Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rules of the Road

Screenings start this week, so I thought I'd do a quick rundown how things work around here.

Our screening committee is made up mostly of Dances With Films alumni like myself, and some people that have been with us for years who just love movies. If you are an alumni in LA and would like to screen, let us know, we'll see if we can make that happen. The committee gets together once a week to watch short films. We also eat, have a beer or two, chit-chat, etc.

But mostly, we watch tons of short films. Sometimes we'll talk about what we've just watched. Other times we just write our critiques and move on. At the end of the night, we take features home to screen and bring back next week. All films are seen by at least 3 screeners.

Each week, I write something here about how it's going. My objective has always been to give filmmakers a peek into what we're seeing – especially since we see a lot of the same type of movies over and over.

We see the same mistakes over and over.

And every year we see some movies that are so fantastic we want everyone to see them.

I would like to see more of the fantastic movies and less of the bad ones – so I started this blog. It's my hope that aspiring filmmakers will learn from those who have gone before them, so I don't have to watch the same mistakes ... over and over.

If you've submitted this year, not to worry. I never mention titles. When I talk about stuff in movies that suck, I am always – ALWAYS – talking about a trend we're seeing in more than one film.

So if you read something about poorly lit, handheld shots of a lead character slowly walking down the street silently contemplating life for ten minutes while a piano plunks out one or two notes before a cello drags a counterpoint note through the mud, don't tell me that you know for a fact that I'm making fun of your movie. Trust me! Practically every other film we screen has this scene in it.

And they all suck!

If, however, your movie is one of the fantastic ones – I might just drop enough hints for you to recognize that I'm talking about you. We get too much rejection in this business not to sneak in something nice from time-to-time.

If you think I'm saying good things about your film, please don't book a flight to LA for the festival. This blog is unofficial. We're a long way from June, and as you'll see, there are tons of factors that go into the decision-making process.

We are going to be as vigilant as possible in letting those films we like know, in advance, that we're interested, to keep you guys from popping your world premiere on a beach somewhere where no one will see it.

Early notification does NOT guarantee anything. It does mean you've got a good movie. That alone is something to be proud of.

If we pass on your film you will be notified, but those letters go out just before the festival. I know that sucks, but on more than one occasion we have had a last minute slot to fill, so we like to keep all options open as long as possible.

Finally, we don't screen in any particular order.  If you submitted in December and don't hear anything through February that means absolutely nothing. We don't make final decisions until all movies have been seen.

Good luck everyone! Thanks for reading. Make a comment every now and then so I know you're out there.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Robert, for your insight. Very helpful to me as a beginning filmmaker. Do you see the same things over and over (band and good) or is it cyclical or different trends every season?

RSMellette said...


We see the same kind of lack of filmmaking skills - most often having to do with sound. We will often see trends in scripts that usually follow what was hot on TV a year or two prior.

So if you're thinking about what kind of film to make, do NOT write something that's just like your favorite TV show. You are guarunteed to be lumped into a pile of movies just like that and screeners will have to get past the bad taste in their mouth from all the bad ones to enjoy your good one.