When a bright student recently asked me if I, with my passionate love for movies, had ever thought about the fact how much money is spent on them and that no one ever discusses that, I was baffled for a long moment. It doesn’t happen often that students actually say things I have never thought about. And movies are such an integral passion of mine that it did what I often try to do with students: I had to reconsider some of my most basic beliefs – in this case, that movies are an important art form and that decoding their messages is an important tool for understanding our culture.
Then I watched Mission: Impossible – Fallout and while going through its trivia, I read an incredibly astounding sentence:
The film had three thousand set-ups, thirteen helicopters, six pregnancies, five hiatuses, four weeks of aerial photography, three continents, two winters and one broken ankle.
In almost any other scenario, these facts would shock people, would lead to articles decrying wastefulness and excess. For movies, somehow, this is not just not the case, it is often used as promotion. The more money was spent (up to a certain degree), the more people were involved, the more drama it included, the more countries were used for filming, the better the marketing is!
Sure, that is not the only area, when it comes to products in general or buildings (again, to some degree), superlatives are often used as a measurement for success. Somehow any record-breaking skyscraper will never be advertised with „And we spent as little money and resources on it as possible!“ Just writing this makes it sound like it would make people suspicious, as if the building then couldn’t be safe (that’s what Mother Culture immediately whispers in my ear).
Back to movies: somehow the movie business has not understood (and neither have the audiences) that more money doesn’t make movies better in any way. There are exceptions, of course, but every movie summer is accompanied by news stories about the biggest flops where studios spent a lot of money on movies that no one wanted to see. Or stories about cheap movies that became surprise hits (and the ‚surprise‘ normally just comes from their small budget). It’s all pretty weird, if you think about it.
Circling back to my student’s question: I love good blockbuster movies but I really don’t think movies need to cost hundreds of millions of dollars to be good. My favorite movies aren’t expensive ones. But I certainly don’t avoid those kinds of movies (well, in the cinema I actually do more and more). Maybe we should reflect more upon repeating those superlatives and being impressed by them if we want to change something and start thinking about the ratio of quality and money. Because I am absolutely convinced that our culture’s ideas of „Bigger Is Better“ and „More Instead of Less“ are still really dangerous (and can often be found in the stories of expensive movies). So, the next time a movie producer proudly tells you how much they’ve spent on their next project ask them if the story would be worse with less money.