Monday, January 20, 2014

Know Thy Market

We had three of four 30-minute-plus documentaries at our screening last night, which is fine for the festival world, but filmmakers – like every artist who has ever existed – have to be aware of their markets.  Plays from Ancient Greece all have about the same runtime, and most of them end in some kind of Deus ex machine.  Comedia del Arte used stock characters everyone could understand from a distance without having to hear the words.  Etc.

Yes, in every time, artists came along and broke the mold, but they are few and far between.  Yes, given the insanity of online distribution, no one really knows what the mold is anymore –but, there is still television, which is where most docs under 2 hours look to pay for themselves – which is important if the filmmaker wants to keep on working.  On PBS, a 30 minute doc can be truly 30 minutes, but most are between 23 and 28.  None are 32, or 34, or anything over 30 and less than 45 – which is where you begin to be an hour long doc. 

Festivals have problems programming shorts that are longer than 10 minutes.  We'll do it, but it's a struggle.  DWF, will often program long shorts on a similar subject into one screening block, but you have to hope your 30-minute doc fits thematically with other long-short docs. 

And I have yet to see a 30+ minute doc that wouldn't be better at 20-something minutes or less.

We had a couple of erotic short films, which can be fun.  One was a hit.  One prompted a screener to say, "How could they make porn boring?"  (Don't analyze that comment too much, all roads lead to therapy.)

I'm going to coin a new genre here – Techno-Romance.  We've seen a few of those in the past, some good, some not.  A Techno-Romance is any Romantic story where technology drives the coming together of the couple.  You heard it here first – even if You've Got Mail is an old movie.

We had film last night that speaks to the balance we talked about in some recent comments – that is, the balance between storytelling and filmmaking skills.  Come to think of it, the film last night that got me on this train of thought had neither, but we can all learn from it.  Some people have interesting stories to tell, but they have no idea how to make a movie.  Some are great filmmakers, but have nothing interesting to say.  Any good film needs to combine these two diverse departments at an equally high level. 

We ended the night on a good note, literally.  We watched what I called a "black and white Fantasia." It was a joy, thank you for that.  I believe it has screened in several festivals, so it will be a fight to get it into DWF.  That's a reminder to everyone – keep your powder dry when it comes to premieres.  As we become more of a premiere-oriented festival, it gets harder and harder to squeeze in one or two excellent movies that have been seen at some beach festival, or screened with a thousand other shorts in Hollywood.  

Still – I'll be in there fighting for the ink spots.

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