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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

How based on a true story does a true story have to be?’

Recently, there has been controversy surrounding the movie “Captain Phillips.” The film paints Phillips as a hero who led his crew through the terror of Somali pirates. Since the movie’s Oct. 11 release, however, anonymous crew members have come forward criticizing his poor leadership and calling the portrayal of Phillips’ character completely inaccurate. In fact, a handful of crew members are sueing Phillips for $50 million, testifying “willful, wanton and conscious disregard for their safety.”

Because the court has not yet decided on its verdict, there isn’t really a “true story” for this movie to be based on. Audiences across the nation are possibly being fed a completely inaccurate depiction that is still being advertised as being “based on a true story.”

Major movie makers recreate true stories to attract big audiences or to feed their true enjoyment of interpretation. Whether these companies’ true motives are striving for Oscar awards or oceans of cash, it is critical to question whether these writers should be able to twist reality for cinematic benefit.

At first glance, the answer is a blatant no. No one should be given the right to alter the occurrences of another person’s life in order to benefit a movie. In some ways, this could be considered a big middle finger from the director to the person in question. “I see why the audience would be captivated by your life story, but … let’s change this part. And this part. And this part too, in order to convey the message or evoke the emotions that I find suitable.” So on and so forth.

This could be like turning non-fiction into fiction by adding liberal changes to a true story. Something that had happened becomes something that went down in cinematic history — aside from those few tidbits of made-up and altered details, of course.

That isn’t to say that directors are not allowed to make differences based on their own creative intellect.

In a movie adaption, the rightful owner signs over the rights of their product to the director. This should be acknowledged at all times; authors don’t really have the right to argue against what they don’t own anymore.

They have given their consent, so they should know exactly what they’re signing up for.

Directors are cinematic artists; they are allowed to make alterations based on their own judgement. Life is not a movie — some things need to be emphasized to capture the audience’s emotions or drive the overall message. After all, movies are entertainment and the audience expects to be entertained. If audiences want the true, hard facts, they should invest in documentaries.

Considering all of this, directors can achieve an acceptable altered version of the original through careful balance and consideration. Their job requires them to adjust accordingly without chopping off a movie’s arm, per se. Directors also need to realize that however they portray the situation, the audience will leave with that particular impression. Any major alteration should be discussed with the author or subject to receive their consent or approval. It really is just basic manners.

On occasion, directors go forth with their vision of reality without checking up on, well, anything. Mark Zuckerberg recalls that the only consistent and extreme accurate component of “The Social Network” was his wardrobe.

“Every single shirt and fleece that I had in that movie is actually a shirt or fleece that I own,” Zuckerberg said.

Director of The Social Network, David Fincher, went as far as to create an entirely different motive behind Zuckerberg's creation of the social platform; the movie heavily implied his desire to climb the social ladder as opposed to his ambition to create. Given this new motive, the audience perceives Zuckerberg as a egocentric maniac inspired by egotistical benefit as opposed to the innovative individual he really is.

Understandably, Zuckerberg was less than happy with the film.

"They [the film's creators] just can't wrap their head around the idea that someone might build something because they like building things," Zuckerberg said.

Without consent, major alterations that completely twist a life-linked story are not OK. However, smaller details should be acceptable given the experience and authority that the director holds. For better or worse, directors have innovative and creative minds that have the power to influence audiences through cinema. Let’s hope they use this power wisely, and in a way that honors the truth in a true-life story.

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