03 Jul 2010
There's a lot of hype these days about the emergence of
and its effect on the box
office. Various people, including the esteemed
Ebert, have claimed it is a gimmick and a fad. Let me just
state, first off, that I agree. There, I've set out my stall. Now I
will attempt to explain why I think that way.
We perceive three
dimensions through a variety of mechanisms, all of them contained within
the brain. First and foremost, we recognize the depth relationships of an
object based on our understanding of it. If we look at a two-dimensional
photograph of a car, we know that the rear bumper is at the back, the
headlights are at the front, and so on. We understand the relationships
of these parts to the whole thing and we don't need to perceive depth
when we look at it. Except, of course, for the first time we see a
car. Second, we interpret the horizon, or the "vanishing point" and
perceive depth through that. When we look at a road or railway tracks
stretching out in front of us, our brain interprets the convergence of
the edges as distance. As the road stretches to infinity, the sides of
the road come together to a single point.
As an experiment, sit on
the floor in front of a rectangular rug. Sit nearest one of the shorter
edges. The rug appears rectangular. But either take a photograph, or look
at it objectively. The short edge nearest us is actually longer in our
perception (and that of the camera) than the edge furthest away. Again,
our brain performs the transformation and lets us see a rectangular
rug but appreciates that it has depth. When we look objectively, we
see what our eye sees. However, most of the time, our brain performs
the translation for us.
This is one of the most commonly-used
cinematic methods for showing depth. We can also fool it. For example,
in the final shots of Casablanca, both the model aircraft and people
attending to them, are smaller than normal, but our brain interprets this
to mean they are further away. Also, the streets in the Old West section
(now gone) of the Warner Brothers back-lot in Hollywood, converged on
each other. The buildings at either end were smaller, so that when you
shot a scene in the middle of the street, it appeared longer than it
Another effect the brain uses to determine depth, is
to interpret haze. Water moisture in the environment forms a haze, which
"washes out" the image. The vivid colours of mountains in the foreground
contrast with the paler colours of hills further away. Artists have been
using this phenomenon for centuries, to depict depth.
one of the most important mechanisms for establishing depth is our
ability to interpret the movement of objects as we move. Hence the "tracking
shot" in almost every film. When we look out the
window of a car or train, the telephone poles shoot past at
speed, whereas the faraway hills don't seem to move much at
all. Again our brain interprets this relative motion and deduces
the relative positioning of the objects, in terms of which is
closer. Animators rely heavily on this phenomenon to achieve depth
in their films. As we track in during the opening sequence of
Simpsons, the clouds part at different speeds, making
us think that some of the clouds are closer than others.
Shooting a scene in a warehouse, if we open up with a dolly
shot, tracking through the scene and observing our key players, we
are subconsciously explaining to our audience, where everyone is,
in relation to each other. The concrete pillar which whips past
is probably quite close (it's also out of focus which helps, as
well). The guy by the exit door doesn't seem to track left or right,
so he's probably further away than we thought.
Focus is also
important for establishing depth. Film-makers love 35mm cameras and lenses
not just because of the organic nature of the image, but because the
of field can be quite narrow. Objects further away are
progressively more and more out of focus. We can use this not just
to draw the viewers attention to the key point of the scene, but to
show the depth as well. To highlight the spatial relationships for
the dimension that the camera can't show.
Finally, we come to
stereo-vision. We have two eyes, spaced about 3 to 4 inches apart. For
objects which appear in our immediate field of view, neither eye sees
exactly the same thing. Their perspective is skewed. Again, our brain
realigns this image, forming a picture which does not show the duality
and instead interprets the difference and thus the depth.
why then if we have so many ways as storytellers, to portray depth
in a scene, must we use the ugly mechanism of twin cameras shooting
through filters? The difference between what one eye sees and what the
other sees, is highly proportional to the distance between us an the
object. So, if our intention is to portray a character appearing mere
feet or inches from our face, stereo-vision is highly effective. However,
most often when we are trying to portray depth, we are talking in terms
of objects which are farther away from us. Try this experiment. Observe
a three-dimensional object (such as a box) which is some distance from
you. Close one eye, then the other. Do you see much of a difference? Is
the perspective all that different between your two eyes? A
film camera won't see much difference, either.
