OPINION: It's the Filmmaker’s Business to Make You Comfortable

Herbie J Pilato

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[The Classic TV Preservation Society]

Today, TV shows and movies have to be “about something”; they have to have a cause; be life-changing; share a message.

I say, “Baloney!” And as countless have rallied for and said for years, leave the messaging to Western Union.

I want my big and small screen adventures to be nothing more or less than entertaining. If those same films and television programs happen to have a heartwarming message somewhere in between the telling of their stories, that’s fine.

But in my book, TV series and movie-house cinema adventures should be nothing but joyful excursions of pure delight.

In recent years (and decades), TV shows and theatrical motion pictures have been nothing but a drag; with dark, dingy, and moody plots; settings; set and costume designs; and dreadful, ignorant violent language and images.

Enough already.

There’s plenty of that kind of junk in real life.

Movies and TV shows are not real life, and they never should be.

Oh, sure, I am all for an in-depth nonfiction documentary that chronicles some real-life remarkable individual or historic event.

But that’s not what I’m talking about when I refer to movies and TV shows.

Movies and TV shows should be fictional stories of the uplifting or inspiring ilk.

And I blame people like director Martin Scorsese and horrific films like Bonnie and Clyde (1968) for blurring the lines between reality and reel-ity.

That isn’t to say Scorsese and I don’t have anything in common.

He’s Italian; I’m Italian.

He’s a genius; I’m Italian.

He likes real curbs; I like my curbs to be fake.

Street curbs, that is.

Big fake oversized street curbs.

Like in the classic feature film, Singing in the Rain.

But those are the kinds of curbs that Scorsese didn’t like to see in the movies.

Because they aren’t realistic.

So, he always wanted to make sure that the street curbs he photographs and presents in his movies are realistic; and not oversized or fake-looking.

But to me, that’s what movies and TV are all about: being fake.

Television shows and motion pictures are not reality, or else they would be reality.

They can reflect reality; they can even be realistic. But they are not reality.

That’s why I like my street curbs to be fake on screen.

It’s also why I want things like Christmas TV specials to have fake snow.

No on-location Christmas specials for me…like the kind John Denver used to do…or that one-time Perry Como special.

Those kinds of TV shows are too real for me.

Give me a TV show or movie that was filmed on a back-lot over an “on-location” TV show or movie any day.

I’ll always choose the back-lot days. I like my movies and TV shows to look like movies and TV shows.

If I want reality I can go step outside and spend time in reality.

When I want to escape reality I turn on the TV or go to the movies.

And when I watch TV today, it’s usually when I slip in one of my classic TV DVDs, or I switch on ME-TV, Antenna-TV, COZI-TV, or the Hallmark Channel, all of which frequently air beloved classic shows from the past.

With each of these options, I see fake sets, fake streets, and fake Scorsese-hating curbs.

There are only maybe two or three studio back-lots left in Hollywood.

The old Universal back-lot, which now doubles as a ride for Universal Studios Tour, and the old Columbia street of homes where they filmed shows like Father Knows Best, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, Gidget and The Partridge Family…and the “fountain” opening and some exteriors for Friends, among countless other shows and movies. Warner Bros. owns that lot now, and thankfully, it’s still around, and not bulldozed away like the MGM lot.

I guess pieces of the Paramount lot are still around. But that’s all mostly gone, too…right along with the way they used to make TV shows and movies.

I guess you could say that the fake way they used to make TV shows and movies has been kicked to the curb.

So, in that sense, I hope Martin Scorsese is happy.

But he and the majority of Hollywood just don’t seem to know how to make entertaining motion pictures and television shows anymore.

So, here’s how to do so, in 7 easy steps:

1] Utilize old-school studio lighting, specifically for interior shots.

2] Lose the real “on-location” sets, and create fabricated exterior sets — for which the old-school studio lighting could also be used.

3] Stop cluttering up the interior sets with too many props to make the interiors look realistic. Present nice, clean-looking sets.

4] Cool it with dark, violent scenes, and the vulgar, and profane language. Instead, use that old-studio lighting that will showcase the actors as they speak with what should always be intelligent, sophisticated, educated words, terms, and phrases, even when the characters are not defined as intelligent or smart. There is a way to do that.

5] Instruct the actors to stop mumbling, and insist they enroll in diction and projection classes so they know how to speak with clarity to be understood.

6] Make sure the actors’ PERFORMANCES are LIKEABLE. Their characters don’t have to be likable…but their performances AS THOSE characters must be likable.

7] Make sure the stories have a beginning, middle, and end, and that the end, in particular, is happy. For some reason, Hollywood has forgotten how to make happy endings of recent.

And there ya’ go. That’s how to make an entertaining TV show or feature film.

Just spread the love and share the joy.

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS: A TREASURE HOUSE OF DECEMBER MEMORIES REVEALED, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA
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