Monday, February 16, 2015

All About The Talent

Before we get to the shorts, I'd like to talk about features for a second.

Last week I saw three films in a row featuring an early scene of a single character, usually mumbling to him/herself, with about a million jump cuts thrown in to look cool. It's not.

For my non-filmmaking readers, a jump cut is any edit that cuts from a shot of one person to another shot of the same person. Most often, and most jarringly, the cut is from the same camera angle.

I'm guessing that there's some popular indie film that did this recently – either a film I didn't see or have long sense forgotten. I don't know for sure, but I'd bet the first film to use this did so in a desperate attempt to fix a scene that wasn't working. Now people seem to think it's a good idea to plan on doing it. All I can say is that, if you plan to use what is normally a last ditch attempt to save otherwise unusable footage as a first choice, everything else about the movie had better be perfect.

One of the three movies to use this style had horrible shutter-flutter. Again, for none filmmakers, shutter-flutter has a specific meaning for directors of photography, and a general one for films that have been cut together. In the latter case, the problem can have any number of sources, but the effect is the same – a jumpy, jerky, unsmooth motion. It's the kind of thing that will give the audience a bad migraine. Add to that jarring jump cuts, and you have a recipe for a quick pass.

On to the shorts.

Our first film had a whole lot of walking in it. At first, this was clearly a style choice. Not a particularly good one, but I give any filmmaker points for establishing a style and sticking with it. The trouble was, he (or she, I don't remember and don't care one way or the other) didn't stick with it. When the style changed, what was a bold choice, became a bore. PASS

Next Film.

This film had several non-actors in it – at least, I hope they are non-actors, 'cause they aren't very good. I was fine with that since it's set in a world I know little about. The filmmaking skills (camera, sound, interesting shots, editing, etc.) were also rough, but again, because the setting is interesting I cut them some slack. In the end, the story could have been better. I would have liked to have seen some actors in roles that didn't need special skills. SECOND LOOK.


This film was a bundle of clichés and bad dialogue. The filmmaking skills were top notch, but bad writing cannot be overcome. PASS.

Side note: We got in a very brief discussion of "things couples only do in movies." For the past few years it has been playing the "this or that" game. "Star Trek, or Star Wars?" Stop that. Stop it now. In fact, I think someone should make a satire about things couples only do in movies. Start with a shot looking down a couple laying on their backs, ear-to-ear, staring at the stars.

Next film.

We get a lot of documentaries about someone's family member. I'm sure we might have programmed one before, but I couldn't say which. Unless you're related to JFK or BeyoncĂ©, chances are the story of your crazy uncle isn't going to work for an audience full of strangers. This one was close to getting to a universal point, but ultimately, I passed – as much for a lack of filmmaking skills as for it being a family doc.

All I wrote down for the next film in my blog notes was the title, which I now can't read, and "cute movie." That means I liked it, but for the life of me, I don't know which movie it is. My judging sheet will have the title and submission number, so when it comes time to making a final decision, we'll probably say, "which one was that again?" No one will know, so we'll watch the first few minutes and say, "Oh, yeah, I remember. Cute movie." MUST SEE.

Next Movie.

Holy cow! Absolutely nothing happened in this film. It was so boring that halfway through one of our screeners said, "At any point in time you want to tell us a story that would be great." Thank God she said that, because the laugh made those 20 minutes not a complete waste of time. PASS.

Side Note: There's an internal clock we all have when watching shorts. The art form is about efficiency. If you have any screen time that is not put to good use, then we feel it and feel it fast. Make every moment count.

The next film had a Twilight Zone thing happening on a subject that has been well covered by filmmakers. This one did a great job. MUST SEE.

The film after that was hilarious. The trouble is, we're not sure if we're laughing WITH the film or AT the film. The risk of screening someone's serious movie in front of an audience that howls with laughter is too great of a burden for us to take on. PASS.

We often see movies that seem to be made by men whose only motivation is to meet hot chick actresses. Yes, there is a high yuck factor in these movies, and the one we saw last night was no different. PASS.

Our final movie was also full of hot chicks, or more to the style of the film, lovely talented young women. This poetic movie was actually about something, displayed multiple talents behind and in front of the camera and was a delight to watch. MUST SEE.

That's it. Thanks for reading. If you want something to do while you're waiting to hear from us, check out the blog/review tour for my book. There's a giveaway, so who knows, you might win something!

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