We were greeted by a night of horrendous piano music in both screening rooms, as it becomes clear that new filmmakers are not taking advantage of the wealth of knowledge presented here over the years. Look back on past posts about film scores and you’ll see that time and time again movies come in with wall-to-wall piano plunking, often accompanied by a cello or synthesized strings. People, film scoring is an art unto itself. It’s not just any ole music played throughout, and no music is better bad music. Seriously, if you haven’t submitted your film and you have a score of nothing but random piano cords, you’ll be better off taking it all out. If you have submitted, and you’re worried that the music will make us pass on your film completely, don’t. No film is perfect. If you’re strong in other areas, we let my little nitpickings slide, but in general, the less we have to let slide, the better.
We had a nice short doc that made me compliment it for the journalistic integrity, which is rare these days. If you’re making a Doc, or considering one, remember, you’re a journalist first, filmmaker second. Even if it’s an opinion essay, like Michael Moore’s work, it still needs to be in the style of good journalistic editorials.Speaking of essays – we had our first 100% voice over film of the season. We get these a lot, and sometimes they are good, sometimes great, but more often they get a big PASS. When you limit yourself to just a single voice in a movie, you have to understand what a burden you’re starting out with. One voice, one point of view. That voice and the story must be engaging enough to hold our attention. The words must all be special. And when the narrator isn’t speaking, the pictures must be strong enough to hold their own. It’s a big challenge. Live up to it, or crash and burn.
This brings me to another thing we see over and over again – the total hyphenate. A multi-hyphenate is the writer-producer-director. A total hyphenate is the idiot who does everything and doesn’t listen anyone’s input – and it shows. At every level of production, from “I’m thinking of making a movie” through script drafts, on the set, and in the edit bay, get other people’s opinions. Sure, they might all say “it’s great, honey,” so you’ll have to read between the lines. You’ll also have to find people who give, good, professional feedback. The film industry isn’t non-competitive soccer. Awards (and jobs) do not go out to everyone who participates. Get help at every step of the process.
We had a couple of movies with great kids in the cast in very different projects. From 1960’s little-known Cold War History, to lessons on gun control & gardening – we saw some future stars in action. Nice job, kids. (And the adults, too).
I’d like to leave this post with a challenge to the American Film Institute. We see your submissions year after year, and they are often some of the best films we see – but they are all so heavy. The one we saw last night was fantastic, but just once, I’d like to see a comedy from AFI. Please!If you can do that, then maybe we can get USC to make a movie that isn’t a visual effects extravaganza.