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"Inspired by a True Story"


BlueSky

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Just read an article about the filming of We Are Marshall. The coach played by Matthew McConaughey was watching the film crew work and objected to a scene that isn't portrayed as it occurred. The director heard him out but left the scene as filmed.

This brought to mind Friday Night Lights. If you read the book, which is excellent and goes far beyond football, you'll find many differences between reality and the movie. Wikipedia lists a few examples:

- In the movie Boobie Miles is #45 and playing tailback, but in reality he was a fullback (while Don Billingsley was the tailback) and wore #35. In the movie, Brian Chavez is the #4 strong safety, while he was actually the #85 tight end. Ivory Christian, in the film, is a defensive end and wears #90, while he was really the #62 middle ("Mike") linebacker. (Note: At the beginning of the film, as the camera pans over Coach Gaines' depth chart, you can see the name 'Miles' listed under the FB tag.)

- Boobie Miles really injured his leg by getting his foot caught on the astroturf during a pre-season scrimmage against Amarillo Palo Duro at Jones Stadium in Lubbock. In the movie he is tackled by two players at the knee during a blowout non-district game at Ratliff Stadium.

- Don Billingsley's father Charlie is depicted in the movie as having won a state championship. In reality, his Permian team lost in the state finals.

- The Carter-Permian game was played in front of 10,000 people in a heavy downpour at The University of Texas at Austin's Memorial Stadium, not in front of 55,000 in the Astrodome in Houston.

- While the game in the movie was a high-scoring affair, the score of the actual game was 14-9 in favor of Carter.

Wikipedia lists 25 differences between reality and the Hollywood version. My point is, if you want to tell a team's story, tell it as it happened. If it's not dramatic enough, then don't make a movie. If you want to change everything, then use fictional characters and teams.

My wife says I'm too picky, it's "just a movie." But consider the historical aspects of Titanic, which in general were very accurate but depicted First Officer William M. Murdoch as taking money to let someone into a lifeboat and later shooting himself. There is no evidence that either of those events took place. First Officer Murdoch was a real person who has a family (surely there are descendants). Why would James Cameron portray that? Would you want your name and family smeared by a filmmaker?

So...how true is true enough for you?

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As a filmmaker I believe that if you want to take liberties depicting real life events, you should stick with fiction. Many might argue that "tweaking" a few details here and there to add drama is for the better for the sake of the movie, but I found once you begin chipping away at the smaller details, altering the bigger ones becomes easier. When this happens you take the risk of destroying that which made the story interesting to begin with. Real life doesn't follow a formula. It's better I find to let the story speak for itself rather than shoehorn in into something it's not. Not everything needs a happy formulaic ending. Sometimes the point of the story is the journey itself not the destination.

If the real life story was enough to inspire a movie, then one should stay true to the movie to begin with. While I can understand omitting extra details or adding some bridging narrating dialog for the sake of not making a movie 20 hours long. I really cannot understand fabricating extra details that in the end do not really change much. In most of the these case the changes made really don't improve the real story and again, cheapens the reality. It's almost saying that the real people's struggles and accomplishment are not worthy enough to stand on their own merits. Worse yet I cannot abide by movie versions sanitizing details because someone was too flawed or does something not in character. This is when reality and history become a romanticized fantasy. I personally find history and true to be very entertaining- provided it's done correctly. However a common pitfall by many filmmakers is being lulled into believing that it's justifiable to put a new facade on facts rather than trying present them in an interesting manner. I think that while filmmakers are indeed artists, when you decided to take a real event and claim that your finished product is a spawning of said events, you surrender some of that creative liberty for the sake of historic accuracy. Truth be told, it's probably easier to simply pull something out of thin air rather than being restricted by what actually happened. But also, if one cannot work with the reality as it is, then one should either find a different event or simply rebrand the story as fiction.

Bottom line is if it's a real story stick with it. If you make too many changes, I say you shouldn't call it a real story. None of this "based on", "inspired by" or "written upon" catchphrases. Those are simply cop-outs as a way to defend why what you're seeing isn't always the truth. Hey, it's only "based" upon the truth, not committed to it. While I suppose one could argue no movie is actually real- short of perhaps a documentary, when one advertises their film as something that uses reality rather than fantasy as their basis, I expect them to be responsible enough to stick as close to the truth as humanly possible.

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I had to chime in because I agree with you guys. It really bothers me.

However, what bothers me EVEN MORE is movies like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Wolf Creek. "Based on a true story" and if you look into both of them, it's hard to find any sort of connection between the movies and events that actually happened.

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I completely agree. If the story on it's own, as it was and without embellishments, isn't good enough to be told in movie form then don't make a movie about it. All it does is give people a warped view about how things actually happened.

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I had to chime in because I agree with you guys. It really bothers me.

However, what bothers me EVEN MORE is movies like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Wolf Creek. "Based on a true story" and if you look into both of them, it's hard to find any sort of connection between the movies and events that actually happened.

You're right about TCM, but Wolf Creek was actually a collage of a few real life events;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowtown_murders

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backpacker_murders

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Falconio_disappearance

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My old Biology teacher in High School wasn't allowed to watch movies with his wife because he'd always point the scientific inaccuracies. Such as, when someone would shoot a shotgun while on horseback.

"The recoil would knock them off the horse!"

Haha, everyone hates going to movies with me for that same reason.

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I prefer that they either stick to the story as closely as possible ("Eight Men Out") or that they take a real event and change everyting - names, dates, etc..., like "Hoosiers". I get frustrated by these "based on a true story" movies where it seems that the "facts" everyone remembers is the stuff that has been embellished.

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My old Biology teacher in High School wasn't allowed to watch movies with his wife because he'd always point the scientific inaccuracies. Such as, when someone would shoot a shotgun while on horseback.

"The recoil would knock them off the horse!"

Haha, everyone hates going to movies with me for that same reason.

You knock them off the horse?

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