Our 2009 48 Hour Film Project!!

Posted by PhillyFilmmaker 
Our 2009 48 Hour Film Project!!
May 04, 2009 04:29PM

Here's our 2009 entry to the 48 Hour Film Project.
Would you happen to have any good tips or tricks to creating a better web version?


Re: Our 2009 48 Hour Film Project!!
May 04, 2009 05:01PM
Heeere we go...

- Pretty good progress on camera. Editing's still sloppy, but no big omissions or major issues that take us out of the story. You need to find a way to make your dialogue scenes more fluid; you still chase the lines heavily. And during the staff meeting, you gave every character a medium close-up -- when they are really non-characters who aren't funny, good or interesting enough. Here's where we get into the real invisible power of editing -- if I were directing this, I'd do moving two-shots, make sure the other characters aren't overemphasized, and making the storytelling more fluid by smoothly panning from one set of characters to the next. Or by "sandwiching" the CEO, and panning left and right to the people on his sides.

It's a very subtle thing to know when you need to not see everything. So congratulations are in order -- you're probably ready to get into the finer points of editing, when a shot might be "too big", "too close" or "too pretty" for what the story wants to do, rather than just "what cuts together". Because your shots here do cut together; it's just that they're too close, giving secondary characters too much emphasis. Like using ALL CAPS for a message that doesn't warrant shouting.

- Some camera moves are still not there. For example, the creep into the MyFace guy's face keeps going long after his beat is already over. Your camera operator still needs to be more sensitive to the rhythm of the scene. Good attempts at in-camera editing, just needs some work.

- The scripting is stronger than most things you've ever done. But some big, big bombs almost ruined it. When the story starts, I was very pleasantly surprised because it created a situation that was immediately interesting. I was quite disappointed to find that the two lovers aren't the protagonist. You missed a major chance, though -- the guitar player is supposed to be an important character, but you missed a chance at making him a better setup. I would have ended that scene on the guitar player foreground and the couple background; he's a more important character than they are. Also, the sound is botched in this scene; the ambience should have been there from the beginning, the guitar needed to be much louder (since it was in the characters' faces), and then it fades out way too much, considering the guitar player has only taken two steps away.

- The "commercial" section is really weak. Not funny, slow. I would have cut the whole thing out, or just left the end of it. It needs much better graphics. A company that's conquering the world won't have such messy, simplistic graphics. Way too much dialogue, as well, and not delivered well. It's a snore.

- The board meeting could have been much tighter. It plays at a painfully slow pace. The guy playing the CEO is weak, trying to "act" far too much, and has a pretty weak presence. Conversely...

- The negotiation scene -- the guitar player does a nice job. Didn't overact, looked the part, looked comfortable. His sound is botched, though -- gotta turn him up. And the CEO gives in way too easily. If you had the resources, it would have been good to show some of the "shutdown" that happens.

- Return to the couples scene -- starts off great, but you didn't milk it enough. It really damaged your message. Would have been much nicer to see them lose the connection to the webpage, desperately try to get back on. Then, against their own wills, they look at each other, and slowly start to reconnect, and discover how bad they are at it, at first. Right now it's just too much of a "screenplay gets its point across", rather than the slow, delicious process of understanding what's happening to a couple of characters in real time, to absorb their real behaviour. Too rushed, and didn't get enough into the meat of the relationship. You could have spent a whole minute with the lovers after the shutdown before they touched again, and your film would not have felt slow, as long as the actors were in the moment. And the people playing the lovers actually had a nice presence.

- Lose the children at the end. Jeez, the story was feeling all right until that blatant attempt at audience manipulation. It almost killed your story, rather than finishing it with a flourish. The couple scene as described above would have done the job nicely. Or, montage to other less crass situations of people reconnecting. That stack of network phones would have been great, as well, if not for those darned kids making it all mushy and manipulative.

- The message of the piece isn't all that profound because it's so commonplace. You didn't do too much that was new, and anybody who doesn't already believe in what you're saying won't be swayed by the film. But it does get across. Sometimes if you're dealing with a somewhat cliched message, you can still make it work by making the piece compelling in and of itself -- make us care about your specific characters and situations, like the couple in the park. So even if we saw the message coming from a mile away, it's still nice to see the people act it out for real.

Good progress I'm seeing. Keep at it, and keep moving in the right direction.

Re: Our 2009 48 Hour Film Project!!
May 13, 2009 10:33AM
I'm glad our progress is improving!

Two things I'm a little fuzzy on. Could you explain 'beats' and 'chasing the lines' a little more?
Re: Our 2009 48 Hour Film Project!!
May 13, 2009 11:20AM
> Could you explain 'beats' and 'chasing the lines' a little more?


Story beats and character beats. Basically, "blocks" of progression. Once a "story beat" happens, the whole story is not the same; you've moved on to something new. Once a "character beat" happens, that character is changed, something has happened. Before you write a screenplay, you usually do a "beat sheet" outlining all the story and character beats, which combine to form a road map to your story.

Your first "story beat", for example, can be synthesized into:

"The whole world is obsessed with the internet. Nobody is connecting on a human level anymore."

Your first "character beat" is:

"John and Jane are dating, but they're talking to each other through ones and zeroes. Even when they're together, they're not. They've lost touch with reality."

A good protagonist needs to:

1. Have a character "arc" -- after the story happens, s/he is never the same.
2. Drive the action -- s/he needs to make things happen in the story, not just have things happen to him/her.
3. Have a "quest" -- a "life need" -- something s/he wants that s/he doesn't have.
4. Be sympathetic. That doesn't mean "be a nice guy/girl"; that means human, complex, interesting and have something to root for. This is very closely tied with the "need" above -- viewers will automatically sympathize with a character who has a strong desire and goes after it, and experiences adversity while on his/her quest.

By these criteria, you actually don't have a protagonist in this story. The couple in the park have an arc, but they don't drive anything in the story; they just experience things without making any difference.

The CEO drives the action, but he's not sympathetic, and the ending doesn't involve him at all. If the ending showed him clutching his head in agony while people the world over get off MyFace, then your story is actually a tragedy -- it's the quest of the CEO to take over, and he fails.

The guitar player drives the main crucial event of the story, but he never changes, and he has no stakes. He is not sympathetic. Likeable, yes, but not sympathetic; we don't root for him, because we don't know what he wants, why he wants it, and what impact it has on his life.

Chasing the line:

If A and B are in a dialogue scene, "chasing the line" means you're cutting to A when A speaks, cutting to B when B speaks, dead on the mark. You're letting the dialogue (lines) dictate your editing completely, instead of letting actor "beats" and story rhythm dictate (actors don't do "acting beats" only when they're speaking; much of acting is behaving, listening and reacting). A good dialogue scene, much like a conversation in real life, is much more fluid than that. If you're watching two people speak in real life, you won't ever just watch the one who's speaking; sometimes you'd want to turn to the person who's listening. I still haven't seen any dialogue scene from you guys that gets a good, flowing, "invisible" editing pattern.

If you cut a dialogue scene right, we won't even notice where the cuts are; we'll be watching the important parts, which are the shots in between the cuts. Your dialogue scenes are too "robotic". When you "chase the line" obsessively, you won't ever get a sense of how Character A is feeling when Character B is speaking. Especially since, in your scene, the only important character in those conversations is the CEO. He could have had the only close-up shot of the scene and it wouldn't have felt deficient, because he's the only one that matters; he's the only one who's going to last beyond this scene.

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