The Myth of 3D.

There's a lot of hype these days about the emergence of 3D and its effect on the box office. Various people, including the esteemed Roger 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 actually was.

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.

However, 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 The 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 depth 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.

So, 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 stereoscopic film camera won't see much difference, either.

So why, 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 DCP (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 calibrated.

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 AES 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).

A new 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.

The 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 itself.

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 Avatar 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 The 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 nonetheless.

We can expect all tent poles from Avatar to Pirates 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.


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...

Writers 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 day out.

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 Cannes Film Festival didn't offer me accreditation as an industry professional.

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 directing.

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 energy.

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.

Festival Revenue Earners.

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 and Withoutabox, which assist in the process of submitting to festivals.

Things couldn't be easier - no wonder there are so many short films produced nowadays.

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.

The 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.

But seriously, 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.

So 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 Clermont 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.

So, 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 thing.

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.

Procrastination and Picture Lock

I'm supposed to be editing. I'm not, obviously.

It's not 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.

It's sunny 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.

That's why picture lock is such an exciting moment.

It's a significant milestone in the journey from FADE IN: to "take your seats."

But 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.

Editing 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 by 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 into existence.

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 sure...

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?

Short Films and Long CVs.

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, but...

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 funding "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.

So, 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.

Apparently, it 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 short-ends.

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.

In short (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 peanuts 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?