Only in The Movies

By IAN MAISEL  |  August 11, 2006

Once you begin to see filmmaking through this lens, you’re more apt to appreciate, for instance, the vagaries of costume design. In the Makeover Room, you’re able to zoom in and out of your virtual actor, and try out new styles by shuffling through wardrobe cards to the scraping sound of hangers whizzing by a clothes rack. There are casual wear choices available from every decade of the 20th century, but one also has access to various military get-ups, plenty of weird robot and alien suits, lots of Western garb, period underwear, and the sorts of ensembles endemic to post-breast-implant actresses. (One outfit features huge bandages pasted across your starlet’s chest, providing her with that stylish fresh-from-cosmetic-surgery look.)

Your virtual actors can also do their nails, don a wedding ring, color-coordinate their vest with their spats, try on a hat, fix their makeup, and try a wide array of polygonal hairstyles. Because the films one makes in The Movies are so iconic and frenetic, a director relies mainly on his actor’s look to indicate subtleties of character.

After writing your script and shooting a film, you head into a Post Production Facility where you can add a few sweet touches like lip syncing. (It would be nice, however, if your characters had something closer to actual lips, rather than a polygonal black hole that mechanically opens and shuts in vague synchronicity with their lines.) You also get a campy sound-effects library and some generic soundtrack riffs that, when well-placed, can triple the entertainment value of your film. You could do worse for an entry-level, hands-on introduction to the basic elements of film production.

Take 7: Low Talent, High Tech
The only studio in the 1930s that turned profits and paid as well as mine was MGM.

Rather than wasting valuable time and creative energy to make quality films, I developed an unrelenting production method, in which all talent was either on set or rehearsing the next film. I tolerated neither relaxation nor frivolity, and as soon as someone was off a project, I jammed them into something new, even if the script wasn’t a good genre fit.

I was confronted with an escalating array of management decisions. Would it raise staff morale to install that bubble-gum machine? Was it worth upgrading my high-strung action director’s trailer? Should I send over a photographer to watch my leading lady stumble around drunk between scenes? (It might piss her off, but we’d get great press.)

We needed to invest in a laboratory to research technologies that would keep me a step ahead of my cut-throat competition. Those creaky old black and white cameras had been fine in their day, but if I could be the first studio to engage such bleeding-edge innovations as 16mm film, audiences would flock to fork over their hard-earned dollars. I assigned one group of tech geeks to a think-tank on which fashions would be hot in the 1930s, while a science nerd in another room stood in front of a chalk board, furiously scratching out formulas to design a machine that would make fake rain on an outdoor set.

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