Posts Tagged ‘editing’

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The Insufferably Boring Left

Joe Giambrone
Love him or hate him, Swamp Thing sure does make a lot of noise. One badly completed Tweet sends the world into a frenzy for days, #covfefe.

The Left, not so much. Unless it’s Kathy Griffin being excoriated for daring to hold up a puppet, and that’s largely the result of the right’s echo chamber of hatred. They smelled blood in the water, and by the end of the day a dozen highly original memes showed her chopping off her own head. Ted Nugent’s death threats against Obama received little play, despite his chumming it up inside the Oval Office with Swampy the Victim.

The bread and butter Left propagandists, churning out their daily diatribes, are far less compelling though. Those with microphones and unlimited podcast time are the worst offenders. It goes on and on and on, and I can’t imagine average shlubs enduring more than a couple of minutes. That’s all I can take, and I already agree.

The Left just doesn’t get how to make their messages palatable, and they’re losing–with a few notable exceptions. Robert Reich used to produce short videos featuring a white board that were usually a bit too long, but more impactful than most. Jimmy Dore fills time, but usually he’s got better things to say and imbues it with some humor. A number of these Left echo chambers send out images of pointedly cogent Tweets, and these pithy memes cut through the noise.

Other Young Turks shows are wastelands of endless half-assed babble, and no expertise on display. With the 2016 chaos more progressives started streaming video, and with zero production value or show conceptualization, these are frankly unwatchable. Prior to those, the Greens could usually be found delivering long-winded speeches and essentially saying the same things, the same phrases, for hours. It turns people off to politics when even the opposition you like makes it unbearable to sit through. There’s no entertainment value, and that’s the problem.

Those who would lead the revolution against the right need to take cues on how to expand into the mainstream. It’s not enough to preach to the choir, no matter how ego-fulfilling it may seem. The great blob in the center is a tough audience with no patience, infinite choices at their fingertips, and they need to be attracted, sold on a concept, and released back into the wild before it becomes burdensome.

Filling time is not going to win them over. The luxury of the infinite podcast has been a great negative, a dead end, as it generally turns people off to podcasts and videocasts. These offer very little useful information per unit of time. There isn’t enough there to justify the time commitment. Time is money, or even more valuable. Time is life itself: treat it that way.

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WHY A DIRECTOR SHOULDN’T EDIT THEIR OWN MOVIE

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I never analyzed this scene in such depth, counting shots and all. It is my favorite film though. I think the announcer guy reads into it in one place that is unwarranted.

Funny Business

Posted: May 3, 2015 in -
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We need to pair this video technology with this audio technology, and you’ll start to get the bigger picture…

When Seeing and Hearing Isn’t Believing

 

And shit, combine that with the myriad OFFENSIVE capabilities of intelligence, NSA etc., and it is truly the end of reality for the little fish of the world.

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I actually watch more movies than I write about here.  Some are so inconsequential (early 70s vampire soft core?), and some are so stupid that they don’t even deserve mention.  Okay, there’s embarrassment for having chosen and sat through them at all.  We’ve all been there.  I’m pretty open-minded and end up there a lot.

One such film that I decided to ignore here was The Internship with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughan.  If I bothered to review it, then I would have started by complaining how I felt like I was raped by Google Inc.  The product placement has become the movie, a new level of corporate psychological malfeasance.  Additionally, The Internship was stuffed with formula, unfunny generational humor and tired shtick.  Google should have gotten an executive producer credit and probably put up a chunk of money to remind us of the glory of Google, about a hundred times.

It’s a bit disturbing that the trend is toward corporate promotion and away from art, away from storytelling that matters to people (if that ever was a concern in Hollywood). I may have to belt the next knob who utters the Satanic phrase “branded entertainment.”  Bill Hicks discussed a similar situation two decades ago.

Crass marketing calculus has become the product.  The concern is no longer a wonderful story that brings along side benefits.  The only concerns are the side benefits.

