September 5, 2014 at 4:45PM

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Opinions on this short film

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What would you change? What are the shortcomings in your mind? What do you want to improve for the next one?

September 6, 2014 at 10:25AM, Edited September 6, 10:25AM

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Michael Markham
Actor/Filmmaker
975

I think my use of camera angles really lacks as an influencing my story. How could I improve upon that aspect of the film?

September 7, 2014 at 3:38PM

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Mitchell Cannon
Director
111

Well there are a lot of things to thing about here. I think the weakest aspect of what you shot is how the subject/focus of the shot is almost always in the center of the frame. consider the entirety of the composition. Like the shot of the phone in the pocket. The phone is clearly the focus but it's not quite center, but not really off center in a strong way, and you have movement that is cut off on the left side of frame that is distracting, then the shot moves up with the phone to put his face (the new focus) as close to center frame as you can. Move/zoom in or out so we aren't distracted by the hands on the fishing pole that are kind of in frame. Then when we move up the face, try to give it a stronger possition like the right third, leaving some empty blue sky on the other side of frame. Not this just makes the picture more practical and pretty.

The next questions is what are you trying to tell us about the character with this shot. That is peaceful time fishing is disturbed by his mother's intrusion, or that he is an imbalanced person? Or something else. If its the first you could start with a wide shot showing the serene nature and his quite harmony with it then cut to a real close up of the phone that moves up to his face to see how he has been disturbed. If the second you could take the shot you have and move back and move the phone to the left of frame so the fishing is cut off entirely it creates an imbalanced picture as if we are sneaking a look at this guy. Then the camera follows the phone up to his face which is now on the left of frame looking left out the short side of the frame at a phone that is possibly off screen creating more imbalance and tension.

These are just two simple ideas, neither might be right. You could also make a simpler stiller wide shot with no movement and rely on the actor to explode in a way that disturbs the balance of the scene. (however I wouldn't trust these actors with much.)

Something else to consider is your setting. I didn't really understand where you were or the geography of the space. look at when the hobo arrives. We have a nice line of action from behind the actors. we see him arrive in the over the shoulder then see him start to fish, then back around to our guy. we have the guy on right and the hobo on left. then we cut to a square on shot of the dock with the guy on the left of frame which is kind of a nice shot, but doesn't fit with the visual language of their relationship to each other. He comes toward camera and exits frame right, which would be away from the hobo in our understanding of the space. Then we cross the line to see them from front and our guy enters the left of frame. this is jarring and I feel like I don't understand the geography or how they are positioned in it.

Now I'm not a stickler for the "The line" I cross it in almost everything I do. But I am always conscious of it and what it will do to the viewer and how it affects the story. That doesn't seem the case here.

Also, where are we? a camp ground? a strange farm? and public park? why is this story set here? I'm assuming that the story isn't set here and this was just the space you had available to you. Well that needs to be dealt with. Either you need to adjust the story to fit the space or you need to hide the fact that you are in a park with how you frame it and which direction you shoot. All of the details of set, costume and props affect the story and whether or not we believe it. If you are going to set something at odds with what we in the real world would expect you have to set up the language of the world and give us time to get used to that.

I don't want to be harsh, just honest. The language of this film is,"filmmaker with few resources makes film anyway trying to ignore what doesn't work." We often can't get our first choice of anything. But you have to make a movie that looks like every set, costume, prop, actor, line of dialogue was exactly what you wanted. If all you have is a park and you can't hide when you shoot, then set the story at a park. don't just put it there. The can be done as simply as adding a single line of dialogue, "Why are you here at Hubbard Park?". But sometimes adding dialogue can be the worst thing you could do. you have to add characters or re-frame the entire story and re-write half of it.

Don't put anything in the frame that doesn't tell the story. Now this is harder to do the fewer resources you have. But that's when we are forced to get creative. There are thousands of examples of artists who did their best work when they were forced to surmount obstacles and lack of resources. Then when they get famous and have money to do their work it stops being relevant or interesting, or becomes masturbatory as they are only scratching some personal itch.

And we all struggle with it. I would suggest asking, "What do I have available to me and what story can I tell with it?" or "I really want to tell this story, how can I hack what I have to do it, or how can I tweak it tell it with what I have?" Then build from there.

On a couple technical notes. You need to do something with the sound. the way the background noise keeps kicking in and out is very distracting. I bet you are using on camera sound. get some clean room tone and lay it under everything. You may have to add noise to some of it or use post software to take some of the noise out. But you need to smooth those transitions. Beg, borrow, or steal, but get a mic that you can put near your actors. A shotgun on a boom, a cheap Chinese lav plugged into a smartphone, hell a used zoom recorder duck taped to the end of a stick, but get a mic near your actors. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money. Or just tell stories where the camera is close to them. Work within your limitations and find ways to Hack your way out of them.

Hope this helps. if you have other questions, fire away.

