I read a question in a forum the other day. A guy wanted to do a Christmas feel-good movie by filming an ordinary family on Christmas and asked if this was a good idea.
No. It is not.
Why? This guy wants to do a feel-good movie about Christmas. He wants to give us this cozy, candle-feeling with all pure joy and happiness. What’s wrong about that? Isn’t that a noble quest? You don’t want conflict on Christmas, right?
Well. . .
Technically, what he describes is a home video. Even if he succeeds in avoiding the sound of crunching paper too close to the microphone and gets decent camera angles, it will still be nothing more than a home video. That is the kind of movie that – might – work for those in the movie, who – with a little luck – re-experience the happy, cozy Christmas again.
Why is that so? Because your memory does not store your life like a movie of reality. And the reason it does not works for me - who wasn't there - is because I see a family open Christmas gifts – it doesn't tell me anything.
“It does not tell me anything.” That, I think is the key. If this guy wants to create Christmas emotions in me, I need to be told that Christmas is all those adjectives that this guy thinks it is. Watching a family celebrate Christmas does not work because I don’t see what they feel.
If you begin with an undecorated home, transforming into a Christmas home, you get a contrast between what it was and what it becomes. Then you have a beginning, but I’ll still not feel a thing when the family gets together and celebrates. To get that, I need to be there. How? If a stranger enters their home, I can feel for the stranger, because he or she comes from the outside. It is someone I can root for because he is someone who is not part of the family, like me.
Alright, we have our stranger there, but if we go back to the original idea to just film a family (with a stranger this time) during Christmas celebrations, there is still the fact that reality is boring. Watching the reality on movie is dull. Yes, you watched your little baby crawl for that hour in real life, but did you ever watch the whole hour video? Probably not.
To create a Christmas feel-good movie we have now got as far as two thirds. We begin with an ordinary, undecorated home and we have our stranger (preferably a homeless or a starving child), but now we need all those things that create sweet memories, served as a quick lunch. Christmas tree with its decorations, the gifts, the Christmas socks, the fire place and the warm fire, the garlands, the mistletoe, the dinner table, the snow, the food, the glögg, the decorations, the crib, the candles, the beautiful clothes, Santa Claus, the music and so on. All that edited into something fairly short and compact and viewed through one of those reddish filters with a little glimmer in the corners.
Did I mention some things that you didn’t recognize? Like “glögg”? That is also something to consider. If you want to give me Christmas emotions, no matter stranger in the house, I need to know that it is Christmas. Maybe there will be things that I don’t recognize? Does it matter? Well, that depends on how well you tell your story.
Because you need to remember that you are telling me about Christmas.