By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on June 04, 2014

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Dear Alan Titmuss
Bluescreen Stagehand

Dear Alan,

There are a lot of special effects in Maleficent. We're talking Avatar-levels of world building and character design. Which means you were a busy boy on set. Probably running around with a tennis ball on the end of a stick to give the actors their eyelines, and operating off-camera fans to simulate the effect of a magic spell being cast, or maybe just handing water bottles to Angelina Jolie so she didn't pass out from the heat of her full-body leather suit.

But, frankly, I'm not all that interested in what you were doing. These blue (or green) backdrops are the reason so many behind-the-scenes featurettes are such bore now. And they're also the reason why the job of director has virtually become an entry-level position on a Hollywood blockbuster.

The producers of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark World, for example, trusted their hundred-million-dollar franchises to directors best known for their work on TV._ Maleficent's director, Robert Stromberg, has never even received a directing credit before. However, he's worked on visual effects for nearly a hundred films, and has won Academy Awards for the Production Design on _Alice in Wonderland and, yes, Avatar.

Just think, Adam--you could be moving up the ladder much faster than you think!

Soon, you'll be the one telling actors like Sam Riley what positions to land in when he pops out of his different animal incarnations, like a crow, wolf or dragon. You'll get to egg-on serious actresses like Imelda Stauton and Lesley Manville to get sillier, get more cartoonish, in their roles as fairy godmothers. You might even get to witness the rare occurrence of a notorious overactor toning down his schtick (though the fact that most of Sharlto Copley's scenes appear to have been filmed on traditional sets may have helped ground his performance).

One element, however, that will most likely remain far out of your control when you become a director (in a few months or so) is the studio's need to emulate recent successes.

In this particular case, Maleficent is not only based on the Sleeping Beauty story, but seizes on the trend of telling a familiar tale from the villain's perspective (Despicable Me, Oz the Great and Powerful, Wicked). Then Disney throws in a female empowerment message that's recycled straight from the Frozen_ _formula, which bookends just enough swordplay to draw in a male audience, a la Snow White and the Huntsman.

At 97 minutes, at least it's mercifully short, bucking the trend of the overblown blockbusters that have to keep throwing more and more effects in our face. But this probably just means a sequel is in the works--you know, to cover whatever 15 minutes of plot they decided to leave out.

But hey, a few more of these gigs and you could be in charge. Maybe I'll finally get the three-hour long version of Aladdin told from Iago's perspective that I've always wanted.



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