Practice makes perfect.
November 27, 2017 by Yilmaz Vurucu
The key to honing skills in any field of interest is practice. They don’t say practice makes perfect for nothing. I believe this is the biggest challenge facing most filmmakers; since film making is an expensive art form that requires energy, time and most importantly money, practicing and developing one’s skills isn’t that easy. Especially when we’re all perfectionists believing in our work, attempting to compete with well funded projects, despite our limitations. Up until now I’ve been lucky; I’ve managed to succeed in creating work that I’m proud of and that I feel can compete with higher budget productions, at least in terms of the technical craftsmanship put into it. This in no small part is due to the contributions of my partners, who also believe in my work and me, and are ready to sacrifice so much of their time and energy for a project of mine. It’s also partly due to my tendency to plan incessantly. A project of mine generally requires 2 years of preparation before it makes it to the production stage, and I plan each and every single detail beforehand to ensure visual quality and technical excellence.
Yet, this has taken a toll on me: I haven’t been able to produce as much as I would’ve wanted to, and I have yet to see the returns and recognition I had hoped for. My films still haven’t made it into the top tier festivals, and my directing skills are not at the level I’d like them to be. Though I’ve slowly found my voice, I could’ve accomplished much more in the same time period.
But I view myself as being more of a late bloomer. I haven’t been prolifically productive, averaging in around a film a year, in an attempt to create a masterpiece out of each project I undertake.
This attitude of mine has shifted a bit now, realizing that you can’t set out to create a masterpiece with each project, rather you simply need to be productive, and the more you produce, the better you will get at your craft.
Fact is, a director needs to be constantly directing and experimenting to find his distinct voice and language. That’s why short films are invaluable tools: they also act as an informal academy, teaching directors as well as other crew members specific skills before they set out to create that feature they’ve always dreamed about. It’s one thing to create the whole film in your mind or on paper, but a whole another reality confronts you when you step onto a film set and have to face time and budget constraints. I can’t remember how many times I’ve had to rework the script on set and take out scenes or rewrite them because we were behind schedule.
In any case, moving along to the focal point of this blog post: I was in a slump recently, trying o figure out why things weren’t going my way, dabbling in some self-loathing and self-pity (you know, the staple of any self-absorbed artist). While doing so, I found myself contemplating a movie concept. I felt it was right, reflected me and my experiences at the moment, and most importantly, it had my specific voice stamped on it.
I will write more about how I came up with the idea in another post, but to sum it up: as I get older, I feel as if certain avenues are closing to me, and my options are dwindling. I sometimes can’t help but think age might have something to do with it; I find myself pondering over whether or not I’ll ever truly be able to accomplish what I’ve been working so arduously and have sacrificed so much for. Being a late bloomer is no easy task. My only consolation is that I’m still here, and still pushing forward, despite all odds.
That’s why I felt the story of Elena Ebner was a perfect fit to my current frame of mind: She’s a senior newspaper journalist who has seen and done it all. Yet the biggest challenge she will be facing will not be having to report from war zones or uncovering political improprieties, but adapting to the changing corporate environment of the news world.
In a sense, it’s the story of each generation reaching its peak, only to be taken over by the next. It’s the story of that empty vacuum created when older people no longer feel wanted or valued for their experience; the story of modern conglomerates and corporations feeding off the vitality and energy of the more flexible, adaptive, technologically apt younger generation, while trying to discard the older generations as dead waste.
The company Elena works for has recently been bought out by an international conglomerate, and they’re looking to “maximize performance and profit” by forcing their employees to multitask. Elena, the seasoned veteran reporter will now also have to (like all the other younger reporters), act as a camera-person and live stream the conferences she covers, alongside writing news stories about them.
The film follows her, a technically dilapidated and challenged veteran, trying to prove her worth as an employee amongst a crowd of technically capable and aspiring youngsters. Of course, her understanding of in-depth reporting is also being challenged as the newspaper is more interested in click-bait articles and quick attention grabbing pieces.
