Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Intentionally Original

In follow up to my pilot post over the originality of ideas, I wanted to further elaborate on what requirements fulfill the desire for the idea of a creation project to be intentionally original, so far as what that word means. In the original post I stated that any idea that comes from your mind is inherently original because, to put it crudely, there's no such thing as mind reading. For an idea to come from your subconscious it is influenced by all of your experiences and memories and opinions until it is molded into something wholly you. It is understandable, however, to mistakingly take this as meaning all ideas are original, and it would likewise be foolish of me to try to claim that all ideas are original. The difference, then, lies in the intention.

When an idea is intentionally original, it comes from your creative mind. There are, obviously, ideas that are not original, though. There are ideas that do not strive for originality (nor should ever idea have to). Take, for example, the Transmorphers series, along with most anything from The Asylum studio, which capitalizes on "mock-busters" based on big budget blockbusters. No one claims the idea behind this movie to be original, nor is it intended to be original. The idea is a blatant, direct, and intentional mock off of Transformers. While rip-offs are usually poorly executed and negatively received, there is nothing wrong with their production and it is unfair to criticize them for being unoriginal when they were never intended as such.

Being original means taking the concepts floating around in your mind, be they from stories that have inspired you or pure imagination, and melting them together into an original story and script treatment. Indeed, I would be skeptical of anyone claiming a story to be 100% original based solely on their imagination simply because we are subjected to so much entertainment that we are all inadvertently influenced by it. To say that you want to make a movie that robots who invade Earth is still original because your take on the idea will be different from others simply because it is being approached from someone with different experiences, influences, motivations, the list goes on and on. To say you want to make a mock of Transformers, however, is ripping the concept off.

Of course, it would still be unfair to divide film into only two categories of intentionally original and ripoffs for so many questions and complicated scenarios exist. Is it possible, for instance, to accidentally ripoff a story? Imagine a person who creates in their mind the story of Transformers and comes up with Transmorphers, but their intention was not to rip off the Michael Bay movie. Their intention, as they claim it, is originality, but most would be hard pressed to apply the word to the project. Is it original? Perhaps this example is extreme and unlikely, again due to the prevalence of media within modern society. The hypothetical of someone going through the entire production of a film without realizing it has already been done in that same way is strange.

What, then, of adaptations, a much more common and accepted transfer being mediums? Are the adaptations of Lord of the Rings original even though they are based on a novel? Surely we would not apply the term rip off to the Peter Jackson trilogy, but we would not want to say original either. Yet, while based on the Tolkien novels, the keyword here is based. Peter Jackson and his entire production team, though I'm sure read the novels, were creating a film based on how they saw the material, and each of them (each of us, everyone) sees it a different way. The term applied, maybe, would be that his trilogy is an original take on the material, but wouldn't the same mentality be used towards Transmorphers?

How do these principles apply to remakes, or medium transfers where the original artist (graphic novel to film, for example) is also a creative director on the adaptation? Fanboys often complain about the deviations films take from the source material (for better or worse sometimes), but I wonder sometimes whether they would not also complain if an adaptation were so similar that there is nothing original about it. As funny as it may be to watch Transmorphers, after all, in the end we all want to watch something original. Otherwise I could just pull something from my Blu-Ray collection. We strive for originality, but find that the concept is at the same time easier to achieve than we realize while also being incredibly uncertain territory to walk in, no matter the artistic medium. When the discussion of adaptations is brought into it, though, the problem is enhanced by the dedication of those who enjoy the source material. The intricacies of being fast and loose yet dedicated to adaptations, though, is best left for future posts.

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