Other films I’ve not bothered reviewing include The Master, which I didn’t take to.  Who could, really?  It was a dismal and ugly thing, quite unlike the other film mentioned, but still it didn’t resonate enough to warrant an additional review.  I’d already posted someone’s take on it here, and I didn’t feel it really earned a revisiting.

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The Total Recall remake was mind numbingly bad too, but I spared the readers hoping it would just fade away like a bad commercial.  The cheezy 80s Arnold version gains in stature.  Others that passed by the wayside include The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, Identity Thief, Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie and The Other Guys.  None of these will end up in any pantheon of great comedies no matter how dumbed down the future may be.

I’ve watched and rewatched films, searching for gems, but when they don’t stand out I spare the readers. Yesterday morning I finished watching Hello Herman, a little indie film about the death penalty and school spree massacres.  I wasn’t going to post about it as it’s just not done very well.  The budget of course was a factor but also the specific execution.  Not terrible, but not terribly consequential either.

Today I watched the 1999 film Beat, with Courtney Love and Kiefer Sutherland.  This little historical drama tells of how William S. Burroughs murdered his wife.  Not a terrible film, but also not clicking.  Not worthy of its own post, I’m not going to pretend it’s a Cult Classic or Under the Radar.  The Burroughs barrage of insanity, Naked Lunch, however, directed by David Cronenberg is a true mind bender.

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So many movies fall short that it’s rather a shame in terms of wasted resources, time, effort.  A couple years back they were submitting 10,000 films per year to the Sundance Festival.  That’s 10k full length movies, not shorts, not scripts.

The current film explosion is resource unfriendly, gobbling up time, money and dreams.  The opportunity costs are significant.  All that effort could have been put to something else.  I’ve been of the opinion that 90% of them are just a waste of human potential and the viewer’s time.  How to get to the good ones without a flood of the ghastly?  Can the top 5% exist without the 95% missed opportunities?  Seems that so many aim low, confident in their exploitative power: selling sex, selling violence, selling revenge, selling torture porn.  Of the ones that actually try harder, why so many botched efforts?  Have we seen it all?  Is there nothing new under the sun?

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I think the industry grinds on because it is an industry.  People are in it for the paycheck, and whatever else their “product” foists on the world is not important to most of the people involved. The ideas being spread are largely out of their control, and people need to work.  This capitalist system is responsible for churning out mercenary art, art that exists solely because of the money flows. The participants concoct elaborate defenses as to why their system, the one they are personally invested in, is so valid, but the results, to the dispassionate observer, don’t appear so glorious.

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To me, a pontificating Internet blowhard of questionable character, it’s not hard to differentiate a good short film from a bad one.  There’s a very easy litmus test, and it usually works.  It works so well that I click right on out of there when a film fails this test, and I have a strong suspicion that I’m not alone.

Perhaps festival snob judges use different criteria (a probability).  Perhaps the masses use this one.

Here is the magical secret to a short film that is truly worth spreading:


A good short film feels too short, and a bad short film feels too long.

That’s it.  That’s the whole ballgame.  I can stop writing now.  It’s the same criteria for longer works as well, but this basic characteristic, this essential and fundamental property of good film vs. bad is usually the last thing that most amateur filmmakers consider.  They obsess over every other aspect of making a movie, the nuts and the bolts.  They don’t even consider the editing of the thing until everything is shot.  Then they don’t want to cut the excruciatingly boring stuff, because a lot of work went into filming it in the first place.  These decisions should have been made at the script stage, in pre-production, thinking about why every shot actually is needed or isn’t.  But more importantly: why the shots they have written are boring and don’t convey enough story in a short enough amount of time.

Craft shots that give multiple channels of information to the viewer, instead of leaving viewers waiting, and waiting, and waiting for your God damned pretentious piece of shit to actually start.

That means an inciting incident right at the beginning that can hook people and set up an interesting story.  Without front-loading your film with a unique and meaningful opening scene you’re dead.  You are done.  I have already clicked onto something else, and I have no regrets about leaving you behind.

Now these are general principles, and building it is easier said than done.  How does one craft an opening scene that can hook people and ensure they keep watching?