It’ll be a 10-minute short film, focusing more on Elena’s psychology as she tries so hard to prove herself, hold onto her job and remain viable in an ever-changing working environment. The theme is inspired through personal experiences of course, but the challenge for any film is the same: HOW do I tell this story in my own unique way. After all, from About Schmidt to I Daniel Blake, as well as countless others throughout cinema history, the story of ageing is not a new theme. So how do I tackle it in a unique way, and tell the story in my own style?
My last two films sort of dabbled with the style I want to employ in this film, but the shots were more static because they only had a single character existing within a controlled environment. This film will be a bit unique in that sense, as it’ll be more about a character thrown into an environment, and her reactions to it: how she manages to deal with it and how she survives it. That’s why the environment, and what happens around her, is as important as Elena and her journey.
Yet, while a lot is happening around Elena, I need to somehow alienate her character from the world around her. So the cinematic issue here is: how do I do that? It seems to me, the only way to accomplish this will be to focus the camera on Elena at all times, so we can see her reactions as events are transpiring around her.
I would like to use the Stanley Kubrick 180 degree rule defying technique, which is fully utilized in Full Metal jacket for instance, when he follows the soldiers straight on from behind, then cuts to a shot following them from in front. The same method of shooting is utilized by the Coen Brothers, as well as by Tarantino from time to time.
Here’s an example from Gematria, of how I’ve already experimented with this technique:
Obviously, it violates the 180-degree rule, but does an astonishing job of honing in on the character and his psychology. The background serves as a set and décor, with the character’s psychology and inner thoughts taking main stage.
There are two ways of employing this technique however, either through using a long depth of field (I’d probably have a place reserved in cinema hell for me if I failed to mention the pioneer of this style of cinematography, Orson Welles and commemorate his genius) or through a shallow depth of field created by utilizing a wide-angle lens and adjusting the aperture and opening it up all the way.
The Coen Brothers employ the first method mentioned in most of their movies. The second method is a by-product of the cinematic look sought after with the advent and proliferation of DSLR cameras especially, so it has become more of a fashion than a style. Yet a TV series titled The Handmaid’s Tale, an adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel, does a good job of employing razor thin shallow depth of field with a camera just inches from the actresses face. This method allows the viewer to get into the mindset of the main character, since he/she is the focal point, and everything else around them is pretty much out of focus. It’s a great cinematic technique to be used in films that require us to understand and empathize with a character that really has no control over his/her destiny and is experiencing internal anguish, but cannot reveal it. Lacking the same shallow depth of field, yet remaining focused on the character and keeping with them is a method I’ve seen applied in Cannes Grand Prix winner Son of Saul, a Hungarian production.The first method on the other hand, uses the backdrop as part of the story telling process, and because it’s wide, it also adds comedic flare as a result of the minimal distortion caused by the lens.
What the Coen brothers do however is more unique, in that they embrace the style as a shot-reverse shot technique and place the camera inside the space of action. Whereas most directors prefer an over the shoulder shot to follow dialogue (which gives us the feeling that we’re almost spying on the characters from a distance), the Coen brothers do single takes, centering the character in the middle of the frame. What this does is, it gives immediacy, as if we’re inside the action and a part of it.
For this film, I definitely don’t want to have a quirky, comedic feel, even if some of the dialogue contains dark humor. I want the viewer to identify with the character as she navigates her way through the convoluted and hyper-stressed environment of the modern news industry. While doing so, I’m going to have to ensure the backgrounds and the action happening within it, will reflect the chaos we see on her face and through her acting.
This would mean sticking with the character at all times. In other words, focusing on the face of Elena Ebner throughout the film, and following her as she makes her way through this specific moment in her life. To do so, I’d need to use a wide-angle lens, and perhaps even placing it extremely close to the main character. Then cutting to an over the shoulder shot with a similar framing to reveal the action happening in front of her, without cutting to close ups of the action.
I feel this approach will be unique, in that the visual language I construct will help the viewer establish an intimate bond with the main character. The only question I have in mind at the moment is, do I go with a shallow depth of field, making the background more of a blurred backdrop, or do I use a longer depth of field, revealing more of the background. At the moment I’m inclined to leave some visibility of the environment for the viewer to soak in, but not go as far as the Coen Brothers and use a wide angle distortion that would give the project a comedic feel.
