Monday, December 13, 2010

Picking the Ideal Background Film

How to Pick the Ultimate Background Film For You

Imagine this scenario: You're sitting around, relaxing, when it suddenly hits you: I've got work to do! Scrambling frantically you get out all your papers, laptop, utensils, and the like, but something's missing. Noise. It's just too darn quiet in here! You flip through your mp3 player but nothing strikes you as being just right, and with shuffle you're risking the occasional buzzkill song that could snap you out of your work mode just when you're hitting optimum performance levels! Let's be honest, nobody needs a song stuck in their head when they're trying to formalize a coherent analysis on history, let alone doing those pesky calculations! You know what you need - a great film!

Well, ladies and gentlemen, have no fear, for Univarn is here to save the day. I've come up with just the guide you need to make the one decision that will make or break your work experience.

Five Main Considerations:

1. Work Mood: The movie you pick needs to accompany the mood of what you're doing. If it's math, you probably want something cooler and less stressful to calm you down, like a comedy. If it's a dark history piece you're working on, perhaps try a classic tragedy of the Shakespeare variety to get your mind into the zone? Be sure that the film you pick is not going to supplant the mood you need to do the work.

2. Familiarity: Never go with a movie you don't know. The better you know the film, the better off you'll be. Why? Because if you know the film by heart you'll only care to look up doing those crucial 'must-see' scenes. The rest you can imagine in your head while you sit there working.

3. Audio over Visuals: This is where picking just the right film is crucial. You need a movie without a lot of 'wow' moments in the visual department. A musical, drama, or even the right comedy piece are your premium selections. With this you won't have to look up constantly to see the action taking place, and can instead work and let your imagine take care of the rest. Example: The Godfather (not part 2 you'll spend the whole time looking up during the New York arc)

4. Musical Style: You're most likely going to get a musical score no matter what you do so picking the right one is paramount. Make sure that the mood of the score matches the mood of the film you're picking. Some dark dramas will have blaring over the top scores, and the juxtaposition can ruin your efforts in a hurry if you're not careful. If you opt to go with a musical, pick one where the songs fit into the above criteria. It can be detrimental if you're tapping your feet and whistling while you're trying to right about the self destruction of some ancient emperor.

5. Timing: If you're going to be there for a while you have to realize the roller coaster ride of emotions the film is going on, you're going to go on. Be sure you pick one that you can distance yourself from, and can also match the flow of the film with your work needs. If it starts off upbeat, but ends tragic, make sure your work coincides with it. The last thing you need is to be caught right in the middle of your stride when all of the sudden your film pulls a 180 on you and next thing you know you're banging your pencil against the table in despair!

There you go, follow those five tips and you'll be A-OK.

So, what are your ultimate 'background' films? Any go to movie for you when you need a background film?

11 better thoughts:

Lesya Khyzhnyak said...

Oh no, no and no. No background films for me. I hate ignoring movies in this way. But I do love this article, great tips for those who don't mind it. By the way, the musical might still work, although once again they are usually so colorful and offer tons of dancing nymbers (like Singin' in the Rain). How to ignore it?

Aiden R. said...

I'm with Lesya. Truly inspired post, but if there's a movie on, I ain't getting anything done. Just had a recent breakthrough where I've been writing with music on, but that's the extent of it.

Rick "The Hat" Bman said...

I quite often put a movie on in the background while I am doing other things. I always choose something I have seen quite a bit. My go to movies are usually Star Trek movies or maybe Ghostbusters or some of the Back to the Future movies.

I made the mistake once of trying to put 2001 A Space Odyssey while I was trying to do housework. It didn't take long before the house work was being neglected and I was intently watching the film. It probably didn't help that it was the first time I had watched it on Blu-ray.

Rich said...

A couple of times, while riding on a cross-country bus like Greyhound or Peter Pan, I've tried reading a book while a crappy movie is playing, in a desperate attempt to shut the movie out. Never works.

Univarn said...

@Leysa & Aiden: I know lots of people don't - it's hard for me to do it as well - but I thought this would be a fun post to write for those who do. Thanks for reading!

@Rick 2001 for the first time on blu-ray, definitely a bad call there. However, Ghostbusters is so much fun, and I've seen it so many times, I could probably do that one by heart.

@Rich Thanks for commenting! My recommendation would be to try an audio book and closed eyes. About as close as you're going to get (though if you can line up dialogue in the audio book with the film it could make for a hilarious outing)

Ed Howard said...

Yeah, I could never do this. I work with music on all the time, but movies are too distracting. Sometimes I do like having a movie on and kind of half paying attention as I drift from room to room doing other things. That can be cool, to come in and out of the movie's world like that, but to actually try to work while a movie plays in the background would never work for me.

The Mad Hatter said...

Totally on board with this sort of antic...been doing it for years actually!

When I worked a service counter, Saturdays were a wickedly quiet shift. Thus I'd bring in dvd's to play in the background to pass the time. It'd be fun choosing titles as I'd turn it into little marathons (ie, one Saturday I'd take GODFATHER, GOODFELLAS, and DONNIE BRASCO)

I only had two rules for choosing titles (both of which you mention)...

1 - It had to be a film I've seen before. If I put on something I've never seen before as "background noise", I have my neck craned the whole time. No work gets done cause then it's not me listening, it's me watchin'.

2 - Had to be in english. Sort of a shame really because there are lots of Fellinni films that have an energetic whimsy to them. But like you say, if I have to keep my neck craned to read subtitles, it's no help.

Simon said...

Needs to be in a language you can speak. Subtitles, gotta love them, are terribly distracting.

Castor said...

Anything that requires too much brain power simply cannot allow for a background movie! A background movie is perfect when you hanging out with friends and doing some light blogging duty like reading/answering comments or playing around with your template. For example, writing a blog post is basically impossible with a movie on. Except for that, I agree with most of your points ;)

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

For me DVDs of TV shows is always a good backup for studying, something I know by heart like FRIENDS or even WILL & GRACE which I don't know as well but puts me in a good mood...nothing like DEXTER though, tried it - and it didn't work out, for obvious reasons.

Univarn said...

@Ed Thanks for commenting! I understand the sentiment. I avoid music because songs get stuck in my head way too easily. Very hard to write about how dark and moody a movie is when you've got one of those infectious things rattling around in your head.

@Mad I once tried this with Seven Samurai, ended disastrously. I'm not sure I ever fully recovered.

@Simon It's worse when the person on screen is making hilarious noises that are incredibly frustrating to deal with out of context.

@Castor I think a lot of it depends on the mood of the writer at the time. I have these dreadful moments where I'll get an itch to write while I'm in the middle of something else (like watching a movie) and I have to scratch it! Which not only hurts the movie viewing but it hurts the post because my mind is split. So yes, I see what you're saying.

@Andrew That's a good one. I could probably have something along the lines of M*A*S*H playing in the background and wouldn't need to look around all the time because I know what's going on (seen that show way too much - movie as well)

Related Posts with Thumbnails