Sunday, November 26, 2006

Myth of the Runtimes

I have come to the conclusion that it is all a fallacy, a falsehood. This approach that they offer, this – “just believe in yourself and your story and your film will get made” – approach. It’s a lie. It is as much of a lie as trickle-down economics and “don’t worry I am on the pill” pronouncements by high school underclassmen. It is calculated and disingenuous and designed to disarm you and make you thankful for the production scraps that fall off of their bountiful plates into our collective “greasy little hands” – as a producer once said to me.

Mystical they say is the true art of filmmaking, for none of us seems ever to be able to captivate the audiences for long. Breakout directors are only going to disappoint us…this is what the media tells us; about our own art form. And many of us believe it. Shame on you!

We all want validation, and professional respect and the ability to maintain a livelihood strictly on our filmmaking efforts and of course the sex, we all want sex ‘cause there a few things better than screening well and then getting’ your brains fucked out. I am the first to admit that.

But we are first, artists. We have a duty to all filmmakers and all artists that have proceeded us to try and improve upon the idea that is the cinema, to explore and to grow so that the cinema can grow and does not wither and die from stagnation like grunge music! This supercedes the hedonistic desires of the Director.

Film is not a dream and film is not an accident. One does not accidentally control a large amount of space and recreate reality; it is a purposeful and selfish act. Let us just admit this then. That we are selfish and unapologetic when we create this art and tell our stories.

Why then do we allow those who do not write, and those who do not shoot determine what a “good” film is? Why is that we, as and industry and as an art form, have allowed the imposition of strict artistic regulations in how scripts may be written and how films must be made and thus sold?

I am first a writer so let me begin with the script or precisely the format of scripts. It’s and old format, that never changes. No matter what you are writing, nor what kinds of media you are using or referencing. My point of contention is that the traditional screenwriting format is designed to make you think traditionally about narratives and stories and pacing.

But that’s 180 degrees from what audiences seem to be responding to. Now I would never speculate on what audiences like and do not like; but I do think you can correctly speculate about which pieces they found interesting.

My point is this. It’s your narrative and it’s your script. You should be able to write it in mustard on the back of paper towels and call it art; but that’s not what I am advocating. We need to think of new narratives, that function differently and are atypical to what the masses have a familiarity with. In my humble opinion…that is where the money is.

Maybe my dialogue won’t always be the most fucking money of any dialogue ever written; maybe Det. Budd’s shots won’t always have people scratchin’ their heads and sayin’ “Goddamn that DP saved my life! But if our films are always interesting, both visually and narratologically…then that’s a reason for people to come see what the fuck it was we shot. There it is comrade, a way out of this mess called Indie filmmaking

I am not calling for an uprising against traditional screenwriting format (though that’s what a lot of your motherfuckers need); I am trying to make a point about runtimes on short films. According to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences anything under 40 minutes is a short film. Most festivals accept shorts that are 30 minutes are less; but we all know that if you really art trying to play festivals you have to keep it under 15 minutes. Because, you know… they want to show a lot of shorts, I guess so that people get their moneys worth. On top of this arbitrary decision to limit the scope of short filmmaking we have the industry talking point “shorter is better” which is always followed by joke about how most short films are bad and how less bad is better. And that is always followed by a good joke from the interviewer or the interviewee. Ha, ha, ha…fuck these people, seriously!

I could give a fuck about how many bad shorts you have watched in the submission process of your festival. If it bothers you so fucking much quit or better yet change your selection criteria.

The cinema cannot stay where it is. This rampant cannibalization of older films and TV shows and lest we not forget all the appropriated literary properties that have combined to give us this amalgamation of images that are either prequels to legendary narratives, sequels to legendary narratives or remakes of earlier films (just to play it safe – I guess).

This is all going to change, because sometime in the not to distant future a Writer-Director/filmmaker is going to set the record straight. There will be a Jimi Hendrix of filmmaking that will wake up this industry and get it to take chances and captivate audiences. This much I do believe.

So why then am I not allowed to shoot a 30 min short? The long form short is graded on its ability to maintain an environment, on it’s ability to juggle multiple plotlines – cause you have to have more going on than a short that is less than 10 minutes. Are we not supposed to be practicing to shoot features? Isn’t one of the biggest problem with feature scripts (films) that they run out of gas, out of pages? Thirty minute shorts have to have dialogue cause even the most clever editing and prop strategy is going to wear thin over 25 minutes. What I am driving at is that the Long-form short operates differently than a Short-form short. Your are not zeroing in on specific details and making the viewer come to conclusions. You are building and environment for them to explore. The journey means as much as the destination in the Long-form, whereas in the Short-form we are really only concerned with the destination.

That of course is my opinion. I blog today to beg you to liberate yourself. Liberate your art, liberate your film, liberate the cinema…the viewers demand it.

Film creates nothing. By saying that I do not mean to insinuate that there are no benefits, no advantages to life, man and psyche from having a cinema – all social and psychological data unanimously indicate the polar opposite and even go further to state that there are several distinct advantages to a society having a cinema (read: National Cinema).

What I meant by the phrase “Film creates nothing” is that film does not innovate as an art form. A “film” is a combination of all other art forms (picture composition, architecture, music, etc.) combined in such a way that it creates meaning.

I am forever grateful for what all of the art forms have selflessly given us – but I am not their ward, nor their pawn. We are the most radical, the most political, the most powerful art form to ever have existed; because a film can change your life. A scene can change your life. A sequence can change your life, your favorite shot broken down to that one critical frame – that 1/24th of a second, of a universe that you created, possesses within it a massive amount of emotional energy. That is why the cinema is magic. If you haven’t for yourself seen this, you still must believe…or we are all lost….we are all lost.

Go forth my friends, go forth and make films free of artistic restraint and political compromises. I cannot promise your fame, nor fortune – but you will earn the respect of your peers and it may, if you are good enough, give you visibility in the body of film. And that is truly the best reward.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks. Good to see you posting. But time for an update, Coop!

11:35 PM  

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