all of a sudden, has a technology which had its heyday in the fifties,
reappeared? Why has this strange form of storytelling re-emerged
after it was ridiculed and cast into the bin of filmic fads. One thing
that is different now, is the emergence of digital cinema. The nice
people at SMPTE
have devised a digital representation for a motion picture, called a
(for Digital Cinema Print) which encapsulates all of the information
of a 35mm film negative, at a bit rate of 250Mbps. In other words, a
feature-length film can be saved onto a 250GB hard drive and played out
from that drive onto a film screen, using a digital projector, without
any noticeable loss in quality. Quite the opposite, in fact. Gone are
the "dish" marks, the tram-lines, the splices, and other damage that
we've come to expect from films once they've been in the theatre for
a week or two. In fact, a DCP will project as well as the best print
of the film. Assuming, of course, that the cinema has been properly
While that's all well and good, the real advantage
to DCP lies in an unexpected benefit; ease of duplication. Lest
anyone think this can be pirated, the files are encrypted using
and the keys are different for each film print. Not that long ago, a
film going on a very wide release on its opening weekend, would appear
on 2,000 or so screens. Today, it's not uncommon for a film to open
on over 4,000 screens. Given that a film print can cost between $2,000
and $4,000 to make, not to mention the fact that a feature film would
normally be distributed on six large and bulky film reels, the advantage
of being able to copy files onto a small hard drive and put it in the
post is immediately obvious. The long-term plan would be to use satellite
distribution so that the film can be downloaded to cinemas across the
United States, and around the world even, in one fell swoop. Digitally,
and at little cost (apart from Satellite traffic costs).
dawn for cinema. Particularly for smaller distribution companies and
independent cinema, as the prohibitive print costs are eliminated. I'll
save the discussion of advertising costs for a later day.
down side however, is that a digital cinema projection system can
cost around $100,000 to install. Guess who pays for this? The cinema
owner. Also, a 35mm projector is an oddly simple device. It hasn't
changed much in a hundred years. The upshot of this is that if the
projector stops working, the cinema owner can fix it from parts he or
she probably keeps in a desk drawer. The technology is easily-understood
and easy to repair. Not so digital cinema. The projector itself is an
expensive, high-tech behemoth. It is driven by a playout server, most
likely running Linux (the DCP disk format is EXT2 for those of you who
know what that means), the files are encrypted using AES and the keys
must be delivered separately for each projector in each cinema. This is
also combined with something called a "Theatre Management System" which
co-ordinates the playout systems, the advertising, the ticket sales,
and the key management. Is it any wonder that theatre owners are less
than thrilled by digital cinema.
To counteract the costs involved,
the US distributors invented a scheme called the "Virtual Print Fee" (VPF)
where they pay an agreed amount to the theatre owner for each film
they screen digitally. In effect, the distributor passes on some of the
cost savings from the DCP to the theatre owner to offset the cost of the
projection system. This has allowed theatre owners to borrow funds to pay
for the capital costs against this fee. The uptake has been significant,
but hardly stellar.
Most cinemas have adopted a "wait and see"
approach, converting one or two screens to digital and leaving the rest
with traditional projectors. This has caused additional and unexpected
problems. Traditionally, cinemas open the big films on their largest
screen and as demand tapers off, they switch the film to a smaller
screen, freeing the large theatre for the next tent pole. However,
this is impossible if the film was shipped digitally and only the large
screen is digital. This has required some distributors to ship both DCP
drives and film prints. There are also key (KDM) issues because the key
to un-encrypt the digital print is valid for only one playout system
and projector. To move the film, say, from Screen 1 to Screen 5 would
require a new KDM file from the distributor. While it is a small file
and can be readily emailed, it's hard to make last-minute changes which
removes a level of control from the theatre owner.