We’ll see how this progresses, and of course, I’ll keep you updated about the process.
Thanks for reading!
Seeing the big picture.
September 18, 2017 by Yilmaz Vurucu
I’m going to be honest with you. I’m not pouring out my thoughts and ideas because I’m attempting to handout advice. Far from it. This whole blog thing is more like therapy and reflection for me. I need to know where I’ve been, to see where I’m headed. And it’s been quite the journey so far.
I often don’t take the time to breath, slow down, and look back at my accomplishments as a source of inspiration for the future. Analyzing even our most devastating failures can help us hone our craft. More importantly, the past can act as a foundation to help us find a clear voice, focus our thoughts, and shape our motivation and intent into crystal clear form.
Around 8 years ago, I was working as a creative director in Television, crafting image spots and promotional campaigns, when I got sick and tired of it all. I felt I wasn’t reaching my full potential, and was wasting my energy for something unnecessary. The reason I had studied film was because I wanted to express myself and tell stories I thought the world needed to hear; and this industrial grade, polished sugarcoating I was creating was a far cry from the realism and depth I sought. So I thought it was time to pack up, and try something new.
My first film was Dr. Zack. It was shot in Canada on a shoestring budget. I sought funding of course, but (and we’ll get into this later, perhaps in another blog post) funds, festivals and institutions have generic formulas and criteria to judge you and your worth by. If you don’t fit those criteria, there’s no way you’ll obtain the support you’re seeking, financial or exposure wise. This, of course, is extremely difficult to handle for the novice, it often shatters our sense of self-worth, throws us into pits of despair and self-doubt. It took me 6 years and 5 projects to understand this fact: as the jerk says during a break-up: “It’s not you. It’s me.” Often times, receiving support or rejection depends on a host of factors and criteria, and does not necessarily reflect the quality or validity of your work.
The same is the case for the industry, mind you. It’s not like you can pitch an idea to Netflix or any other outlet without coding your creation into genre formulas. These formulas are what help funders place your projects into perspective, and understand them. That being said, no real groundbreaking piece has ever been a typical genre piece.
But there’s another secret behind works that are unique, one we often forget: They are crystal clear in their intent, crafted to perfection as a result of years of hard work and focus. Nothing comes easy.
That’s why, we have to see the big picture, and know where we’re headed. It’s the only thing that will keep us motivated in the long run.
I’m often told that if I were to do movies on minority issues, or racism, or immigration and identity, I’d definitely get funding as a unique voice. I personally feel such constraints box me, and that instead of being pigeon-holed, I’m searching for the more universal message. And not that I’m against working on the themes described above, in fact my films already deal with social outcasts, disadvantaged classes, discriminatory systems-the same exact things I experience and have experienced on this journey. The only difference is that they’re not coded they way the system prefers them to be coded.
Dr. Zack for instance is really about social struggle, and not being allowed access to a system that turns its back on the disenfranchised and socially disadvantaged. The boy Zack, wants to become a doctor one day, but neither the system, nor his surroundings believe in this. The odds are stacked against this little boy, who has dreams of curing his alcoholic and abusive father. I personally see no difference between classism and racism, between the struggle of outcasts, regardless of the reason they face an uphill battle. It is these formulas that we (I) have to conquer and utilize, while also creating work that’s meaningful for us. And to do so is no east feat.
Without an overall strategy or plan, each rejection and dismissal can be devastating.
Below is a rejection letter I received for my latest film, Sweet Candy.
I’ve received hundreds of these throughout my career. Literally, a few hundred for each film. I’ve probably spent more on film festival applications, than I have on the movies themselves. Now that I look back, I acknowledge that it was all part of a learning curve, but that rejections mean nothing. If anything, I take them to mean that my film doesn’t fit into a category or format the film festival wanted the films they’re screening to fit into. Stories of rejections are abundant out there, Moonlight director Berry Jenkins had been rejected by Sundance numerous times, for instance.
