The Secret to Making a Great Sequel

Godfather Part 2. The Empire Strikes Back. The Two Towers. Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo.

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One of these things, is not like the others. One of these things, does not belong.

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When you've made a great movie, one that is applauded by critics and cherished by fans, it's a daunting task to try to one-up yourself. The possibility is so great to not only fail to repeat, but sully the memory of the original with a terrible sequel, a lot of directors have walked away rather than face that prospect. Some others should have. Having a second kid is a little like this. There is obviously a great expectation that we'll once again hit it out of the park. Judah is awesome (just check out his website) so surely his little brother will be just as great. Unlike the movie analogy, there isn't any real danger that Grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles etc. will lose their love for Judah if our next kid's a dud. I can't really imagine Mom saying, "I really liked Judah back when, but ever since I saw his brother, I've just been turned off to that whole family." Yeah, it just seems unlikely.

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Also unlike the movies, we have no producers to pay back, no stars to wrangle into recommitting to the franchise, and no teaser trailer campaign to manage (although the "Ella Grows Again" page does sort of fit that bill).So, how is having a second kid like directing a sequel? How can I bring these disparate topics together to form a cohesive and entertaining blog? It's questions like that that make me think you have no faith in me as a writer. I will now lay out the five steps one must take to not only create a successful sequel, but also smoothly transition through the birth of your second child. Whichever path you decide to follow with this advice is your business (although if you make a successful movie sequel, I want 2% of the gross. Fair is fair.)??

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  1. Don't forget what you did right the first time. -- In the immortal words of Denny Green, "They are who we ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? thought they were." He was talking about a mind-numbing loss by the Arizona Cardinals to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football, but he could just as easily have been coalescing the importance of "knowing thyself" into an easily digestible soundbite. If you're happy with your first film (or baby. And obviously you must be at least a little happy or you wouldn't be knee-deep in the second one, right?) there's no reason to throw it all away when crafting the sequel. If you used hand-held cameras and long tracking shots to keep the audience intimately associated with the action, keep it up. If you were a laid-back parent who let the baby get a bump or bruise here and there while finding his own way, no need to switch it up now. If your camera work sent audiences to the bathroom with green gills, or your free-wheeling parenting sent you and the kid to the emergency room more than once, maybe you should change your approach. But again, if you had that many problems, you're probably not making this movie/baby.
  2. Don't be afraid to take chances. -- You debut picture was shot in black and white, and was applauded for it's "original look". But let's be honest here, you didn't choose to make it in black and white. You just couldn't afford color film. So be true to who you are now, don't try to recreate the moment, you'll run the risk of looking like a poser. (Switching to the baby analogy) So your first baby breastfed for six months, didn't start on solid foods until just after that, and was off the bottle completely by a year. If you knew, when you brought the first one home, everything that you know now (both from experience and education) would you do everything the same way? You don't have to change who you are, but time changes us some all by itself. Don't try to forget what you've learned, just because you didn't have that info the first time around. There's no need to reinvent the wheel.Those two may seem to be a little at odds, but I think they go hand in hand. Just because you are not a first time film maker/parent, doesn't mean you can't approach the undertaking with the same enthusiasm and attitudes you had then. But at the same time, you don't have to pretend that you aren't different. Be who you are, not who you think you should be.
  3. Nostalgia can be a good thing, but overuse it and you turn yourself into parody. -- Everybody loves it when John McClane says "Yippe-ki-yay." We all know that Arnold will (at some point) "Be right back." But, when Murtough tells us for the seventy-fifth time that (he's) "too old for this..." we start to doubt his sincerity. There's such a thing as an homage, a call-back, a nugget for the long-time fans. There's also such a thing as "wearing out your welcome." So you took a photo every week on the same day of baby #1, that's a cute idea, easily replicable for the second. But you don't need to save every outfit that #1 wore in those photos and recreate the shots precisely. Let's be nostalgic, not crazy.
  4. Maintain creative control. -- With your first film, you were passionate. You had hatched this idea and cared for it all the way to premier night. Nobody was gonna take away your baby (film). Likewise, maybe you were hesitant to send the first kid off to the grandparents. Not because you thought they'd drop him or stuff him with sweets but because you were sure they'd drop him or stuff him with sweets (joking, grandma's). Then eventually the desire for a night out became so great that you took a chance, let Grandma keep Junior and hoped for the best. She didn't break him. (Movie Analogy) Maybe you finally caved to one studio note on a cut or addition and in the final film, it played like gangbusters. You should not throw caution to the wind and let the studio make your next flick and stamp your name on it. Just because Grandma didn't kill #1 when she kept him doesn't mean you should let her raise #2. These are your kids/films and you should keep it that way.
  5. Keep stretching yourself. -- Don't let yourself fall into a rut, just because it works. There may be new and exciting storylines/camera angles/music choices that you've never imagined just waiting for you to find them. Experiment! Just like your mother told you about dinner time when you were a kid, there's nothing wrong with trying new things. Let #2 try using the spoon a little sooner than you did with #1. Maybe #2 will love the automatic swing even though #1 only wanted to be rocked. Change it up, you don't want to get so bored that can't stomach making it a trilogy.

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Let's face it. There are lot more "Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo"'s in the world than there are "The Empire Strikes Back"'s. From personal experience, I know that my little sister was a big letdown after me (just kidding, sis). Not every entry into your series (baby or film) is gonna be a smash, but you never know if you don't take the chance. So follow my advice, and get yourself an awesome sequel.