Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Suddenly, Subplots

During this off season, I'm reminded of 2001.  Having won in 2000, I returned to judge in 2001 and a few months after the festival found myself at a party.  When someone found out I'd been a judge, I got an ear-full about "how could you not give the award to such-&-such film?"

I was a little in shock, and couldn't remember the movie right way, except that I liked it.  A few minutes later, the reason it didn't win came to me: a completely stupid, improbable, sub-plot.  In the middle of a wonderful, well-written, well-acted, well-directed film, there was a subplot from hell that belonged on the cutting room floor.  Unfortunately, the subplot was so bad, it dragged the rest of the film down with it.

So whether you're facing picture lock, or the final draft of your script, keep an eye out for that tacked on storyline that doesn't belong.  Trust your characters.  Trust the emotional engine of the story.  If you feel the need to introduce some kind of outside influence on your characters, try cutting it and see if the story still stands up.  If it does, then keep the cuts on the floor. 
Your film will fly higher without the extra weight.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

No, Really, Just Tell Us The Plot

We have a long, long wait until we're open for submissions for 2013.  I'll probably repost this when we call for entries, but in the meantime the information should help programmers for other festivals – and filmmakers as well.

When you're filling out your submission forms, there is a section for summaries.  I'm going to let you guys in on the reason why that's included.

After months and months of cramming movies into our brains, writing critiques, having our favorites, etc. etc., we sit down to figure out who is in and who isn't.  Inevitably, a title will be mentioned, followed by a room full of blank looks. 

"What did I write about it?" I'll ask.

Leslee will look up my notes on our absolutely fabulous title tracking program.  "You liked it.  You gave it a Must See and wrote, 'Great cast.  Good filmmaking in all departments.'"

"F*#k me!  Why didn't I say what the movie was about?"  I don't know why I'm surprised, my notes are always like that.

So we look up the summary from the submission form. 

This sweeping low-budget epic tale is a discussion about the inner meaning of the symbolism of life as depicted by the intricate handheld camera work and natural acting style fused with classical influences of Comedia International. 

Crap.  We have to dig out the DVD and watch the movie again.  Two minutes in, we say "Oh, yeah, the one about the unemployed PHD who has to take a job at McDonalds to pay the bills.  Yeah, we like this one."

So when it says "Summary," that's what it means.  Just remind us what the movie is about.  Save the film school stuff for ... film school.

Thanks for reading.