When I was 12 years old I was watching lots of movies but I never got the idea that I could be directing them. In 2006, then 12 year-old Emily Hagins of Austin, Texas completed her film which took her two years to write, produce, direct and edit herself. She took a strong interest in movies at an early age and when "The Lord of the Rings" hit theaters she had to watch it over and over and over again, dozens of times. The movie inspired her so much she decided she wanted to make movies and be a director. She knew absolutely no one in the film or entertainment business so she decided to ask the only person she knew for help: Peter Jackson, the director of "The Lord of the Rings!" Emily's letter to the director was responded to with a recommendation to talk to a friend of his that lived in Austin, where Emily was. That friend didn't know what to do other than invite the young girl to his annual film festival where the young girl watched a zombie movie she absolutely fell in love with and decided right then she wanted her first movie to be about zombies.
Within two months Emily had written a script for a full length film with lots of scenes and tons of roles. When she showed her parents they were encouraging and supportive but weren't too sure how likely it was she was going to be able to finish making her movie. Using a small handheld video camera, a microphone attached to an old painter's stick, a cast of actors recruited from her school and a very loving mom to apply zombie make up to dozens of people, Emily Hagins made her first film at the age of 12. Her film "Pathogen" was shown publicly to all of her friends and got her lots of media attention. A documentary film was made about her directing her film called "Zombie Girl" and Emily has gone on to make numerous short films and two more full length films, one about ghosts and the other about vampires. Her third film about vampires called "My Sucky Teen Romance" was filmed when Emily was 18 years-old and received a theatrical distribution deal.
Given Emily's lack of connections, lack of resources, lack of funding and her age, directing a full length movie should be impossible. Somehow this talented, driven and passionate young girl found a way to get a movie made and it led her to more movies and with each film, her experience and skills have increased. Her current projects look much more professional and polished. By the time Emily is in her twenties or thirties, she should be a real force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. While the rest of us were being spectators and watching worlds unfold on our television and movie screens, as a kid Emily Hagins was creating and shaping her own worlds for others to watch. Her story is truly inspiring because she never saw a barrier to her purpose, she just set out to learn and do the things that were needed to get the job done. If a 12 year-old girl can make a full length film, what can we as adults accomplish with tremendously more at our disposal? We don't have homework or curfews to deal with, but perhaps we have children of our own that need our time and attention. Well, why not take your children and put a camera in their hands and shoot something together? There are only the barriers we decide to place on ourselves and so many amazing freedoms we have if we only dare to look. Why not capture them?
Join my mailing list to receive new blog posts and updates.
Having to follow "The Avengers" and released just before 'The Dark Knight Rises," the relaunch of ol' Spidey couldn't have come at a more challenging time, especially with audiences now so savvy as to what is possible in superhero movies, yet "The Amazing Spider-Man" delivered superbly. Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man was perfect casting. In fact the entire cast was perfectly picked. After seeing Garfield take on Peter Parker, I'm left wondering how we ever accepted Tobey Maguire for three films. This new Peter Parker is just how he is in the comics, convincingly genius, witty, joke cracking, and moves with real fluidity. Maguire's performance now seems so dull and sluggish compared to this newer, more exciting, funner to watch version which ironically is spot on to what gives the comic book version so much likability. Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey was awesome. I liked her more than Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane, and surprisingly Sally Fields as Aunt May, although not as visually similar to the comic books as the previous incarnation of her, pulled off being Aunt May completely and believably: she was Aunt May.
There was nothing wholly original about the actual story plot. That is not what makes the movie so great. Yet, the story did move along at a very nice pace and you never get bored. What does make the movie so great? Besides the acting, the look and the feel of the movie are more realistic and you feel like Spider-Man could actually belong in our world. Rather than a comic book looking, colorful spectacle it went for the grittier, more real feel, with New York playing a large role in that. The action scenes were really entertaining to watch because instead of fighting one guy, this Spider-Man takes on several at once and in more than one spot in the movie. The special effects have stepped up since we last saw Spidey in Spider-Man 3 back in 2007. The web swinging was much more realistic like the rest of the movie was and perhaps the biggest jump in technology besides the upgraded costume was the webbing which now shoots much more believably and in more creative ways. The villain was The Lizard and he falls nicely into the regular line of Spider-Man's rogue gallery. Nothing special made him stand out compared to Willem DaFoe's Green Goblin, etc. but he was fun to watch nonetheless.
Overall this film captured the true essence of Spider-Man, making him move from a bright colorful character that could only exist in comic books to a real flesh and blood hero that could and should surface any minute from behind a skyscraper. What is interesting about Spider-Man is that he was always meant to be that really relatable superhero, the teenager with girl problems who finds himself facing tough choices and this movie manages to deliver on that in a way the previous films came close to but didn't quite do. "The Amazing Spider-Man" is a great time at the movies and for a couple hours makes you hopeful, leaves you emotionally uplifted and reignites that small flame we all keep buried deep down for heroes to come and save the day. (Oh, make sure to stay until the end of the beginning credits; there is one bonus scene.)
Join my mailing list to receive new blog posts and updates.
I'm David Carus. From overcoming one of the most dangerous cities in the country and graduating from one of the most prestigious colleges in America to leading an educational movement as a teacher and running for Congress at the age of 25, I decided the best hope our world has is through art.