You know when people say, “People singing out of nowhere is jarring – musicals are weird”? Yeah, I never got that. Musicals are SUCH a huge part of me that singing out of nowhere is kind of just second nature to me. Movie musicals have brought me so much joy – Gene Kelly singing in the rain or Marilyn Monroe singing about diamonds is enough to make a bad day.
However, like most genres, movie musicals have their cliches, especially if they’re from the 50’s. (La La Land is included in this post, since it recreates that era of films.) So if you’re planning on making a 50’s musical, here’s what your movie needs to have:
1. Primary colors, PEOPLE – PRIMARY COLORS!
Take out your colors wheels and get rid of the slogans on shirts, because our storyboards are straight from the Crayola 8 crayons pack. Musicals are always colorful, with our characters always wearing some sort of primary color – red, blue, yellow, or green. After all, our movie’s got to be grand, and colorful, and full of life, and bright sweet colorful cinematography is a great way to do that.
Or maybe they’re just trying to avoid copyright claims by not having logos or patterns on their costumes. It’s a possibility.
2. Someone’s gotta be an artist or an actor – preferably in Hollywood!
Hollywood just loves movies about itself, doesn’t it? And what better way to present the magic of movies than through song? From Singin in the Rain to A Star is Born, someone’s gotta want to be a famous actress – whether it be our main character or his love interest.
It’s preferred to be set in Hollywood, but if you can’t, then take cues from Summer Stock and have your main characters be theatre actors instead. Even if your story won’t allow them to be actors, let them be any other forms of artists instead – from painters (An American in Paris) to cabaret performers (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) to even photographers (I Love Melvin!)
After all, most of our audience are artists. They shall relate!
3. Tap tap tap, let the TAP DANCING begin!
Have you written your songs yet? No? Good, because your songs have to be really jazzy and fun, so our characters can tap dance to it. I mean, even The Artist ends with a tap dancing scene, and that wasn’t even a musical. Oh, and call the costume department. Let’s have them order a thousand pairs of tap shoes. Will that be enough?
Oh. You’ve written some of the songs already? Well, that’s okay. We can just add around two minutes of just instruments for our cast to tap dance to. Do you think you could do that? Okay, good. We have our soundtrack!
(Seriously, though, check out this tap dancing scene from Summer Stock. It is awesome.)
4. You gotta end with a jaw-dropping ballet that’s over seven minutes long.
Okay, in the genre’s defense, I’ve only really seen three movies with a ballet at the end (An American in Paris, Singin’ in the Rain, and La La Land) but I haven’t seen ALL movie musicals, so there’s gotta be others with a ballet, right?
Well, even if there aren’t, you still got to fully commit if you want to pay full homage to 50’s musicals. This is a great chance to play with our colors and do some extremely gorgeous cinematography. Perfect for all of our trailers!
5. Your movie’s got to be filled with love.
Despite how much I make fun of these cliches…I love them. I love them to death. Every time a tap dancing scene plays, or a ballet begins, or a character cries about her dreams, it just puts a gigantic smile on my face.
Movie musicals are just so filled with love. Everyone in front and behind the camera is just so passionate about what they’re making. And seeing them smile and do what you love, makes you smile and love them for what they’re doing.
It’s like what Gene Kelly says. “You dance love, you dance dreams, you dance joy.”