Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ivy Film Festival, after thoughts


The fact that I am still in school working towards my third graduate degree has its benefits: my student status qualified me to enter our movies to the machinima section of Ivy Film Festival. We had no big ambitions, and thought this was just a chance to get a few more views. But before we knew it, we were sitting in a dark lecture hall at Brown University, watching student films screened at the festival, including our "Darren," the machinima competition jury award winner.

It was a great honor to win the award, and it was fun to see our movie played in a different venue. However, we never truly felt this movie, although dear and special to us, deserved that level of accolade. We know there are better machinima movies (made by students) to represent this medium to the larger audience. Darren's going to Ivy Film Festival almost felt like a missed opportunity for machinima. (I don't want to mislead people. The audience was small, largely because the majority of the viewers left the hall 30 minutes before the machinima segment began in order to attend another screening section starting elsewhere.)

At any rate, watching non-machinima student films at the festival was a pleasure. Viewing student shorts can be quite an intense experience, seeing all these burgeoning talents, their blood and sweat, their hopes and dreams, projected onto the screen for 20 minutes at a time. It's like sampling these young people's soul. Not all of them are polished, not all of them are agreeable. But none of them lack spirit.

I think student shorts and machinima share some similarities. They are brief, rough around the edge at times, often experimental, and deeply personal in most cases. They are "deeply personal" in a sense that each one of them is the product of the film-maker himself (who frequently is a writer-director) rather than that of the market and industry. This means these movies go through much less rigorous trimming process by the third person's point-of-views than the movies we find in theaters, which can be both good and bad in my opinion. Watching student shorts today, I found myself naturally making notes of what to do and what not to do in making machinima. Here is my personal list:

Do be bold and original. Because everybody else is. Quite honestly, the world of short films/machinima can be like a screaming competition. Everybody is doing something "crazy," but a lot of them feel vaguely familiar. I'm all for taking an old idea and crafting it well. But most likely, it ain't enough.

Do be efficient in story telling. No doubt we should strive not to waste another human being's time, a piece of a person's life with a very limited span. But efficiency is not just a matter of economy; it's a matter of aesthetics.

Always, always do your best not to be or come off pretentious. There is no bigger turn off than a pompous self-satisfied piece of ...work. (That said, if somebody accuses you of being pretentious, just tell them to f-off.)

Over all, do take care of your audience. Of course you make your movie for yourself. But if that's the whole truth for you, you shouldn't publish your work and waste other people's time. Without the audience, there is no story, no ... "art," no whatever.

And finally, don't ever think you're special. Because everybody is.

These are today's notes to self.