It takes at least a year, and usually a lot more, to get a movie made and into theaters. This creates a strange relationship between films and current trends and styles that is both behind the times, and at the same time, in front of the next wave.
I was just reading through a script that I wrote a few years ago. It’s dated 2007. There’s so much that has changed in regards to the script that I’m thinking I should just make it a period piece and date it in 2006. There’s references to the music business, which was in free fall then, but has now fallen. The economy has crashed since I wrote it, which is a big deal for a script that takes place at the workplace. There’s even a computer reference that seems dated somehow, as if the boxes that the computers come in are too big.
None of that is a big deal, because it’s still a script and I can easily update it, but once it’s a film, it’s set for life. Films take place in present day, no matter what. By that I mean, even films that take place at another time, are still taking place in our time because they reflect our ideas of our present tense, and not the ideas of the past or future. FAR FROM HEAVEN may be about racism from the past, but it’s looking at from a very different point of view, ie. our present tense circa 2002, when the film was made. GREEN ZONE happened only a few years ago, but it’s looking at those years in a way that was impossible at the time.
But because it takes so long for a film to get made and then seen, and because trends are coming and going so quickly, maybe all films need to be dated at the front. Looking for a film at the multiplex that I could use as an example, a surprising half of them take place at another time. SHUTTER ISLAND in the past, AVATAR in the future.
The trick for a filmmaker is to be incredibly forward thinking, but not forward enough to alienate the (35 year old) geriatrics that finance the films.