Wednesday, April 4, 2012

As The Deadline Nears ... I Hit The Jackpot!

As our final, ridiculously late, deadline approaches (April 9th), filmmakers who have submitted start to get antsy. Perfectly understandable. I've been there. I feel your pain. The thing to keep in mind is that, until you have one of our famously polite pass letters, your film is still in the running. Over the years we have had filmmakers turn us down thinking they'll get into a bigger festival – they almost always resubmit the next year with their world premiere status intact. We have had filmmakers disappear, not answering our e-mails, phone calls, etc. We've had filmmakers freak out, saying they aren't ready. In all of those cases, we've reached back to movies that were on the bubble and pulled them in.

Sometimes, we have one open slot and two good films. Film A has a delightful filmmaker who has been understandably anxious, occasionally posting a question or two, but not being a pest about it. Film B's creator rants on the boards about how festival's don't meet their deadlines, demanding answers, and generally being a pain in the behind. All things being equal, who do you think gets in?

There is a reason we have such a strong, active alumni.

Moving on; I want to say a word about the features. Each week after the shorts screening sessions we pull features out of the bin to take home to watch and review. Last week, I was the last one at the troth, so I just grabbed four films that no one else wanted. Picking good films with nothing to go off of but a title and maybe some packaging is like playing the lottery – you might think you can hedge your odds, but it's all luck. Mostly this year my luck has been bad. I've seen some okay films, but nothing to get me excited – and, don't worry... that means nothing about your particular movie. I haven't seen all of the features by a long shot. I hear good things, and look forward to watching them as the process continues.

That said, last week I hit the jackpot! Four terrific films in a row. From Ballet to Baseball, from the Northeast to the Northwest, you guys were rocking it. All kinds of styles – each with a clear filmmaker's voice. From commercially formula movies that were spot on – not as easy to do as people think – to quiet, personal stories driven by character. From the masculine to the feminine, you had it covered. Nice.

On to last night's shorts:

The accidental theme last night was "people getting dressed for... dates, work, we don't know what." We had five films, each with long scenes where nothing happens but people putting their clothes on, putting on makeup, showering, etc. etc. Yeah, we get it. They're getting dressed, we know how that works.

This led me to an important teaching phrase I made up last night. "Only show us what we want or need to see." When shooting and editing, ask yourself about each set up or shot, "Does the audience need to see this?" and "Do they want to see this?" If the answer to both questions is "no," and you're not making a horror/twisted film – where we enjoy looking away in disgust – cut the shot.

Every year we get three-to-five blind date movies. We saw two last night. One good, one not-so-much. If you're thinking of making a blind date movie, understand that you're going to have to up your game, because every comedy filmmaker in the world is doing the same thing. In the bad films of this genre, we are forced to watch a date that's that dull and boring just to see how dull and boring it is. When you're facing the blank page, thinking what to write, and you have a choice between dull and boring or hilariously horrific, which do you think is the better choice? We, as viewers, have the same choice.

Which do you think we're going to make?

I'll leave you with that question. Thanks for reading. Get to writing your 2-Minute 2-Step entries, and I'll see you on Hollywood Blvd.

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