For all these
reasons, theatre owners have been reluctant to jump on the bandwagon,
even if the studios and the distributors love the idea of a DCP.
Interestingly, the new 3D technology at work involves using polarized
filters on the viewing glasses. The old technique was to use red and
green filters, or cyan and magenta filters. Instead of combining the
two images into the same frame as was done with the colour separation
form of 3D, the frame rate is doubled from 24 frames per second to
48fps. One frame for the left eye, and one frame for the right. Guess
what! Film projectors can't run at this speed and cannot project a
polarized image. The only way to show a 3D film on general release today,
is to use a DCP and to project it digitally.
Which means, if you
want to show Toy Story 3 in 3D on your main screen, that screen needs a
digital projector. With most of the tentpole films now being released
in 3D, if you want to keep your customers, you'll invest in a digital
projector, regardless of your concerns about the VPF or the technology
As an added bonus, 3D films have a higher ticket price
which means the kick-back to the theatre owner is larger, as well. Not
to mention the VPF.
Now, I'm not saying that films like
were made in order to promote digital cinema, but it can't hurt to have
it as a 3D film. Even the latest film from M. Night Shylaman, called
Last Airbender, is being released in 3D even though it was
shot using a traditional 2D process. This awkward conversion to
3D during post-production is generally frowned upon, but popular
We can expect all tent poles from Avatar to
of the Caribbean and everything in between to be released in 3D
for the foreseeable future, until the studios think they have critical
mass in terms of digital cinema. Hopefully then, they'll relegate it
back to the film fad dustbin and we can enjoy storytelling without the
annoying glasses, or headaches.
18 Jun 2009
Well, for their own reasons, the
Galway Film Fleadh
will not be screening A Place in my Heart this year, which
is a pity. I have had two short films premiere at the Fleadh and it's
always a good day out. Especially in the old days of the Claddagh
Palace and the "tent." Happy memories!
What is interesting though,
is how we filmmakers rarely seem to publicly mention the "no's." Film,
by it's very nature, is collaborative. As a result, we need to gain
the collaboration of people such as writers, directors, actors, crew,
producers and so on. Not to mention financiers, funding bodies and of
course, the final audience. At every stage in the process, we are more
likely to come across the word "no" than "yes." But if you read the press
briefings for films from 5 minute shorts through to three hour period
dramas, 'no' doesn't come into it. You could easily assume they wrote the
script, called up their first choice of cast and crew, money fell from the
money tree and they made Greatness. Oh but if it were so...
carry around with them a large folder of "in development" scripts which
are beaten and worn by the number of rejections they receive. Actors must
queue for audition after audition only to hear "not today, sorry..." What
of producers? Surely they must be immune from rejection? Not so. Every
producer has a project he or she has been trying to get off the ground
for some number of years. Sometimes they do actually get the film made,
and it goes on to win awards, and as they smile and thank The Academy,
I wonder do they mutter under their breath to the myriad of studios
and distributors who rejected their opus?
I guess all of us
want to portray an image of success. An image which says, "I've always
been offered any job for which I was interviewed." Or perhaps; "I have
never been turned down, when asking someone on a date." The truth is,
that film is no different from life and we take the knocks day in and
In the case of Claddagh Films, we have had two short
film scripts rejected by three different funding agencies, the fleadh
doesn't want to premiere A Place in my Heart, and as it happens, the
Film Festival didn't offer me accreditation as an industry
Hurts, doesn't it?
Then again, I've had two
films play at the fleadh, at the Leeds International Film Festival, at
Foyle, and in a cinema in the UK. Completing a film is a big achievement
in the first place, even though it does seem like everyone and her sister
are making films nowadays. I've also been lucky enough to work with some
really talented actors and crew, and we've had fun. Of course, I've also
had to tell a lot of actors that they're not right for the part, and try
to explain that this isn't because they're not good enough, but because
they're, well... Not right for it.
