March 11, 2009

A 'Must' for all movie buffs...

A late 19th-century artist's conception of the...Image via Wikipedia

Sometime in the late 1970's three gentlemen sat down in a room in Southern California and held a "design session" to discuss a new product they were looking at. Each of the gentlemen in the room had had success designing similar products in the past and it was felt that combining the expertise of all three of them would result in a world beating product. They were correct: the product they designed went on to become one of the bestselling product in its market. But we'll cover that in more detail later.

Recently a document has been released which details conversations that took place in that room in California back in the mid-1980s.

The three gentlemen in the room were: George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Larry Kasdan. The product they were creating was "Raiders of the Lost Ark". I fully recommend any movie buff to spend a couple of hours reading through the 126 page document to understand the thought process that goes behind creating a blockbuster movie. It is very enlightening

Reading the transcript of the session it is obvious that Lucas is driving the meeting. He has gone into the session with an almost fully formed idea about the story and the various plot points. Spielberg spends most of the first third of the session listening, with only the occasional clarifying question. Kasdan says very little. However, once the overall plot is laid out (a plot which will subsequently change very little) both Spielberg and Kasdan start to interject their own thoughts and comments into the narrative. Lucas, anxious to keep his vision intact, does initially responded with counter arguments, if only to later realise that the expertise of the other gentlemen in the room is improving the end product whilst still adhering to his initial vision and the concept.

What is also interesting to observe is a few of the cycles that the group go around. One of the discussions concerns "the girl" (who later turned out to be Marion Blackwood in the movie) and how she should be portrayed. She was initially identified as being a "double agent" and everybody agreed that this was a good idea but, as the discussions developed, she moved away from being a spy and more towards being the love interest.

Another interesting phenomena from the session was the introduction of plot points which would not used at this point but were recycled later. An example of this is the love interest being a spy, as mentioned above. This plot device was used in the second sequel to the movie "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade". Another sequence that was mooted for Raiders of the Lost Ark but wasn't used is the sequence on the mining trolleys in the underground mine. This sequence was discussed in detail by the three gentlemen but ultimately never used in the final movie. It reappeared with very few changes in the sequel "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom".

Of particular interest to film buffs is the detail of the conversations that went through around the character arc of Marion. As detailed above she was originally conceived as a spy before being changed to the love interest. However there were several discussions about how she would actually interact with Indy throughout the movie and whether she would even be included in the finale when the Ark of the covenant is finally opened. I actually find it quite interesting to try and imagine whether the movie would have been better - or worse - if some of the suggestions had been followed up and made it into the final movie. As an example: the original ending of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" involves the Ark being opened and completely destroying the submarine base and island on which is located. The fate of Indy and Marion would not be known as the credits rolled. Only when the first part of the credits had passed would the two characters be seen surfacing in the sea surrounding the destroying island, followed shortly after by the box containing the Ark.

However the final scene of the movie, the Ark being stored away in the massive government warehouse was one of the first things that Lucas, Spielberg and Kasdan discussed. It made it all the way through subsequent drafts into the final movie.

The document (126 pages) is actually quite a easy read and serves as a interesting and enlightening reminder of how three focused individuals pulling in the same direction can collaborate and produce something extraordinary.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting this! I look forward to reading it.