So rejections don’t mean ish. What is important, is the long run. It’s not a single project that will get you to where you want to go. It’s the track record and combination of all your work, that will. So, are you ready to dig deep down inside, to keep at it, to ignore all negativity, rejection, sarcasm, dismissal, and continue to hone your craft?
Are you ready to see the strengths of the projects you had the privilege of completing (seeing a project through to fruition is no easy feat! Ask the people who all have ‘great ideas’ but fail to see them through. Ideas are in abundance, but pouring them out into concrete concepts is difficult), how they all fit in as part of the puzzle, how they tell a story… YOUR STORY. Or in my case, my story.
Identifying these themes is probably at the crux of what I’m attempting to accomplish on this journey. For the concepts I have dealt with are a reflection of me and my voice. They will help me determine what it is I truly wish to accomplish. And when the going gets tough, when I sit there in the middle of the night, staring at that paper pad or keyboard, questioning why I’m doing this – this is what I need to remember. This is the candlelight I need to spark, to remind me of why I’m doing this.
I have a friend who wants to be a filmmaker. She says the only problem is that she can never stick to it, see a project to completion, that it’s too difficult. She’s right. The path has no glory. You toil away for months, to create a project that probably will be screened at a few festivals here and there, if you’re lucky.
That’s why, for many of us out there, the process itself should be the reward.
Which is why we should take our time.
See the big picture. Clarify our thoughts and intent.
Craft our work to perfection, and not rush it.
Understand our motivation, our primary reason for doing this in the first place. Enjoy the act of creation itself. That’s reward enough. And know that it fits into your larger plans, and a single project is not the goal in itself.
Reflections on mother! and my new journey.
September 15, 2017 by Yilmaz Vurucu
I have to admit, I generally refrain from posting personal opinions. Part of the reason for this is that I’m afraid of scrutiny, and there’s always a level of insecurity that accompanies you as you put yourself and your opinions forth for consumption by others.
It’s quite the ultimate contradiction for me, since I also seek the acceptance and reverence of my peers through my work, and have to bare my innermost thoughts and feelings to the masses through my films. On one level, I feel comfortable using the medium of movies to express my thoughts as it’s convenient to do so, yet on another level, I realize that it is a form of escapism for me.
Let’s face it, unless placed into context, it’s quite difficult for the viewer to understand the thought process of the indie filmmaker. The context in my case, are the recurring themes and motifs in all my projects. But how does one find the right audience, and connect with them? How can a filmmaker be sincere in his/her work, while reaching those interested in the message he/she gives?
This conundrum resulted in me reaching out to Dr. Mani Saint-Victor last week. I not only asked him to be a consultant on my next project, but also requested he coach me personally, and help me clarify my thought process, connect with my inner-self, and seek sincerity in my work. We then decided to do this publicly, so others can see the process and accompany us on this journey.
This I believe, is especially important, as I am embarking on a 3 year odyssey to create my next project: my first feature film. During such a state of transition, nothing could’ve helped me crystallize my thoughts better than watching Mother! by Aranofsky last night. I went to watch the movie with a group of friends here in Vienna, and found myself pondering over the various interpretations the film forced my mind to contemplate over.
Normally, my mind doesn’t work in overdrive mode after watching a film. By now, I’ve probably devoured thousands of titles over the course of my life, and can generally remain quite objective and analytical. But Mother! was different. This distinction could also have to do with the effect my sessions with Mani are having, but in part, it definitely also has to do with the mastery of Aranofsky.
I have to say, I’m pretty much a late bloomer in life, this also includes film interpretations. I’m 42 years old and still trying to carve a place for me through my projects. I embarked on this journey quite late in life, partly due to my background as a second gen. immigrant and the instinct to place survival over expression. Likewise, being the late bloomer I am, I didn’t have much to say or offer during our conversation immediately after the film; but a barrage of thoughts kept flooding me this morning. Now, I’m convinced that although the film packed metaphors at an exorbitant level, the imagery and cognitive association caused by both the treatment and style of Aranofsky, as well as the story and characters, successfully managed to stick to my subconscious like a super magnet, and forced my neurons to fire rapidly in an attempt to make sense of the film, even when offline (ie: sleeping).
