Stirring & Stylish: Distinctively Dark Imagery

Archive for September 7th, 2010|Daily archive page

Knowing is half the battle.

In Uncategorized on September 7, 2010 at 9:50 pm

I had a tough weekend.  Not ‘carry that boulder up that mountain,’ or ‘your puppy died’ tough, but creatively tough.

I am lucky enough to be one of the pre-screeners for the Vancouver Short Film Festival.  What’s tough about that?  Well, I sifted through many piles of films over the weekend.  The tough part wasn’t watching them, however, it was rating them.  No, I don’t have final say as to what will screen at the festival, but I am the first layer of adjudication that a film must survive in order to be considered for screening.

I work in film.  I have a trained eye and a particular sensibility.  I have seen a lot of films, and am very familiar with short films.  I also know what it takes to make a short film.  The hours writing, organizing, planning, shooting and editing.  I also know that most short films are financed out of people’s pockets and have no hope of making back any of that money.  Logically, making a short film a stupid thing to do.  Were you a regular person on the street and I came up to you and said, “Hey, do you want to spend the next year of your life investing all of your free time and money into something that won’t lead anywhere?” you’d probably say, “F%#& off!”  And rightly so!

And yet well over a century worth of people hopes and dreams sit on my desk, all that effort and money distilled down to a 4 5/8″ plastic disc.  And now I have to crush some people’s hopes and dreams.  For me it’s tough to do.

Quality in filmmaking is so ephemeral it can be maddening, so let’s not start there.  Instead, let’s judge a film first on its technical merits.  These are less subjective.  Is the sound audible, the image readable, the camera work decent, the disc’s compression noticeable (a tip to filmmakers, if the disc won’t play then you’re really up s*%# creek!).  Now, assuming that the sound and picture are acceptable you’re looking at a whole bag of creative choices, and this is where things get interesting.  A filmmaker can point a camera at anything in the whole world.  How does a screener, me, judge a filmmaker’s creative choice to point the camera at a house plant or an actor?  Only through experience, I guess.

For me, the choice comes down to the film’s impact.  Not ‘car chases or big explosions’ impact, but emotional resonance.  I noticed that watching most of the films my attention tended to wander, but several of the films captured me totally, and folded me into their worlds.  These films were effective.  For those people the film was well worth the year of investment.  It is impossible to say without sounding condescending and self-important, but for those that didn’t make the cut I hope the year was a good learning experience and that this small failure doesn’t dissuade you from making another film.  I hope I don’t have the power to hurt you.

I’m really glad I’m a pre-screener and not a judge.  That would be way too tough.

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