Monday, March 9, 2015

The Screenings Continue

As of today, we are tracking to have more submissions this year than any other year of the festival.

Last year, getting all of the films screened and programmed nearly killed us. It will be interesting to see how it goes when push comes to shove this year.

With that in mind, I'm going to start now saying the two things I say every year over and over again.

First, I don't care what Without A Box says about when we will announce our slate. That's just a date we have to give them so they'll leave us alone about it. Every year when that date passes and we still haven't announced our slate, some filmmakers start saying how stupid we are and how can a festival be any good if they can't make their deadlines. Just a word of advice… if your film is in contention for a festival, don't say bad things about the festival directors. At DWF, the squeaking wheel gets replaced.

I have to start the second thing I say over and over again with an apology to a few filmmakers from last year. For one of the few times in our 18-year history, we didn't get a few of our pass letters out. That was our bad, and we've taken steps to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Having said that, please remember – until you get a pass letter from us, your film is still in the running.

At some point we do have to announce our "final" slate in order to make press deadlines. I don't think this has ever been the actual final slate. Some years there are one or two slots not filled. Sometimes a filmmaker drops out for whatever reason (we usually hear back from them with regrets the next year). We've had film prints not show up in time for the festival and had to make last minute replacements. The point being, if you want to bad mouth us about not picking your movie, best to wait until the festival is over.

About last night's screenings.

We started screenings last night with one of the best short films I've ever seen. Why? The filmmakers made bold, but invisible choices. They left the camera on sticks for long static shots. They did long tracking shots, but moved the camera with majesty. It wasn't shaky cam, with the implied, "look how real we're being because we're letting the camera shake around." Instead, the effect made us feel what we were watching was real because we didn't notice the camera. The audio mix kept the city – which is as much of a character as the two young cast members – at an equal level with the dialogue. This made the kids a little hard to understand, but that was definitely a choice. We sat on the edge of our seats following what was being said, and that was a good thing. The story was so simple and clear: a single objective with many obstacles. The true motivation revealed itself nicely. The cast, most of whom couldn't possibly be professional actors, were fantastic.

The only downside for this film is that it's nearly forty minutes long. That's not a criticism of the movie, it just means it will be hard to program. We could include 2-3 more films in that time, so it's going to come down to a fight. On the plus side, it's a world premiere. If that holds up, it will weigh heavily in favor of programming it. Whether it gets in or not, these filmmakers should be proud of their work. Nice job! At some point, you'll have to tell us what the title means.

This film was followed by a beautiful animated piece. After that, was a movie that was just so-so. That's the luck of the draw, folks. Ultimately, the scores for all the movies balance out, but we felt bad that this one, which was almost up to par, had to follow two fantastic works. The solution to that, of course, is to always make great movies.

We had more than one first person P.O.V. film last night, and for the past couple of years we've had two or three submissions in this style. I say this because, if you're thinking about doing something hip, cool, and different by making an entire movie from one person's P.O.V. … someone beat you to it. As far back as the 1940's, someone beat you to it. One of the shorts last night came as close as I've ever seen of making it work, but still movies work best in 3rd person, and gimmicks don't replace a good story.

For the record, the POV movies last night had pretty good stories and I think I scored one of them fairly well, so don't draw any conclusions from this observation about 1st person movies. I might not be talking about yours.

Some of the bad trends we're still seeing…

Last night was the night of the too-close close-up. If you're going to put us so close to a person's face that we can see their pores, make sure you have a damn good reason for it. The jump cuts continue. Again, nothing wrong with them in a single movie, but you should know that they have become a cliché.

We watched a lot of movies last night, so I can't possibly write about them all. I know that the waiting gets worse the closer we get to the festival, so try to relax. Read a good book. Maybe one about a kid who uses quantum physics to make a magic wand. ... just sayin'.

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