I saw an indie movie yesterday that was so indie it could actually be considered self-produced. Well, truthfully, it was self-produced — and it went straight to video without a big screen debut, which is something you should all be thankful for. The only reason I watched it was that it was filmed near where I am staying, and I had fun trying to figure out where all the scenes had been filmed. There was no other reason to watch it. The actors were terrible. (I’d read once that a good actor was one who acted natural on the screen. These folk were so unnatural as to make paper doll cut-outs seem life-like in comparison.) The plot was derivative. (You know the story — drug dealers, undercover cops, only one cop left alive at the end and you wish he’d died along with all the rest.) The camera work was appalling — looked as if it had been filmed with a cell phone (as one of my fellow movie watchers put it).
So, here’s my question. Why did they make that particular movie? What were they thinking — “Let’s make a movie that’s been made a zillion times before, but let’s see how bad we can make it”? I know they weren’t trying to showcase talent — there wasn’t any. They weren’t trying to have fun with dialogue — it was stilted and silly at best. They didn’t show the drug dealer vs. cop conflict in any new light. So, what was the point? I still don’t know.
This is the same question I ask myself about many of the books I read, and I get the same response — I don’t know what the point is.
But here’s my point — there has to be a point, especially when it comes to books, because if there is no point, why would anyone read it? A writer can write for herself, of course, which might be the point of writing the book, but we readers need a reason to read it. Even if it’s a light romance or a cozy mystery written only to entertain, there still has to be a reason for it. People do read for entertainment, but if a book gives a reader nothing new — no new experience, no new understanding, no interesting character or situation, no wit or humor, just a rehash of what has been written too many times already — there’s not even any entertainment value in it.
I recently read a well-touted book from a debut author, someone I had met on facebook. I looked forward to the book since this woman posted such interesting and witty remarks that I thought for sure her book would be as interesting. It was, to a certain extent — it was well-written, the dialoque was sort-of snappy (though it often came across as contrived) and the story was okay. But it was only okay, nothing special. There was no spark of originality, no reason to care about the character, nothing that explained why hundreds of people wrote glowing reviews. I might be getting to be a bit of a curmudgeon, since obviously I was one of the few who found the book disappointing, but the truth is, I was disappointed. All the way through, I kept thinking, “Why am I reading this? What’s the point?”
Books don’t need to have a message — in fact, books with messages are often not worth reading — but there has to be a reason for the book to exist beyond an author’s imagination, even if it’s just for us readers to see what happens to a character we care about.