September 9, 2014 at 10:20AM

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Michael Markham
Actor/Filmmaker
975

It's been a while, but I've tired to take some of what you suggested and tired to apply.

https://vimeo.com/128944320

May 27, 2015 at 11:32AM

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Mitchell Cannon
Director
111

First off, I really liked the grade on this - you have a really strong visual style. In my opinion, and this is totally a subjective thing, many of the aspects of your style (whether that be the narrative, direction, shot type, and tone) could use a little more subtlety. I think if your message wasn't so close to the surface your film would have more impact. You wouldn't have a character turn to the camera and state a life lesson or moral, so instead of letting that drive your dialogue, leave enough room for the viewer to search out and find your meaning. Some great advice I got from a director this past summer - "ground your characters and dialogue in a story, not a concept. Never underestimate the viewer, spoon-feeding is worse than temporary confusion or a detail flying over their head." He said all he sees are high concept films with archetypal shells of characters running around and a plot twist thrown in as the new formula for a "successful" student film narrative. His other great piece of advice was that plot and story are two separate things, and that the story should always drive the plot, and not the other way around. The second your plot starts to influence your story is the second your audience remembers they are watching a film.

Hope this helps, best of luck!

September 6, 2014 at 5:01PM

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Chandler Desforges
Director | Cinematographer | Composer
54

Thank you! That was some really good advice, I see where the dialogue shouldn't so obviously state a moral. To be a better filmmaker and writer, my films have to undertake a dramatic change for the better. I agree with your thoughts.

September 7, 2014 at 3:34PM

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Mitchell Cannon
Director
111

It's a nice try but lots of things should be fixed.
For your next short, try to use better use of audio, or don't use audio at all. It really cuts the feeling if the audio keeps cutting.
Try to use a steady cam to avoid the handshake.
The acting was not very good.
Im not being negative, it is GOOD that you did a short film, that's how people start. Keep it up bud

September 9, 2014 at 12:50AM

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Tommy Plesky
Director / D.P / Editor
1934

It's horrible!

I want to see your next film!

Know what I mean?

October 6, 2014 at 8:11PM

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Alex Zakrividoroga
Director
3815

Well, I think the main thing you need to work on is, as of technical aspects, the audio and lighting. Also I felt at the beginning that this was going to be a comedy short film but it turned out to be the opposite. You know what I mean? I felt disoriented as to what was this about. You could try to focus your story a little more for the next one.. Keep on practicing and making stuff if you really feel passionate about this :)

October 7, 2014 at 1:45PM

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Jesús J. Borges
Storyteller
149

I actually like this a lot. It needs lots and lots of improvement, but I would consider keeping this tucked away for later. Maybe try your hand at this film again in a year or so and see how it's improved?

Framing, acting, and pacing are the major flaws in this. For this film I would have gone for the handheld look. Not extreme, just some freeing motion, instead of the stillness of a tripod. I won't comment on the fisherman with the t-shirt's acting, but I loved the hobo dude. He seemed very down-to-earth, although he touched his face one too many times at the beginning of his monologue.

The monologue- loved it. Okay? That's some good writing. That's the high point of this piece I think... a simple lesson that's hard to learn.

October 9, 2014 at 1:10AM

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Torsten Pearson
Writer-Director-Editor
362

We're always growing in our craft, and I'm going to echo what another guy said - don't get hung up on the things you did wrong. Celebrate the fact you made a short film, then go at it again. And again. And again. Just keep shooting.

November 28, 2014 at 12:25AM

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The long dialog from the hobo was good but keep in mind that - if you were there in person, where would your eyes be? Once you have a sense of who is speaking, you would likely look occasionally at the listener to see his transforming attitude to what was being said. When you watch good film, you'll see that the camera is quite often NOT on the talking head but, perhaps, and I believe in this case, the progressive changing of attitude of the listening/maturing character would really carry the audience progressively and move the story forward.
Shooting across the speaker to the listener adds continuity to a cut to a solo of the listener and the shorter visuals with the long dialog keeps it interesting. A solo closeup is a punctuation - the longer you hold on it the less effect it has, but of course, sometimes a compelling character (that you can't take your eyes/camera off of) gets a longer take.
Also, you went long on location and lost the light so I was left wondering where the afternoon went in a 5 minute scene with 2 hours of light change. That caused another issue; large aperture with less depth of field, making even slight movements go out-of-focus. If you have access to an actual 3-chip pro video camera, then the focus and to some degree, light loss would have been less of an issue. I agree with a previous post about sound. Like most viewers, I tolerate so-so visuals with great audio more than the opposite. A good film is 2 or 3 great scenes and no bad ones.
When you stop learning, you are in the grave or you've just given up. Keep producing and keep learning and sharing. Thank you for sharing your film.

November 28, 2014 at 9:01PM

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Len Savage
Producer / Director; TV & film
67

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