Sunday, April 15, 2012

Based On A True Story…

By Anant Mathur (April 15, 2012)

Today marks the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the RMS TITANIC. Never before or never since has a ship been talked about as much as the TITANIC. As sad as the story of TITANIC is, the one thing this disaster did was open everyone's eyes to what could happen when Mother Nature is involved. When the unsinkable "Ship of Dreams" sinks, things change, and that's exactly what happened. Many new safety feature, rules, and ways of monitoring ice bergs, etc. were introduced because of this disaster. In the long run TITANIC may be the reason countless lives are safe today.

When we think of the TITANIC, we can't help but also think of James Cameron's 1997 epic by the same name. I still remember seeing this film in the cinema hall when it was first released - what an experience it was. TITANIC is one film which is truly meant for the big screen, everyone should experience it on the big screen only then will you realize the grandeur that is TITANIC.


On some occasions you may have noticed that a film carries a tag line which says its "Based on a True Story" or "Based on True Events". James Cameron's TITANIC (1997), for example, falls in this category. 

While a film may be based on a true story or on true events there are certain details which are made up by screenwriters or filmmakers to make it more interesting. In the case of TITANIC, everyone knows there was no Jack Dawson or Rose DeWitt Bukater or Cal Hockley on the actual ship - these fictional characters and others were created to weave an interesting story for the big screen - without them TITANIC would've been a documentary.

In order to make the story authentic, Cameron placed these fictional characters within real situations with actual passengers and crew members who were on the TITANIC, among them were: Captain Edward J. Smith, Thomas Andrews, J. Bruce Ismay, Molly Brown, Colonel Archibald Gracie IV, William Murdoch, Harold Lowe, Henry Wilde, Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon, Lady Duff Gordon, Benjamin Guggenheim, John Jacob Astor, Madeleine Astor, etc. By placing fictional characters among real characters Cameron was able to increase the tension and create drama and romance within very melancholy circumstances.


The advantage for any screenwriter telling the tale of the TITANIC is that most of the story takes place on the ship, so the writer can tell the audience any lie as long as it goes down with the ship (like Cameron did with the Jack and Rose love story). But when a writer is writing a screenplay about a true crime, for example, such liberties might not be possible.

Most true stories are fictionalized to a certain degree otherwise they would come across as dull and boring. What is important when writing such films is that the fiction does not over take the facts - although fictionalization is required in most true stories, it's just as important to stay true to the facts and not be caught up in the fiction.

Below is a list of Films/TV Shows you may be interested in seeing about the TITANIC:
Titanic (1953)
A Night To Remember (1958)
The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964)
Time Tunnel - TV Series ("Rendezvous with Yesterday" - Pilot, 1966)
S.O.S. Titanic (1979)
Titanic (TV mini-series, 1996)
Titanic II (2012)
Titanic (TV mini-series, 2012)
Titanic: Blood and Steel (TV Drama, 2012)

© Anant Mathur. All Rights Reserved

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