“Anything Is Possible”….which might be the problem

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There’s a saying that’s meant a lot to me for quite some time.

It’s nothing new, it doesn’t change your life when you hear it and it’s not a wise observation on the complexity of life or an enlightening insight into our culture.

It’s very simple.

“Anything Is Possible”

I love that saying probably more than any other. 

One of the first movies I remember seeing when I was young was Star Wars.  I was just a kid but I could still appreciate the enormity of the world Lucas created.  Of course I had no clue how he made that world come to life but neither did a lot of people in the room much older than me.  Suddenly, space seemed real, it seemed that this might actually be going on in a galaxy far, far away.   Space finally seemed possible.

It happened again when my father and I went to see Jurassic Park.  When that Brachiosaurus stood on its hind legs to pick the leaves off a tree, I turned to my Dad and said, “They did it!”  I couldn’t believe it.  They finally gave us the living, breathing dinosaurs that lived only in our imaginations prior to entering the theater.  In an instant, dinosaurs seemed possible.

As the years went by, more and more movies pushed the envelope to show us what was possible.  Films like Terminator 2 and The Matrix showed us what was possible with computer-generated imagery (CGI).  They blew up the White House in Independence Day and then James Cameron gave us Titanic, which somehow made us feel like we were on board, about to sink to the bottom of the Atlantic.  Gladiator brought the Roman Colosseum to life.  Nothing seemed impossible. 

And now here we are.  The phones in our pockets outreach the most advanced technology in the biggest room at NASA a mere 20 years ago.  We’re less impressed now with what’s possible because we believe “Anything Is Possible”.  When your phone takes more than 3 seconds to load a webpage, you might get upset at how slow it’s going…ignoring the fact that by you touching that screen, it just sent a signal to space!

Dinosaurs aren’t impossible anymore, now they’re on Network TV.  Low-rated cable channels create Ancient Rome on a weekly basis.  Superheroes finally can be given the complex world they needed to feel real and to finally feel believable. 

With our technology, with the ways we communicate, and especially now in cinema and on television, everything seems possible.

So, we as filmmakers must do our best by continuing to develop ground-breaking visual effects, to further expand the boundaries of 3D, and, despite the exponential growth of the technological world around us, somehow find new ways to impress an audience, to make them believe that some things still are impossible so that a father and son will once again turn to each other in a dark theater and say, “They did it!”

Ryan P. Hall is originally from Louisville, KY and has lived and worked in entertainment in Los Angeles for 9 years. He currently works at Junction Entertainment under Jon Turteltaub

Images: Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox

The statements and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the event participants and do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for this event or of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.