The last of our official short films screenings was last night. Now the work really begins. Over the next week or so, we will hash out who's in and who's not.
For those of you who have been notified that you are still under consideration, I hope you've kept your premiere status. World premieres have a major advantage for the coveted few screening slots. Like other festivals in Los Angeles, we will pass over films that have already been seen around town. There are just too many movies and too few screening hours to go around.
This part of the process can be a very bumpy ride. Last year we had a little feature out of somewhere in the mid-west that was adorable. It fit what I call "Primitive Filmmaking" style. (I'll have to post that essay during the off season). In short, it felt extremely regional in cast, location, and story – which gave it a charm you can't find outside of the festival circuit. We told the filmmakers they were in, and they freaked out a bit. Said they weren't ready and pulled out of the festival. That was a real shame, and it added to our bumpy ride. Suddenly, a slot we thought was filled, wasn't. A film we loved wouldn't be in the festival. Heartbroken, we had to push on.
I have no idea what happened with that film.
We watched another heartbreaker last night. An intellectual little film with a delightful lead actress looking for religious harmony in a convenience store. They didn't have any end credits, so we are all hoping and praying that they aren't finished, because their sound is not projectable. The entire movie needs to be looped – which is fine, happens all the time. The trouble for us is, we can't tell from watching the submission if the filmmaker understands what is needed to have a complete movie. Their submission might say "temp sound" but their idea of finishing might be to add a couple of effects and some music – which would only make it worse. Often, that's not a problem for a submission because, frankly, the rest of the movie is so bad that it can be easily assessed as is. In this case, the movie looks to be very good. The cast is good. The story is truly a short subject. But we could barely understand the words. We all made notes to pass this along to the filmmaker – and hope to see the finished product someday.
We also saw some of the worse submissions of the year last night. One was so bad that I began to wonder if it wasn't some kind of social experiment to see how long we'd watch (we watched the whole 30+ minutes, as per usual). I couldn't believe how bad this movie was. Have people not grown up in modern times? Have they never watched a movie or TV show before? Do they not understand what qualifies something as a film – or even a story?
But I've already lost 30 minutes of my life to that, so let's move on.
When I started the blog this year, I asked if we were entering a Golden Age of Digital Filmmaking. My thought was that shot-on-film moviemakers, who bring more discipline and craft to the table than most newcomers who have never experienced lab costs or the lag time between shooting and dailies, would raise the anti on quality. Would the increase in film-level productions squeeze out the fast & loose video-makers? Would we see more thought out stories, rehearsed scenes with better actors, more attention to details in set, sound, costume and production design?
Sadly, I think the answer is no. People who have a camera and some editing software, and therefore think they can make a movie worth our hard-earned time and money without bothering to learn the craft, still outnumber those with skills. The uber-independent film business has become like all others affected by technical revolution. First it was painting in the face of photography. Then photography in the face of cheaper, easier versions of itself. Writing with the electric typewriter and computers. And all the arts in the face of the digital age.
Just because a person can make a work of art, doesn't mean it's a good work of art. Just because a person can shoot a film and post it on YouTube, doesn't mean they are a filmmaker worthy of our attention.
So there must be guardians for the vanguards, gatekeepers to weed through the all to find the deserving. It has always been so, but never more needed than now. Never has there been more content of varying quality from so many sources.
How is an audience to know which film is worth their time and money and which one isn't? How can a reader know which e-book to download? None of us has the time to do what I've been writing about all these months, sift through every possibility to pick out the gems. We need someone to do it for us.
Artists have forever complained about the gatekeepers: the agents, publishers, producers, distributors, critics, professors, and film festival directors, but I have seen art unfiltered and it has made me an advocate for higher bars, greater standards, tougher values so that we as an industry of artists might deliver better product to our consumers.
I'll be blogging throughout the festival and the off-season, so please come back and point your friends to this unfiltered essay on the Arts.
Thanks for reading.