Well no one can tell you that.  It’s subjective, entirely dependent on the story.  Each story has its own trajectory, its own unique set of parameters, unless you’re copying others and basically stealing (in which case a career on Wall Street might be more appropriate rather than in the arts).  Art is supposed to take it to the next level, to build, to make connections that others simply hadn’t made before.  Even working in a genre, new situations and consequences can, and must, present themselves.  Remakes of popular films tend to innovate new twists.  Or else what’s the point?  What is the point of shoveling the same story?  Why are you, the filmmaker, required at all?  A machine can rehash the past, and probably with better efficiency.

But the main problem in most short films I come across (and that is quite a lot) is that they are boring as fucking hell on ice.  The opening scenes don’t portend anything at all.  They aren’t intricately thought out situations, and they aren’t much of a story.  They are banal, trivial, pointless and not worth watching.

Perhaps I’m jaded, not wowed by the ability of twenty-somethings to press record on a DSLR.  Perhaps even with filmic visuals the pretty pictures’ complete lack of meaning and drama registers most with me.

Film is dramatic if it is anything.  It needs the conflict of opposing ideas (and an educated writer).  It needs the spark of antagonism.  Something must be off and the resolution unclear.  That’s what compels us to keep watching.  A camera can meander down all the long boring hallways of the world, but who cares?  Each second and each frame of film must be justified: why are you wasting the audience’s time?

When one looks at a photograph he or she can look for a second or for a minute.  The choice is up to them.

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When one looks at a movie, the duration of every image has been decided by someone else for them.  They are powerless, stuck, trapped, helpless, at the mercy of the editor now.  Film exists in time.  Time is a factor that is a basic fundamental aspect of every shot, every scene, every sequence, and the work as a whole.  Time is unique to moving pictures and needs to be considered as an important aspect of the process.  It needs to be considered at various stages and reconsidered over and over again until the finished film doesn’t waste the audience’s time at any point.

Wasting a minute of screen time on scenery may not seem like an egregious sin.  But with 1,000 people in the audience, you’ve wasted 1,000 minutes of people’s lives on the scenery.  That’s not a formula for success, I’m sorry to say, but it happens all the time.  Economy in the presentation is paramount.

That means giving people more and more of the story through as many channels as possible.  This is where amateurs and professionals tend to diverge.

Reveal vs. conceal is the eternal struggle for writers of all media.  When is the correct moment to show something, and will showing it reveal too much, making the story predictable?  This is where experience and knowledge make all the difference.  Apparently most of these boring films err on the side of concealing everything.  They don’t want to give away the ending, and so they keep it all hidden until the last scene.  Unfortunately, no one is watching by then.  The problem needs a more nuanced approach, a way to reveal a larger truth in tiny increments.  These stages of revelation are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that come together and suddenly jump to life at the end.  Figuring the correct sequence of incremental revelations (and getting it moving soon) is the crux of the game.

A good film will hit the viewer with sound and imagery in abundance: background sounds, foreground sounds, music, specially chosen sound effects that are relevant to the story, foreground imagery, background imagery, the perfect location, the perfect lighting, the perfect camera motion, a perfect transformation as the drama unfolds during a take.  While the student film lingers on some background scenery, the more accomplished film has already conveyed a dozen things about the world, the characters and the conflict to the audience.  The interplay of background to foreground in visuals and in audio keeps the watchers watching.  Shots should be mined for opportunities to give clues in the background as well as in the foreground, by the first frame as well as the last frame of a shot.  The action that unfolds during a shot can convey many different pieces of information, if one abandons linear thinking.

Front-loading, providing sufficient story information up front to set up the narrative through to the end, is the major missing ingredient in bad shorts.  The boring films just exist on a simple linear line.  The amazing films exist on multiple lines of storytelling, weaving a tapestry. Boring films focus on a single, obvious and unremarkable element, and hope that people will wait for something interesting to happen later – maybe.  Films need to start interesting and accelerate from there.  Life’s too short.

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