Friday, January 23, 2015

The unspecial "making of" special.

At this point in the march of my years, there are a good many things whose existence I remember the beginning of. Big things like cell phones and the world wide web, and little things like felt-tip pens and taco salads. One thing I definitely recall the popular rise of was the "making of" special.

The "making of" special may have had earlier versions in featurettes and promotional films, but it really didn't hit its stride until George Lucas created a sensational little movie called Star Wars. Between its enormous fan following and all the innovative special effects, there was enough material and ratings hopes for an hour-long TV special, and once Star Wars got the ball rolling, other big new movies with special effects like Jurassic Park made the "making of" special a part of their promotional toolbox.

And then came video tapes and DVDs, with that wonderful potential for the "DVD extra." Since DVDs had all that extra space, movie-makers had incentive to come up with all sorts of added material to help DVD sales, and the "making of" special was an easy thing to add there. (Now that we have streaming, all those added features are, sadly, going out of style again. Sometimes new tech takes away as well as gives.)

And all along the "making of" special timeline, I have avoided those bastards.

I love movies. I love the magic fictional worlds they create. I don't need such things of the dinosaurs or flying broomsticks of those magic fictions explained to me as having been done by robots and wires. I know that it's trickery, and I want to be tricked. I don't go into work the next day and go, "HOLY SHIT! THERE'S DINOSAURS ON THIS ISLAND AND THEY WANTED IT TO BE AN AMUSEMENT PARK, BUT THE DINOSAURS KILL PEOPLE!" but for a couple of hours, it's fun to exist in that world, and hold the memories for a little joy later on.

Seeing the robot guts of those lovely dinosaurs can ruin those much-loved memories, so I have always just left them alone. But time marches on, and things change. Boy, do they change . . . .

With the rise of our new internet connectivity, people have become very, very concerned about our newfound social taboo, the spoiler. "***SPOILER ALERT!***" warnings became de rigeur, and boy, would you hear about it if you dared give away a plot twist to a fan ahead of their viewing of some anticipated movie or TV show.  And yet, and yet, and yet, the rabid fan desire to get to new material ahead of anyone else has now given us #Setlock, the paparazzi of a single TV show.

We don't get to see the next installment of BBC Sherlock, the Christmas special, until a full twelve months from now, and yet we're getting a single-picture-by-single-picture "making of" special from that fan paparazzi as the special gets filmed, leaking into our Twitter, Facebook, etc.  feeds whether we like it or not. Back when Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman were just filming random street scenes in London the last time out, they were easy to ignore. London streets are London streets, nothing distinctive, nothing giving things away.

But whatever is going on now, with some definitely distinctive costuming, would have been a wonderful treat had we gotten served said delicacy with all the presentation its creators intended. But after all the theory and speculation that fueled Sherlock fandom during the post-Reichenbach-Fall year, a fan activity seems to have taken hold that has carried over into the current hiatus. More speculation, more grabbing at these #Setlock clues. But do we really need it or care about it this time around?

I know it seems to be irritating some of the cast and crew a little more this time out. And I know that the pictures crossed a threshold with me this morning, as someone who has never enjoyed the "making of" special and avoided them all my life. Suddenly we're getting a very unspecial "making of" special produced and delivered real-time by amateurs, and that's just not cool.

Not cool at all.


  1. one thing about DVD's that I DO NOT watch - 'bonus minutes or ALTERNATE ENDINGS' - to me a movie has ONE ENDING - after that, I do not care what MIGHT HAVE BEEN! - and do not care about what they left out - leave it on the editing room floor (so to speak)

  2. Oh dear! If I had known that I wouldn't have sent you the setlock links, Brad. I'm sorry.

    For me the making of part is often more fun and interesting than the movie itself. Not with every movie, mind you, but for instance I enjoyed the 20+ hours of behind the scenes and stuff of LOTR and The Hobbit far more than the respective trilogies.

    And I love setlock, although I think fans should give the creators space to work and not kill the thing they love.

    May I direct you towards this interesting discussion?