreams and the power of cinema so it was very special to me.
Nadia Gilbert (Director of Photography)
It would be Artificial Intelligence. The story just touched some part of my soul. The question of what it means to be human and have a soul. And what is a soul? These questions hit me hard when I was little. I just loved the journey and it was one of the first things where I had a WOAH moment and thought about it for days and rewatched so many times.
Nina Meredith (Director)
Oh man! So many but honestly The Prestige, Place Beyond the Pines, Big Fish, and Harry Potter films! Prestige, HP and Big Fish because of that sense of wonderment and magic that was so awe inspiring and other worldly which transported me into another headspace. Place Beyond the Pines is just one of the most beautiful, authentic and immersive films where I felt like the performances, cinematography and writing were remarkably real and raw. That’s the kind of filmmaking I aspire towards as a director so it’s more of a personal one for me.
Samantha Scaffidi (Writer/Director)
Splendor In the Grass just gutted me. That is one that I felt…took a knife and cut open my chest, exposing all the feelings I had about young love and the pains of transitioning from childhood into adulthood. It might not be the first or my favorite film of all time…but how I felt when I watched it… something I’ll always remember.
Shannon Palmer (Director of Photography)
I vividly remember seeing American Beauty when I was way too young, probably 12. I was completely entranced with the darkness and complexity within the multiple storylines. I’d never seen anything so raw—and to be honest, confusing—at that age. The slow, stylized sequences opened my eyes to the power of artful filmmaking.
Similar But Different's Dani Girdwood (Division 7/Smuggler)
Wasp, which is an early short film from Andrea Arnold. I saw it when I was probably 15 and it CHANGED me. The characters felt so candid. The dynamic between the mom and her kids felt like lightning in a bottle to me. I didn’t realize stories could be told with such spunk and vibrance. I remember watching it again and again dying to absorb whatever it was that made it so special. I didn’t know what it was specifically…I just knew I wanted to learn it, and make movies of my own.
Sophia Lou (Editor, Forager)
The first film that moved me was Wong Kar-Wai's In the Mood for Love. I was in college studying film, inundated with ideas and theoretics of Western/American cinema, surrounded by peers who only spoke of Tarantino, Aronofsky, Wes Anderson and the likes (no disrespect here). ITMFL struck me because it was unlike any other movie I’d seen before. Its power laid within its lack of dialogue and “traditional” structure while being able to create a deeply emotional story purely through visuals colliding with one another. And that theme song (oh god that theme song); I cried because its existence felt personally empathetic. At the time, I was failing to connect with many of the films I was watching and even making, because I thought I had to adhere to a certain style of filmmaking in order to succeed. ITMFL showed me what was possible and it still informs how I think about images today.
Stephania Dulowski (Editor, Exile)
Moulin Rouge, because it took me on an adventure that I would never experience. It has such a broad emotional range of lust, anger, deceit, hope and despair that made me feel such love and loss within the span of two hours. It was the first film that took me on such a dramatic journey, wrapping me up in its uniquely stylized world, and not wanting to ever leave it.