I suppose the danger of all
this fake euphoria, this funny notion that rejection doesn't exist in
the film industry, is that people every day sit in front of a computer
and type FADE IN, while dreaming of Klieg lights and an LA premiere. I
won't mention the odds - they're depressing. Young girls and boys dream
of the acting spotlight, but ask any working actor and they'll tell a
different story. A story removed from limo's and red carpets. For every
working actor, there are probably a hundred or so who haven't worked in
quite a while. Ouch!
Writers? Don't get me started. We directors
aren't immune either. Film schools churn out fresh batches of filmmakers
every year. Most will find a new career in an office, somewhere. From
time to time, a co-worker will ask "what is it like to make a film?" but
won't want to hear the true answer. Some will find jobs in facilities
houses, and precious few will make a living from film or television
ET was reputedly rejected by twenty studios and
distribution companies before it found a home at Universal Studios. Sex,
Lies and Videotape almost didn't make the official selection at Sundance -
imagine how different things would be without that particular landmark
event! Rejection happens every day. Several thousand times a day.
OK, that's all just downright depressing.
The secret is, we
dust ourselves off, put it behind us, and get on with it. We take the
19th rejection letter, fold it nicely, stick it in the bin, and submit
to the 20th studio. We have to. We have no choice. We move on. We get
over it and we keep struggling. An actor can't appear at an audition,
depressed because they didn't get the previous job. They have to brign
life and energy to a role, and it's hard to do that unless you have the
Doomed writers produce a solitary script and hawk it until
the pages turn brown and faded. Successful writers have a drawer full
of projects and scripts, as well as a stunning collection of rejection
letters. It goes on and on.
What's amazing is that few people
talk about it. We have to wait for the Oscars, and that rueful smile as
the winners take their trophies and remember the rejection letters.
27 May 2009
So it is with Glee that I put an end to a fifteen year saga,
and completed the film A Place in my Heart. It was shot on 16mm,
workprinted, and the rough cut was produced on a Steenbeck. Eventually, my
patience got the better of me and I telecine'ed the entire film negative
onto DVCam and uploaded it into Final Cut Pro.
I had issues with
NTSC (long story) and reverse-telecine, but this is a family site so I'll
spare you the details.
I also had to convert around 4,000 feet of
fullcoat audio into a WAV file and re-lay that back on the picture. Again,
it wasn't trivial but it's done now.
Once I got to a point where
I could once again begin cutting, it was a marvel. Final Cut Pro almost
works a step ahead of you. I tend to be a keyboard-shortcut kinda guy,
and I prefer to not have to stop typing and move my hand over to the
mouse, etc. FCP has hotkeys for just about everything and it's possible
to move shots around and tweak cuts with little or no mouse use.
The upshot of all this is, I reached picture lock and very quickly,
after some basic mixing and colour grading, I had a version of the
film which wasn't entirely embarrassing.
Thanks to the Apple
workflow, I was able to drive the project into Compressor to produce a
very good quality MPEG fileset, and then push that into DVD Studio Pro,
and produce a DVD. Hey Presto!
Nowadays there are sites such as
Short Film Depot
which assist in the process of submitting to festivals.
couldn't be easier - no wonder there are so many short films produced
Interestingly, the Short Film Depot festivals are
all free. You register the details of your film, and click away. You
have to send them a DVD, but that's no great hardship. In days of old,
I would have to send out for VHS dubs in NTSC and PAL to submit to
festivals. I'd also have to write to each one and ask for an official
application form, manually fill it out, and submit it.
bad news is that Withoutabox festivals all seem to charge an entry
fee. This seems to average about $30 per festival.
Now, OK, I
understand that it's tough for the festival to sit down and wade through a
thousand or so DVDs with films ranging from mediocre to just-plain-awful,
with the occasional gold nugget buried in there.
does it really cost $30,000?
Let's not forget that people pay an
admission fee to see the festival films.