And I think that’s what Aranofsky does best: to tailor and create imagery in a masterful way, crafting them to ensure they eat at your subconscious and act as subliminal corrosive material. In short, he does in movies, what every advertiser on the planet would drool over and die to achieve. Slowly chiselling away at your thoughts and brain tissue until he carves his world into you and leaves an ever-lasting impression. I personally think that part of this ability to practice moving-image sorcery has to do with the cabalistic tradition he has immersed himself in. From pi onwards, we see the recurrence of the supernatural (more so in blackswan, and I have to admit that the wrestler was an anamoly in Aranofsky’s canon) , and the use of biblical metaphors to attach a bigger, more encompassing meaning to the human experience in his films.
Yet, mother takes this to a new level, as it is a full blown allegory, packed with metaphors. The most notable being the apple from the tree of knowledge, good and evil. The crystal, which gives Him (the character portrayed by Javier Bardem) his inspiration to write, represents this metaphor. It’s quite obvious and blatantly done, so I couldn’t help but think that the film was metaphor overkill, to a certain extent.
There are so many metaphors in the film, that one can spend pages writing about their use and meanings, but this time around, I opt to look at the film through the prism of my own journey as a filmmaker, and this transformation towards clarity I’m seeking, which will allow me to express myself fully in my first feature film.
What stuck to me on a personal level is how he equated the act of creation (ie: the arts) with sublime creation itself. Him needs inspiration to write, like any artist. And he draws that from his visitors and fans. We all generally try to draw our inspiration through what’s available around us; through experiences and observations. In the act of doing so, we don’t realise that we’re actually using (or should I say exploiting?) the people and situations around us as a kind of water well to draw from, to the point that at times, that we dry it up and leave nothing behind. We devour everything around us to engage in that act of creation, without realising the full extent of what we’re demanding from those around us.
In the case of personal relationships as it relates to my work and career, I can attest to this.
I’m extremely lucky to have a wife and family that sticks by me, but I do realise how difficult it is to deal with me and my need to grab everything around me and use it, without second consideration. It’s almost as if I’m entitled to it. In the film, one final act of sacrifice is needed as the Mother character is about to die. Him tells her this exactly, and she says “take it.”
The selfless act of giving is done happily on her behalf as Him reaches for her heart and finds the crystal deep within the tissue-he recovers the apple, the inspiration he needs to continue to create. It seems as if he’s more concerned about seeking this elixir than he is about having lost her. Just as how he forgot about her and turned her back on her after receiving the reverence he so craved. At times, we can be so wrapped up in our world, as it is a difficult journey, one that requires focus and sheer determination alongside endless time and energy, that we can forget about the sacrifices made by those around us helping us achieve this goal.
As filmmakers, we have to be clear, and conscious of this. As Dr. Saint-Victor puts it, we need to focus on four issues, the mind, body, being and business. And part of our being are the relationships we develop. Yet relationships need investment, they need to be nurtured. Perhaps we need to take a step back and appreciate those dear to us, and thank them for all the sacrifices they’ve made to help us succeed on the journey we’re on. We also need to appreciate our accomplishments, and not beat ourselves to death with criticism and negativity-but that’s one for another blog post.
I don’t know if this was Aranofsky’s intent. I’m sure he struggles with similar issues, and the clarity in which he puts it forth, as well as the sincerity he exhibits, is to be admired. And it is this clarity that makes a voice meaningful, impactful and valid. Without clarity, a film is a mishmash of ideas. The world of feature films is one that requires such clarity and vision; and I will attempt to find my voice during this journey. As I do so, I will continue to share my struggles and transformations with you. Hope you’re around and interested.
Too mainstream for mainstream-the laborious and troublesome journey of a film upon completion.
July 6, 2017 by Yilmaz Vurucu
I began this journey about 8 years ago, at the ripe old age of 33. I felt my job, working as a writer/director in television wasn’t where I wanted to be, that it was no longer challenging and exciting. I felt I was stuck in a rut, and there was no room for improvement at my current job. I looked back, did some soul searching, dug into my history, rekindled my passion and realized the reason I had went to film school was to make movies.
