While FSU sports fans gathered in Pasadena this week, their movie fans should have been at Dances With Films submissions screenings last night. We have a stack of FSU films, which is great! These are almost always well done, so we look forward to watching them, and we saw some good ones last night, so thanks for that.
But before we got to the shorts, a screener and friend told me he watched 3 features over the past week, and they all had peeing scenes in them. Obviously, some filmmakers are not reading my blog. It seems like every other indie filmmaker thinks it's uber-cool and cutting edge to show characters expelling things from their bodies - pee, puke, poop and other 3-year-old p-words. Sure, if it's necessary to the plot, or tells us something about the character (besides the fact that they pee) or it's uncuttablely funny (and not just to you, but to little old ladies from the aforementioned Pasadena), keep it in - but don't fool yourself into thinking you're being original. Almost everyone does it - and it's almost always a bad idea.
While we're on the topic of things we see every year, the very first short in my screening room (we have two going each night), was a dance film. Of course, there's nothing wrong with a GOOD dance film, but they are extremely hard to do well. We often get the feeling that filmmakers think we only show dance movies, or that they'll have an edge because they've made a dance movie. Neither is the case. Please, just make good movies - dance or otherwise.
We had a few shorts with something I don't recall seeing - little flashback montages of what we just watched. These would usually come as the character remembers the good ole days of way back when - but it was just a few seconds ago for us. In some cases, it was just a few minutes ago for the character. Neither the audience nor the character needs reminding of what just happened. Save that for a mini-series.
We had some editing that didn't match in naturalistic narratives. This is very jarring. If you find you can't make two cuts go together, go to a quick reaction shot and come back.
We screen mostly on DVDs. We have a lot of pressure from some to accept streaming files - which usually don't work very well - and when we come down to decision making time, it's harder to remember a film without the DVD in hand, or to pop it into a machine as a reminder. At the same time, we saw some badly compressed films last night. Folks, you're making a short. You shouldn't have to compress it at all to fit on a DVD. Watch your own movies. Look at the background. If the fog or a blank wall looks like little squares from the 1980's ... you've over compressed your files. Try again.
We had a lot of hitting on the head in the shorts. Sometimes with dialogue; when the characters talk more like they are summing up a book report or telling how they feel instead of just feeling or doing something. Other times it was with the filmmaker's message. Don't get me wrong, I like a good message movie, and in a short, you certainly can hit the viewer over the head with a blatant message. Rod Serling did it all the time. But do it in one, hard shot and end the movie. There's no need to pound over and over again. We get it.
Ending on an up note: I caught a nice single card for a Production Designer, which reminded me that, all too often, design is ignored in smaller budget films - and that is a big mistake. First, a good designer can actually save money, and they can certainly make the audience forget they are watching something done on the cheap. When you're ramping up for production it's easy to forget that the little things are going to be what make your story more entertaining than your average micro-budget film. And designers are all about the little things.
Until next week.