Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The making of "Knowing"

In the last few weeks I've been getting a lot of searches for "the making of knowing". Of course these curious people are more likely to be seeking the "Making Of" information about the incomparable Nicolas Cage film Knowing, than the rather different type of action that is available on Knowing and Making. But why not offer them some education about economics too?

I haven't yet seen the film, so I'll be constrained in offering meaningful advice about it. But let's see what we can determine.

First, it went through several different directors before being made. This information was more readily available on the film's Wikipedia article than on IMDB, the Internet's default link-target-for-any-movie-title (just as Amazon is the default for books). Wikipedia also has a little more information about production companies and funding - which to me is quite interesting, and makes me wonder why IMDB doesn't have it. Are they more closely tied to the film industry and less likely to share this kind of data? Or is it that the information is already implicit in the Company Contacts page, and mere mortals like me don't know how to read it? That's implied by the fact that the full information is only available on IMDbPro, the sister site for film industry professionals. In any case there's definitely some intriguing economics to be done about insider understanding of specialist industries.

Second (also according to Wikipedia) it's meant to be a "brooding, hauntingly allegorical terror-thriller". Sounds good to me. However it also provokes "hoots and giggles" which are presumably not the intent. Then again, Scream was quite successful.

Third, it was filmed in Melbourne which is apparently a cheaper substitute for Boston. This will please my friends Bonnie and Andy who come from Melbourne and have moved to Boston. No doubt they are enjoying the more costly, yet more authentic, version of their home town.

Fourth, Nicolas Cage has a beard in one of the promotional photographs. That's just not right. Beards are surely reserved for economists (though this writer disagrees).

Fifth, some information about the actual making of the film, which is after all what people are probably here for. It was shot on Red One digital camera - the first time the director had shot on digital.

I must be too much a child of the digital age, because I don't get the significance of this. Every time I've picked up a camera I just wanted to make a permanent record of whatever was in front of the lens. Digital or analogue - it should just be a matter of convenience. Admittedly, in trying to edit a 1-minute video this weekend I discovered many of the drawbacks of digital formats - but I can't imagine the hell I'd have suffered if I had to cut together a physical reel of tape.

The original writer has some interesting insights into the process in this interview from (I'm guessing) about 2001. Best line out of context: "I want to be a hack in the worst way". Screenwriting is one of those industries where you succeed best by accepting the principle that specialisation of labour is the key insight of all economic thought. A lot can be learned about economics by comparing Hollywood with most other fields of artistic endeavour. For all the wastefulness and risk that goes with it, it's a collective enterprise which has managed to dominate the world's media for a century.

Some of the film was shot at Camberwell High School, which missmarketcrash readers will recall is where everyone in South London lives. We like schools with large catchment areas.

It seems to be mainly populated by actors from Australian soap operas. Unless the author of the Wikipedia article is a specialist and only added that subset of the cast into the article. Selection bias is a key concern for econometric researchers and you should certainly be on the lookout for it when reading articles about brain-behaviour correlations (somewhat technical but very interesting - stick to this summary if you are short of time).

What an odd chap Nicolas Cage is. Did you know he named his son Kal-El, after Superman? Other than that, you can read the linked Wikipedia article for its amusing writing style as much as its amusing subject matter.

A final comment, and apologies for a minor spoiler (look away now if you still want to see the film...)

...the highly amusing automated selection of a Google advert on the IMDB page reads "www.mphsolicitors.co.uk * Specialist solicitor in aviation disasters". If you are Nicolas Cage, and you have genuinely experienced the events depicted in this film, I certainly recommend you contact these solicitors. Hope you have better luck with these guys than your last divorce attorney!

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