Begging the question: what was I doing now, creating promotional pieces and advertising campaigns for TV? Seriously, why was I wasting my precious time and valuable (not to mention energy consuming) cognitive power on creating easy to digest visual analogies that would be forgotten once released into the mass jungle of noise called broadcast television?
I needed a change, perhaps even a revolution of sorts? Well, the path to catharsis begins with baby steps, so I had to start somewhere, and do something.
I knew that I had years of experience behind the camera, and was sure that I could produce a technically sound product, if I was given the chance. I was the guru of producing high-end projects on shoestring budgets after all.
So I created 3 different film concepts, scripts and proposals, and sought funding with the Canadian film board. I was convinced the projects had merit, my applications had all their i’s dotted and t’s crossed. The first project application received a rejection. I applied again for the next deadline with another project, each application being as thick as an office binder, and I received another rejection. Determined to keep my local print shop from going under, I stopped by for even more printouts. Third time’s the charm I said, and applied once more with Dr. Zack, sure that this would at least, receive partial funding.
I was in for a disappointment. Months later, I received the rejection letter, and my heart sank. I didn’t know much about the industry and how this whole funding-to-festival circuit scheme functioned, and I had a lot to learn; but I was sure that somehow, if I kept at it and worked hard enough at perfecting my craft, I would reach the light at the end of the tunnel. How long that tunnel would be and how much light would be available at my disposal were questions I had no answers to, but my Canadian upbringing meant I was as stubborn and stoic as anyone out there. Being a child of the 80s also meant having an unassailable belief that hard work would be rewarded, and that merit alone, brought you success.
I didn’t let a rejection from the Canadian Film Board deter me, after all, what would they know, right?
So I managed to shoot Dr. Zack my first short film. Having obtained no funding meant pouring all my resources into it and hoping for the best. The production alone, was quite the undertaking. With the help of family and friends, I somehow pulled it off.
Yet the end product was nowhere near what I thought I would accomplish; it didn’t represent what I was really capable of doing. Problems arose due to lack of funds and resources, plaguing the outcome of the project-ahem, well alright, hate to admit, but a novice director shooting his first project might have also had to do with it, between you and me.
Many filmmakers will be familiar with the most basic conflict in the book: how “saving or salvaging a project” suddenly becomes priority over telling the story the best you can. I had to rush through the shoot because the schedule was too tight (which was my doing of course, the shooting schedule was too ambitious). The camera we used was not really the best, and we barely had enough lights to create decent dramatic lighting. though I have to say, this was prior to the DSLR era, or just on the verge of it hitting off. I learned a lot, and in the end. Dr. Zack wasn’t as bad as I would have you believe; it might not have been an Oscar worthy masterpiece, but it did end up being a nice film with an important message and gripping story-line.
The real challenge that awaited me with Dr. Zack was exposure. I had no idea getting a film into a festival, let alone more than one, was such a challenge! Here I was thinking I finally had a product, despite it’s shortcomings, and that it would at least obtain some exposure. I was wrong. Dr Zack managed to get into some festivals, but the exposure was nowhere near what I had been hoping for. Then again, only a select few get into sundance with their first project, right?
I felt the film was good enough despite it all, but I was missing a crucial angle: a marketing and film festival strategy. It wasn’t simply about the quality of the work or the uniqueness of the story, there were many factors involved.
One interesting experience was with the Marbella Film Festival. This should be an article or blog-post on its own in regards to the dos and don’ts of festivals for novices-but it was one of the only festivals the film managed to obtain selection for. Despite financial difficulties, we attended the festival. But we soon realized that there was no audience, it was at a hotel on the Spanish coast, and the only people attending were a few vacationers staying at the hotel and other filmmakers. I had spent hundreds of euros and dollars on festival entrance fees, and the only official selection the film had received was from such a festival.
Of course, most filmmakers would rather not share this side of the business, as they feel it makes them look rather insignificant and irrelevant, so they chose to play up each and every festival selection. At the end of it all, I have to say that my experience has been to be selective of festivals, and know which ones are worth the trouble and which ones aren’t. This aspect of the “game” is a different layer of knowledge one has to pick up through experience. I will probably write a blog post about this, later on.
