The Myth on Movie Musicals
June 20, 2019
La La Land Behind the Scenes Source: La La Land Featurette

From some of my discusions with fellow film students, many are often curious about the process of making a movie musical (as the movie musical is my favourite genre and one that I have been exploring through my personal projects). They wonder how much more work is required to pull off these elegent musical numbers. Many wonder in awe at directors like Gene Kelly and Damien Chazelle and how they were able to think up these amazing sweeping set-pieces.

The thing is… it is no different from making any other film…

Director, Ron Howard, said in his MasterClass that anybody can be a director and he explains it well…

“We all have our own instincts… But [what] we have to do is back up that instinct with something called craft. “

Ron Howard in his MasterClass. (Yes, I know it was just a quote from the trailer.)

The same thing applies to directing a movie musical, everyone can instinctively tell when a character should to the rhythm of a song, how to feel when singing a particular line, etc.

The craft side of things is of course important. For years I’ve been watching movie musicals, studying how the characters move, how the camera moves and how they all relate to each other to create a fantastic sequence and so I feel confident that when I finally get the chance to shoot a complete movie musical with several numbers, I will do a good job… well at least a decent job.

But for everyone else, those who see me going full-on in specialising in this genre, please don’t be intimidated and feel like it’s an exclusive genre because apart from a couple of changes in approach, it is no different from making a music video and I’m sure many filmmakers have made a music video before.

In fact, all videos going around Facebook involving lipsyncing to pop songs whilst a story about some students is essentially a version of the jukebox musical that’s adapted for the internet. It incorporates all the ingredients of a movie musical: a narrative, songs to aid the telling of that narrative and the occasional bit of dancing. The only thing it really lacks is an original cast recording of each song.

I don’t know if it is just my own assumptions of people who talk to me when I have a conversation with them on the genre; I could just be assuming that the movie musical genre is viewed as a niche that people are afraid to touch and I can completely understand that people may not want to buy into the concept of people randomly bursting to song and dance when it is both in and out of the diegesis of the film.

Regardless, I love the genre and I’d like to encourage all of my filmmaker friends to give it a go! If you love music and love film, then the power of song and dance as a narrative device would be a great thing to explore. Who knows? Maybe we’ll be seeing original movie musicals from more people beyond Disney.

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