And before you go saying that we should screen online, forget about it. For one thing, our workflow requires a physical representation of the movie. We make piles and stacks, and fill bins. We hand movies to screeners. Not only that, I prefer to watch a DVD on my big screen with 5.1 surround sound, not my laptop. Yes, I know, I can (and do) connect my TV to the internet and watch downloads, but not every screener has the tech-savvy to do that, or work around problems when they come up. So, it's DVDs. When they fail, if you haven't sent a backup, we'll get in touch to have them replaced. Thanks.
Now that that's out of the way, let's do a little filmmaking 101.
Cinema is an illusion of light and sound. That's it. Those are the only two elements you have to deal with. If you fail at either one of those, your best score is 50%, and that doesn't cut it in anything. We are bombarded with films that are good, but we can't hear them. Of performances that would be moving, if we could see the actor's face. I know silhouettes are cool and artistic and everything, and used correctly, extremely effective – but not for a monologue! Not for any kind of scene where the emotions of the character are important. Let us see their faces. Let us hear their words. Or, in many cases, your words. Use a bounce card to fill shadows. Use a good post sound facility to finish your sound. Then you will at least have a chance for a 100% score - and all you'll have to worry about are story, performances, art department, digital formats, etc.
Speaking of digital formats... Everyone has been so excited about the digital revolution in independent filmmaking. Digital is supposed to be so much cheaper and easier than film. Cheaper? Absolutely. Easier? Not in the least.
I haven't done a study, but I would bet that over half of the films submitted have something so wrong about their digital photography that any layperson could call it out. They might not be able to say what's a dropped frame, what's a dup frame, or inter-lacing, or whatever you want to call it, but they can certainly say, "that doesn't look right" or "this is giving me a headache." If we were to properly QC submissions, I'd bet 90% of them fail. If the story is good, and the acting is good, and all other elements of the filmmaking are good, chances are we'll screen it at the festival, but those filmmakers are in for a world of hurt when they go for distribution.
And often, the problem boils down to the way it was shot. Back in the film days, a producer wouldn't think of using a cinematographer just because they owned a camera. Now, having a camera is easy, but knowing how to use it on a professional level has gotten harder. On big shoots a DIT (that's pronounced D. I. T., not DEET), or Digital Imaging Technician, is on hand to assist the cinematographer. If you're currently looking for a DP, you might want to find a DIT with aspirations of getting behind the camera.
We are still seeing some good films. One held us hostage and told us jokes for a large portion of the evening. Loved the movie, I hope we can find space for it. Another was less than two minutes long, which is great, and literally kicked ass! Nice job.
Thanks for reading. We are lining up some exciting sponsors, panels, and events for this year, so keep an eye out. I will report news as things are finalized.