Friday, February 5, 2010

When They're Good

Before I get to this week's screening notes, a little business:

For all the writers (or writer/directors or teams) – don’t forget that DWF has the 2Minute 2Step short film challenge. This is a contest where 2-minute-or-less scripts are submitted – preferably with a director and production team behind the project (aka, friends who'll help make the movie). DWF choices up to 8 scripts and gives them 4 hours to shoot and edit their movie – which then screens at the festival the next night. DWF supplies: Canon state-of-the-art cameras, an "empty space" for shooting, a simple grip & electric package, an edit bay (usually in the lobby of the theatre so everyone gets to watch you sweat out the final stages of production) – and all the fun you can handle.

Check out the link to the right for more info.

Next: DWF has a little alumni get together the first Wednesday of every month. This week, Norman Gerard from year 2 showed up touting his book, FIZZLE. In it, he tells the story of what happened after he made his film, which Variety calls, "…a rollicking good time through good times and bad, high art and low-lifes, auteurs and con artists." So, check it out.

On to the films this week:

Casting is always an issue in independent films. Don't get me wrong, we have seen many a film with obvious non-actors in roles that they absolutely nail. Like an acting teacher once told me, "if you're born to the play the part, you don't need anything I'm going to teach you."

But we also see a lot of films where actors are either miss-cast, or just don't have the chops to pull off a role they weren't born to play. The character so beautiful no one could resist him/her – played by someone who wasn't that person twenty years ago, much less today. The mean boss that all the employees are afraid of – played by a college freshman that you just want to take home for milk and cookies. Etc. etc.

So do yourselves a favor, folks. Plan ahead. Take some extra time when it comes to casting. If you get this part right then half your directing work is done. Screw it up, and nothing can save your project.

Music videos. For the past two years we've accepted music video submissions. At first they were hard to evaluate – what makes a good music video? Are we judging the song, the video, how they go together, everything, what? Now, I have to say I'm getting a kick out of them. For one thing, they're only 3-4 minutes long, so make a nice break between 20 minute movies that feel like 60 minute ones and could be 5 minutes without losing much. They're also a throwback to simpler times. Ah, the nostalgia of the '80s, when you knew what the M in MTV stood for. Keep 'em coming folks.

Personal Documentaries. We put one in the DVD player last night and I turned to a fellow screener, rolled my eyes and said, "God, I hate personal docs." She nodded in agreement and we proceeded to watch one of the best short films I've ever seen. So, for a change, let's look at the positive. What made this personal story something worth watching where so many others are a raving bore?

Answer? It was relevant to anyone who might watch it. Personal information tied to general truths about life. I could take something away from the story that had nothing to do with Uncle Willie's Elvis impersonation, or Aunt Sally's terrific apple pie, or any of the other stuff we've had to watch in the bad personal docs. Also, this good one was well-made from a film perspective. It moved. It was intelligent. It had something to say, and did it quickly in an entertaining way. Bravo.

I spoke of surreal films a week or two ago. We had a good one last night. I wrote on my evaluation sheet, "This filmmaker has skills." Always nice to see.

Which brings to what I'll end with this week – a reminder to you all, how much we want your film to be good. There have been times when I'm literally chanting as the DVD loads, "please be good, please be good, please be good." Your good films give us purpose. We sometimes wonder why we're here, doing this for other filmmakers when we all have projects of our own begging for our time, a good film that's a world premiere, struggling to find an audience in the sea of material that's out there, invigorates us. You keep us going when you take the time to create your best work.

Thanks, and keep it up.


Jemi Fraser said...

The 2 minute script idea sounds like so much fun!!

Kenneth said...

i always learn something or reminded myself of why, from your posts. i look forward to the next one next friday

RSMellette said...

Cool, Kenneth. Glad you're getting something out of it. Tell your friends. :)