As film-makers, we look
the other way and don't expect the festival to share their largesse
with those of us who made it possible for them to hold a festival in
the first place.
But asking us to send them money so they can
decide if they want to screen our film, is another thing entirely.
A rule of thumb is that a short film can cost anywhere from $200 to
$2,000 per minute of screen time. (If you're budgetting a short, by
the way, split the difference and go for $1,000 per minute). So, you've
just spent the equivalent of a used-car price to make your short film,
and now "Ben's Ultimate Film Festival" in Woebegone, Arkansas (apologies
to Woebegonese people, if there is such a place) wants you to pay him or
them the sum of $30 to be considered. So that Ben can screen the film to
a paying audience.
Assuming, of course, that Ben isn't using all
that cash to make his own short film, and had no intention of screening
the film before anyone other than himself and his buddy Joe.
where does that leave us?
Well, it means that those festivals
which are charging an entry fee, will need to be scrutinised before
I'll bother sending them a DVD.
If I know the festival, such as
Ferrand (which doesn't charge, by the way), I'll definitely want
them to see the film. If it's some hodunk festival in somewhere out of
the way, I won't bother.
Not that I expect an Academy Award for
Best Short Film any time soon, but I'll certainly use their list of
"qualifying festivals" to tell me which ones have some sort of kudos,
and are worth the admission price.
Withoutabox lists something
like 800 film festivals in the US alone. How is anyone supposed to manage
that? I'm sure the bulk of those are one-offs, or something attached to
an Arts and Crafts weekend, with a DVD player in a back room for those
people who want to watch a film.
I won't be spending thirty
bucks for the privilege of having them consider the worthiness of my
film. Not today, and not any time soon.
A lot of festivals talk
about the awards they offer. Personally, I'm not a big fan of festival
awards (ask me again, if I win something for this film!). Audience
awards are often bulked up by friends and family of the winning film -
we've all seen that happen at a festival. The place gets swamped just
before a particular film plays, and clears out afterwards. Surprise,
surprise, they win the audience award. I'm not bitter, honest! :)
The other types of awards are Jury Prizes. These have a much more
even playing field, but let's face it, your average comedy is rarely
likely to win in this category. It's hard to win Jury Awards, and some
film-makers actually set out to try and do just that. Personally, I'm
just glad if a film of mine plays at some festival or other.
the upshot of all this is that a lot of films aren't going to bother
travelling to out of the way festivals, because of the burden of entry
fees. Regardless of what the winning film can take home. This is a bad
Surely, in an ideal world, a festival would look at as many
films as possible and decide on their short-list of screening films. That
way, they could be sure that the programme represented the best of what
was on offer, insofar as their taste as programmers was concerned.
For those festival directors who are considering how to solicit film
submissions, why not have a look at the Short Film Depot website. It's
easy to use, straightforward, and most of all, doesn't seem to charge
fees to cash-strapped film-makers.
Me? I'm off to create a new
film festival called the Dermot Tynan Short Film Festival, entry fee is
only $50. This way, I might even be able to afford to submit my own film
to the 800 festivals in the US, from the profits.
10 May 2009
I'm supposed to be editing. I'm not, obviously.
like the old days (you knew I'd say that), tied to a Steenbeck, but
Procrastination still reigns supreme. No matter whether they give you
Final Draft to ease your script out like some sort of technological
laxative, or Final Cut Pro to staple the film together with the speed
and vitality of a gymnast, I can still procrastinate.
outside, which is nothing short of miraculous, given the week we've had,
and yet I'm stuck in a dark room with no windows and a computer.
I'm trying to achieve Picture Lock on a film I wrote and directed in
1993. The reason it's taken over fifteen years to get this far is partly
due to the P-word, mostly due to the complexity of the film and oh,
let's call it LIFE.
