Monday, March 2, 2015

It's All About The Connection

Before I get into the films, I want to talk about walking my dog.

Wait – don't run. I have a point.

When I walk my dog around the neighborhood, I see tons of people out and about for whatever reason. Most of them are wearing headphones, listening to God knows what. For non-Artists, that's fine. Sherman Oaks is hardly NYC, Detroit or Moscow. We probably have more than fair our share of burglars, but very few muggers. Wearing headphones is safe, as long as the volume isn't too high.

But if you're an artist – a writer, filmmaker, actor, painter, etc. – then tuning out your surroundings is a missed opportunity. It is our job as artists to reflect the human condition. To do that, we need to be hyper-aware of the humanity around us.

As filmmakers, you should have a mental long lens that can peer into the everyday details of your immediate surroundings. You should have an empathy filter that allows you to understand the feelings and motivations of everyone you see.

Because if you don't see it, you can't recreate it.

On to the shorts.

We saw enough bra-sex to fill a Victoria Secrets catalog. For those who haven't read about this in past posts, a bra-sex scene is a sex scene where characters who would, under normal circumstances, be completely naked are for some reason wearing their underwear. The effect to the viewer is to stop following the story and think, "Why are they wearing clothes? … Oh, yeah, they are actors and none of this is real."

This is no slight on the actors. It's a tough world out there and decisions on nudity are hard to make. Directors, on the other hand, have a choice of how to shoot a scene. Writers have a choice of where to set a scene. If the sex scene is vital to the plot, and the actors are dubious of the nudity, then shoot around it. Use the magic of filmmaking to keep us from ever thinking, "Oh, yeah, they're actors."

Further on that point, one of these scenes appeared in a film that was, up until the bra-sex, a family movie. Every screener in the room simultaneously said, "Whoa! Where did that come from?" This happens a lot, but usually with language. Sudden F-bombs throw judges for a loop. Here we are watching a movie that could be programmed with a slate of kid films, when all of sudden one character decides they are in a Mamet play. That's an indication that the filmmakers don't know what kind of story they want to tell. These films almost always fall apart due to a lack of a good foundation.

We had a couple of shorts that had good scripts, good cast, but not-so-hot filmmaking skills. One screener said, "I'll forgive them that."

This sums up an important point. In a perfect world, a film would be good in all departments, but the world isn't perfect. If you have the choice between a great actor or a great lens package – go with the actor. If you have a choice between shooting a so-so script, or not shooting anything, don't shoot. Fix the script or find a better one.

Human beings, those people all artists should be observing, do not respond to a brilliant lens choice, or a perfect camera move, if they don't care about the story or the characters. Conversely, if we care about the story and the characters, then we'll forgive a deep depth of field or static shots.

Filmmaking is about connecting to your audience, not a textbook.

Thanks for reading. We are still accepting submissions – so if you haven't gotten your film in yet, hustle up!

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