Oscars: How to Innovate (Movies)

By Shlomo  Maital


  Many of you will have watched the Academy Awards (Oscars) last night.  Birdman won ‘best picture’ and ‘best director’.   Boyhood, highly favoured, lost out.  But both Birdman and Boyhood featured extreme innovations, radical ones,  ones built on breaking the rules.

    Boyhood was filmed with the same actors during a 12-year period. It was conceived by the director Richard Linklater, and Patricia Arquette won best supporting actress.  It is the story of a boy as he grows up to manhood.  A 12-year production schedule with the same actors is unheard of in Hollywood…. Getting the actors to agree, and arranging the filming, was a huge and difficult achievement by Linklater.  But it was crucial – switching actors would have entirely lost the effect.  It just HAD to be the same persons. 

    Birdman, with Michael Keaton playing the lead role of an actor who played a super-hero (Birdman) and wants to stage a Carver short story on Broadway,  was also a radical innovation.  It was filmed in one single take, with the exception of a very few frames at the beginning and the end.   This required meticulous production planning, long rehearsals, and a director Alejandro González Iñárritu who yelled ‘cut’ at any mishap during the filming, so that everything could be done in one continuous ‘take’.   Never been done, to my knowledge.  The director is Mexican. Notice how many outstanding Mexican film directors there are?  

    Congratulations to Boyhood and Birdman,   Linklater and González Iñárritu.  I can only imagine how hard it was for you to ‘sell’ the two pathbreaking iconoclastic innovations, to producers and investors.  Maybe you haven’t made $300 million at the boxoffice, like American Sniper – but you have shown the way for others, who will be similarly emboldened to innovate in future and make wonderful lively interesting and unusual films for us, that break the mold.  Thanks!