The Smaller Picture

A few years ago, my wife and I went to an actual movie theater to see a movie (radical, I know). The movie, based on a short-lived sci-fi TV series from a few years prior, had received rave reviews, so, although we had never seen any of the series, we thought we’d check it out. Coming out of the theater, our collective opinion of the movie was an unqualified…


It wasn’t a bad movie, but we certainly didn’t think it was deserving of the praise being heaped upon it. It was just… well, “meh” is the best word I can think of.

Fast forward to a week or so ago, when, through the wonders of Netflix, we decided to watch the TV series upon which the movie was based. It only took a few nights (the series was really short-lived), and when we were finished, we decided to re-watch the movie (my wife didn’t remember any of it, anyway, she just remembered the “meh”). This time, our collective opinion of the movie was an unqualified…

…hey, that was pretty good!

Same movie, same movie-watchers. What was the difference?

We now “understood” the characters. We knew their history, the way they interacted with each other, the reasons (some of the reasons) why they were the way they were. A throwaway line by one of them was now pretty funny as opposed to just mildly amusing, because we knew the tension between the characters that had built up over time. In short, we had “walked” with these people for a long enough period that the short time we spent with them in the movie now had far more meaning. Was the movie a better movie than the first time we saw it? No. It was just a better movie to us.

I could not help thinking how often the same thing occurs out in the real world, how often we watch a movie and make judgments without taking the time to watch the series first. I was reminded of an op-ed piece I read a few weeks ago written by someone who sat next to a woman and her small child on a flight. The child wasn’t as well-behaved as the writer would have liked, and she (the writer) was admittedly brusque with the mother, right up until the mother said, “I still don’t know how to make it without him,” referring to her now deceased husband.

The writer had only watched the movie and decided what she thought, without first checking out the series. After having “watched the series” by talking with the mother the rest of the flight, the writer could only say “I wish I had been nicer to her at the beginning. I wish I had smiled more.”

The same thing happens, on both sides, when someone takes a trip to a lesser advantaged country (aka the movie-maker). The trip-taker comes home from a life-changing experience, having lived the series for a week or two, shares a film short with friends (the movie-watchers), and wonders why they don’t fall all over themselves praising the movie.

For the movie-watchers, they don’t understand the fascination with the film short. It’s nice and all, but still… it’s just a movie, and not that compelling a one at that. What’s the big deal? Which of course hurts the feelings of the movie-maker, who has a series full of experiences that resulted in the making of that film short.

The solution is for both sides to recognize that the film short is not the point.

For the movie-maker, the goal of the film short is not to get great reviews from the movie-watchers, or even to change their lives. The point of the film short is to paint a compelling enough picture that the movie-watchers want to go make their own series. However, it’s necessary for the you to recognize that not everyone wants to watch your movie, much less make their own series. That needs to be OK.

For the movie-watchers, someone showing you a film short has a whole series they really want to share, but they know they can’t do that with everyone (or hopefully they know they can’t). Make some time to allow them to show you an episode or two. You might find you want to go film one of your own.

(Thus ends the world’s longest metaphor. Note that, although people often make real films from their adventures, the movies and series above are being used metaphorically, not literally.)

(Let the record show (and Troy note, who himself hasn’t written anything since May) that I have three blog posts in August. This might actually turn into a real blog if I’m not careful.)

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