Picture lock, for those of you who aren't
versed in the arcane world of cutting strips of plastic into pleasing
montages, is that very great moment when you reach the conclusion that
you will not cut the image any more. There's still several audio tracks
which need to be cleaned up or "sweetened", there's the sound-effects to
"spot" and there's the music score to drop in. Not to mention a million
other things from the time you declare the images to be arranged properly
(picture lock) and the time people actually see the finished film.
A Steenbeck or Moviola flatbed has one or more picture tracks
(for the image, naturally), and one or more (usually two) plates for
any two of the audio tracks. When you have achieved picture lock,
you can double-splice the workprint (adding splices to both sides of
each cut), you can start to write down the edge codes, and loads of
other boring but essential post-production tasks. Picture lock is that
moment when you know post-production is going well, and will soon be
over. Picture lock is when you know for definite, exactly how long the
film is going to be. To the frame.
Yes, if you decide there is
something terribly wrong with the audio in one track, you can go back
and re-edit the picture to fix it, but generally this becomes harder
and harder because now you have six, eight or many more sound rolls,
and any change to the picture means resyncing the audio on all those
rolls. Not to mention removing splices from both sides of the cut. In
other words, not something you would choose to do lightly.
why picture lock is such an exciting moment.
It's a significant
milestone in the journey from FADE IN: to "take your seats."
here's the rub; in the world of Final Cut or Avid, it's a simple matter
to resync all the audio, there is no need to double-splice anything,
and picture lock loses its significance. It's not really there anymore,
except in the minds of people who have cut plastic, who claim some sort
of ancient heritage, clutching to it like some old grail; "I used to
cut on film, you know." But still, when you're wading through a project,
one ripple-cut after another, searching for greater meaning, picture lock
still holds its allure. It's that last furlong.
On Wednesday last,
I declared that
I was a mere 5 or so hours away from Picture Lock. Oh how the mighty
have fallen. Some 50 or so hours of staring at Final Cut have yet to
produce that battle-cry of the editing ages. There are still a few places
where I'm uncomfortable with the edit. I'm not happy with the end of the
film as it stands, and it's not like choices are readily available.
Remember, I said I shot this in 1993, so let's put the phrase "pick
ups" out of our heads, shall we?
At least one festival deadline
looms on the horizon like the proverbial locomotive, while my film lies
tied to the tracks, and I struggle with the knots. I wonder should I untie
the feet first, or the arms?
The danger is that I will look away,
push the "Burn to DVD" button, and open a bottle of wine. In short, tell
my film-in-distress, that I've untied its hands, it can do the rest. Oh,
and that's definitely the train coming.
I have great admiration
for people who can keep plugging away at a script, until the ribbon is
worn through, or keep rearranging shots of picture until even Final Cut
is exasperated. For me, I come to the conclusion that I can do no more,
and I declare victory. Move on. There is much else to do. I would strive
to be more of a perfectionist, but pragmatism is never far away.
This film is twenty minutes long, approximately (I will know exactly
how long, once I declare PL, of course). I have written it, directed
it, assembled it, polished it, edited it, telecine'd it, and of course,
watched it. Repeatedly. I can quote from just about every frame of the
film. And yet, I'm not prepared to declare it just yet. Just one more
pass. One more look at the film, one more ascerbic viewing.
is a convergent process. You start the process, flush from the joys of
production. You remember wonderful readings, excellent performances,
stunning camerawork, brilliant lighting, and so on, ad nauseum. The
woolly head from the wrap party is still there, and you begin to screen
the rushes. Individually, they always look good. One at a time, you can
find brilliance in each take.
You select the takes you want,
and assemble them together for the rough cut. It is at this moment
that you lose all faith in the script, in the project, and most of all,
in yourself. What was a wonderful script and a delightful shoot is now
sheer hell. It's just not "there." What "it" is, remains a mystery, as
does where "there" is. Whatever. They're not happening.
bit, you trim and coax, you try to figure out why you don't like certain
scenes, and how you can fix that, you try to rearrange shots to cover the
glaring problems, and you try to bring out the film as you originally
saw it. It's a roller coaster. When a cut works, it really works! Time
to break out the champagne, book our tickets to Cannes, baby! When
it doesn't work, well, use your imagination.