Anyways, getting back to the story and main plot…
I’ve been struggling most with festival exposure, and looking for ways to gain access to the circuit throughout my career. Here I am, so many films and projects later, and still at the same crossroads.
One observation of mine has been that most of the available spots at major festivals are already filled with submissions form major companies, selections from other festivals, projects of well known or better-known names. So while, let’s assume, 50 spots are available for screening at a decent film festival, 40 of those are already probably filled with recommendations from colleagues, cooperative partners, distributors with contacts and selections from other festivals. Having received well over 2000 applications to fill the remaining ten spots, the festival is more than likely to skim over your film roughly and pass judgement on your work of passion, which took you months if not a year or more to create, in haste. The odds are definitely not in your favor.
So, with my most recent project, Sweet Candy, I decided to try a different route. There’s a company called sixpack film, based out of Vienna. (yep, I now reside in Vienna-it’s a small world.)
They generally represent Austrian productions, promote them and offer them distribution options. Let me clear things straight off the top: they’re people who care about the Austrian film industry, and do their best to support it. They were open and courteous to me as well, so this is in no way, an article aiming to discredit or smear them.
One interesting aspect about sixpack, which I noticed, is that their catalogue consists of what I would label as being more art-house inspired productions or experimental movies. So I assumed I had little chance, but applied for representation anyways. Reason being, I felt this was my strongest project to date, and they wouldn’t be able to deny it.
For a split second there, I really had so much confidence in my work, fully unaware that it would be blown into smithereens pretty soon, with a single swing. Anyways, here, have a look at the trailer and decide on the project’s merit for yourself:
Six Pack have application deadlines each quarter, and after reviewing applications, they get back to you with a decision. In an extremely courteous email, I received notification that Sweet Candy was not selected by sixpack film for representation. Part of it had to do with their resources, but I didn’t buy into that. They did select SOME films, so why not mine?
My wife called them up to ask for feedback as the film’s producer. The gentleman on the other end of the line, apologizing for being so straight forward, told us that the film failed to receive a positive comment from any of the jury members (hence, they all had a negative response). What’s more, they felt the topic was one that had been dealt with in Austrian TV series (of course, if you have a jury member from Austrian TV, they will draw their references from TV series-what’s a TV person doing on the board of a film distribution company?), that my take on the topic (hence, my approach to it) was not unique, etc.
Now, I’m ready to take most of these with a grain of salt, take a step back, and objectively attempt to understand the reasoning. I’m also ready to accept my shortcomings, as I’m my worse critic. I know I have a long way to go, and as a filmmaker, I am not yet at the point where I expose myself-I still have a shield around me out of fear of getting hurt (goes back to various childhood traumas-not somethign to get into here), but I do know the film is good, and has potential. The only problem is that, in order for it to reach this potential, it needs some sort of support, exposure, SOMETHING.
But at the end of the day, the film failed to inspire confidence in the jury, whatever their criteria may be, and I lost an important chance/opportunity.
Most important however was their feedback on mainstream-ness. They generally deal with well-known mainstream festivals, and they felt the film wasn’t suitable for them. They recommended I apply to alternative festivals and smaller ones. In short, they felt the film was too mainstream for mainstream festivals.
Let that sink in.
It says a lot about the selection process regarding short films-festivals want shocking or quick or innovative concepts, not classically formatted narrative movies. I know my films are like feature films in short format; despite their length, they have a dramatic arc, a three act structure, and all the bells and whistles of a conventional narrative feature film. My hunch is that, that’s why my short films are having trouble getting into some of these festivals, and perhaps it’s time to move on into the world of feature film making on a micro-budget.
I’m adamant. That will be the next step for me. Till then, I’ll be searching for alternative festivals that’ll want to feature my mainstream film.
I’ll continue to write once a week, so stop by if you find this interesting or worthy. You can also drop me a message if you feel you have a contribution to make to this blog, or if you feel I’m outlandishly wrong, or (who knows?) perhaps even right. firstname.lastname@example.org