Pick a subject. No, not that one. Pick a subject you’re not supposed to talk about at the Thanksgiving table. Think racism (“Blackkklansman”), politics (“Vice”) or gay celebrities (“Bohemian Rhapsody”). The subjects your grandma sidesteps every Christmas by shifting the conversation to your love life.
Then, find a new face. Not one of those tried and true actors that have demonstrated their talents in three or more film genres — avoid Meryl Streep. No, pick a new one. A fresh one. Preferably, a young, mildly androgynous-looking one like Timothée Chalamet. If you must use one of the actors from your Rolodex, make sure you change their weight by around fifty pounds and put them in a role they’ve never been in before. For inspiration, see Christian Bale in “Vice”, or any of his Oscar-hungry films.
Next, you’re going to want to pick an out-of-the-box director. A first-rate iconoclast like Spike Lee. Maybe they invented a new genre or have a bizarre directing method that, frankly, you don’t want to ask about. Bonus points if they have their own recognizable filter that makes your period drama look authentic, such as Paweł Pawlikowski’s “Cold War”.
After that, your next task is to pick your director of photography. Make sure you drill it into their head that you want as many iconic shots as possible. Things so unique to the film that people will line up on St. Mark’s Place to get them tattooed on their forearm after they see the movie. And make sure they color correct the footage so one or two colors really just pop off the screen. This step is crucial for developing a film’s aesthetic.
Finally, make sure to include plenty of time-sensitive references to hot-button issues. It’s not enough that you merely make a movie about a provocative topic — you also need to relate it back to last night’s news. You may do this with an obvious nod towards the Trump presidency, either by directly showing him in the film or by telling a scary story about another power-hungry Republican like Dick Cheney. Sorry, “Black Panther,” you had good intentions, but your message wasn’t direct enough. You really have to spell it out for people. Preferably you do this directly after the climax of the movie in a slow and intense scene with too much dramatic music and just enough urgency in the voiceover.
After you do all these things, don’t be discouraged if your uncultured, boring friends don’t like your film. In fact, take their dislike of it as a sign that you’ve accomplished making high art: cinema. You do not produce movies for normal people, you produce films for a creative elite who are well versed in film history and director winks. To be frank, you make films that the masses are not supposed to enjoy. You make them confusing, long and uncomfortable to watch — I’m looking at you, “The Favourite”. But, don’t worry, this all works to the critic’s benefit in maintaining exclusivity for the class of creative elites.
Because isn’t the point of an Oscar-winning film to expose who understands and who does not; who can explain the message of “Inception” and who cannot; who can wax poetic about a film with no plot and who cannot?
And to think you thought this was some kind of egalitarian community. Ha.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Jan. 28, 2019 print edition. Email Claire Fishman at [email protected]