You struggle on,
looking for that drug. That addiction of a sequence which works, while
avoiding the horror and monotony of those cuts and those scenes which
fall flat. They're downers.
You become so attached to the film,
that you know that in the fifth scene, the actors hand doesn't quite
match across the two shots. Fix that, and his dialogue doesn't match. Pick
your poison. You know that you need just one more shot, to fix the scene
where they meet. Just a simple cutaway would do wonders, but it isn't
there. It doesn't exist, and this isn't animation - we can't just will it
Slowly but surely, the rough cut becomes a fine
cut, and now you can watch the film from beginning to end, and it seems
to flow. But you're still not sure about picture lock. You're still not
At some point, hopefully, the film will play in front of an
audience who have no qualms about disliking your child. They will laugh
when you don't want them to, and they will sit still when you want them
to laugh. Now is the time to get it right. Now is the time to make sure
that it "works", whatever that means.
But, how many times can you
screen the fine cut and worry about that cut coming too late, or the other
cut coming too early? How many times will I stare at that ending before
I like it?
Is that the wind, or do I hear a train coming?
13 Apr 2009
I recently watched some short films which had an interminable
list of credits at the end. Including second assistant directors,
transport captains and who knows what.
It's not that I
begrudge the work or belittle the efforts of those job descriptions,
The problem, certainly in this part of the world,
is that short films are apparently no longer a crazy endeavour. Now
they're mini-features. You wouldn't dream of grabbing a camera on a
Saturday morning and shooting a short, three minute piece, unless it
had been script-doctored, revised, rewritten, sanitised and finally
put into production.
In Ireland, there are approximately five
"buckets" for short films, not counting animation. When each of
these short film funds uncaps its funding, scripts appear from
miles around. Not just any script, but good scripts.
what's wrong with this?
The problem is, five funding buckets
make approximately three films each. Fifteen films, with stellar
budgets. And five hundred good scripts go back on the shelf.
takes around 10,000 hours of practice to be good at anything, so making
one short a year isn't exactly a recipe for success (unless of course, the
short is A
Place in my Heart, which has easily burnt 10,000
hours. OK, not quite, but it certainly seems that way).
Group 101 Films
offers a scary and altogether enticing alternative. Shoot one film
a month for six months or lose your mind. I feel compelled to sign
up. It's like a sick addiction. The adrenaline rush of production
every four weeks.
However, the real issue here isn't the lack
of production around specific grant-aided windows, it's the overall
approach to short film. A lot of people see short films as stepping
stones to features. They use the experience to prove to one and all that
they can handle a budget. Or that a crew of thirty or so professionals
is not a problem. Often, it shows in the story. High production values
and low story content.
Where's the room to experiment, to play
with the form? Short films have a shorthand (pardon the almost-pun)
which allows us to develop a character in 48 frames. We can attempt
to create pathos in the blink of an eye. Most of all, though, we can
try new things. We can be creative.
Not if you're spending
7,500 euro per minute of someone else's money on your showreel.
Funding for short films is wonderful. By and large, it seems to
be a new development. Hardened short-filmmakers from the seventies
tell us ghoulish tales of "borrowing" equipment and begging for
Largely though, it's distribution which offers the best
breakthrough from the grim era of seventies filmmaking. Every town and
village with a population over 10,000 now boasts an international
film festival. We
also have Internet distribution in all its forms.
(another bad pun), the outlets for short films have never been better or
more plentiful. And yet, we still see filmmakers sitting on their scripts
waiting for a funding window.
While I'm not recommending shooting
without a script or without trained actors and professional assistance,
but why not revisit the budget and see if you can shoot the thing for
instead of standing in line waiting for the grant-aided money tree
to take pity on you.
In days of old, you would spend your winter
evenings filling out festival entry forms and duplicating VHS copies of
your opus, now
even that's a thing of the past.
So what are we waiting for?