I have long felt that in order for filmmakers to have a positive social impact on society, there had to be a degree of abundant productivity either individually or collectively as a group. Notice my premise and the reason for this discussion. My premise is that film does have a tremendous impact on the social dialog of a society, especially our youth culture. The other assumption that I’m making is that a group of morally responsible filmmakers can grab this industry by the reigns and pull it out of its downward spiral. This will not happen with one film alone, it will not happen with one filmmaker alone, but a collective group of responsible filmmakers, that work together to repeatedly produced content that lifts up the common man to consider the higher views of humanity and the beautiful world we live in, can have such an effect.
For a time, I held this sort of hope for Zhang Yimou because of his prolific tendency as a filmmaker to produce one film a year for nearly a decade and a half. However after diving into deeper waters with certain films that are anything but social reforming or enlightening, I’ve stepped back from following him as closely as I would otherwise. I don’t know that he’s abandoned his idealist tendencies, but I’m more cautious as I follow his work.
I have to ask myself, even as I struggle to produce films and am in close enough association with other filmmakers who are engaged in the same struggles, that there are numerous factors that are keeping those potential reformers from being more productive. Perhaps the biggest deterrent is a sense of priority. Every filmmaker that I know who would be poised to change the world for the better, has their priorities set on more important matters than film making. (Yes, I just said that.) What are these more important priorities? It begins with their homes and their families. These are fathers and mothers with small and growing children. While all recognize the absolute need for better entertainment, none are able to sacrifice the priority of family. They shouldn’t do so either. By so doing, the very foundation of moral decency upon which good stories need to be told would be blown out of the water. So we have to wait.
And thus on to the title question of my post: Chistopher Noonan, the filmmaker behind two exceptional films for children and all audiences. Mr. Noonan served as director on 1995 film “Babe” and then again in 2006 for “Miss Potter.” Few filmmakers are able to meld all the beautiful elements of the cinema into such beautiful expressions of artistry. My only desire left unanswered is that there were more of this beautiful work available for the entertainment of my children.
Without knowing anything of his personal history, I must conclude that such a filmmaker only has a few sparse films to his credit because perhaps his priorities are also as they should be, not primarily focused on film making for business’s sake, but on humanity and life. If only we had more Christopher Noonans in the world — men of moral courage to tell stories of truth, at whatever cost.
(take a breathe)
So back to the first question: Why has Chris Noonan only produced these two films? Why hasn’t he done more? Thanks to Jan Lisa Huttner for asking the same question to Mr. Noonan when she had the opportunity to speak with him in person. Here is his response:
BABE was my first feature. So you make a first feature and it’s an unbelievable, runaway success… It’s very hard to follow a success. I found it really difficult. I was looking for something, I was looking for my next project, but with a huge success like that, you feel like you built up so much capital that it’s really dangerous what you choose. If you choose something that’s a flop, you ruin, you just destroy all that capital that you’ve built up.
Compounded with that, most of the films that are made are only financed because someone has been able to prove by “mock science” that it’s going to be successful. “Mock science” means showing that this new idea is just like this other idea that was successful in the past, hence all the copies of BABE, and all of the copies of every successful film that comes out of left field. So I was presented, over time, with a whole series of scripts that were extremely derivative, that had no spark. It was just shocking.
Visit films42.com to read the full interview with Christopher Noonan.