Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Feel The Rhythm of the Music Getting Stronger

I'm a little late for this week's blog, sorry. I was at an audition at Paramount. Yeah, I dust off my picture and résumé from time-to-time and get back to what got me started in this business. In talking with my fellow actors I was reminded of something I've been meaning to say to filmmakers for a while:

Guys, girls, if you've gone low/no budget and promised your cast a copy of the film, DO IT. If you're afraid the movie will get pirated, then give the actors clips of their work. They need that to add to their reel – and having them distribute their work in your movie can only be good for your film. So, please, honor the work they've done for you and burn a few DVD's. It's the least you can do.

I blog here mostly about short films, but all of us watch feature submissions during the week, and there are trends in features just as much as there are shorts. This year it seems like every other movie starts with a couple having sex in bed. Nothing wrong with that, but if you're writing your next script, you probably want to figure out a different way to start the story if you want to stand out from the crowd of people in bed.

But whatever you do, don't go back to the alarm clock tripping, being turned off, followed by a shot of feet hitting the floor. We've seen way too much of that, too.

Last night it seemed like all of the shorts were not – short, that is. Regular readers will know my constant advice to all short filmmakers: "Cut it in half." All of the movies last night, even the good ones, could have done with a cut down.

During one of these too-long affairs , a screeners came up with a great quote. "Have something happen in the shot." That's great advice. When I was studying acting, we had to write out a simple action for every line of dialogue. This could only be what we were doing. Not thinking, not feeling, not saying, but what we were physically doing. Filmmakers on the set should ask themselves, "what is the action of the shot?" "What is happening in this shot?"

If the answer is, "This shows the character feeling..." stop. If the answer is, "this is where he's thinking..." stop. What is the character DOING? If they don't have anything to do, give them something or cut the shot. You can't photograph a feeling or a thought. You can photograph a person putting on a good face despite their feelings. You can photograph a person desperately looking for a pencil and paper so they can write down their brilliant thought – or, stopping and changing direction because of their new thought.

Shoot verbs, not nouns.

Someone help me out in the comments, who said, "if a character pulls a gun, it had better go off"? Whoever it was, s/he was right. If you've written in a gun and it doesn't go off in your story, then cut the gun. Chances are the story will be better for it. If you can't cut it, figure out who you're going to shoot.

And for all of those Homeland Security web crawlers that just flagged this blog – we're talking about fictitious movies here. No one is really going to be shot.

We had a couple of films that featured drama on drama. By that I mean, the script is packed with dramatic beats and so are the actors, camera angles, lighting, music, etc. If you're on the set and get the feeling that your cast has picked up on the drama of your drama, then they playing the atmosphere, not the actions. Have them lighten the load. Even in the most serious scene, an actor shouldn't play the drama, but the action.

Finally, as we do every year, we got some movies about dance. Thankfully, these were good films. One I particularly enjoyed, as it took me back to some of my own memories – not that I was a dancer, I'm just old.

Anyway, I want to make sure everyone knows that, even though we're called Dances With Films, it doesn't mean we are looking for movies about dance. I think we might have had a dance-themed movie in every year, but only because they were terrific films, not because we have a thing for moving to rhythm of the beat.

That's it for this week. Thanks for reading. I've heard some people have had trouble commenting on blogger in general. If that's the case for you, please shoot me an e-mail so I can get your thoughts out to the world.


Cheryl said...


Good advice for fiction, too, I think. Actions speak louder than words.

RSMellette said...

You know me, I'm all about Artistic Cross Training. Active verbs apply to all of the arts.