I followed a twitter feed from the National Screen Institute for a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon as it doled out pointers to filmmakers contemplating the creation of a short film.
The thread was probably mostly there to promote the NSI's "Best Short Film Workshop Ever" which you can find by linking above. But it featured a lot of worthwhile technical and creative advice.
It was also embedded with tips on dealing with the bureaucracies a Canadian filmmaker will have to navigate in order to get his short film:
b) accepted at a film festival
The overall feeling I came away with from that part was "Jesus, they're everywhere!" -- as in -- bad enough that government functionaries have pretty much smothered the feature film industry, now they're fanning out to complicate the lives of those taking a crack at something ten minutes long.
Do you sometimes get the feeling that the nation might be upended if as much as a short snippet of digital format gets out there without being pre-vetted?
Imagine how frightening the situation may become once that Internet thing arrives and people without any CMF stamps of approval at all learn to upload!!!
But I digress…
Making short films is hard.
Creatively hard because it's tough to cram all the dramatic elements you need to tell any story into the few fleeting moments of a short format. That's a point brought home in detail by an article on writing animation in the new issue of "Canadian Screenwriter" (available at fine newsstands everywhere and even a couple of airports).
They're also physically hard because more often than not you're the Little Red Hen who ends up doing most of the work because even your best friends don't want to give you their whole weekend for a couple of beers and some pizza.
It's also tough because for most filmmakers a short film is their calling card, their only tangible opportunity to show a little of the individuality and flair that might get them noticed by others in the industry. And virtually none of that is quantifiable up front.
But now it seems, quantify you must, at least if you want any help from those nice people from the government who are only there to help.
And help with the money is particularly nice in the world of shorts because your chances of earning anything from the final product is unlikely unless you can offload your Festival goody-bags on eBay.
As an example of a great short film, however, the NSI linked to an undeniably great short film, New Zealand director Taika Waititi's "Two Cars, One Night".
Filmed in 2003, "Two Cars" went on to be nominated for an Academy Award and was such a stunning calling card that it helped Waititi make his first feature "Eagle vs Shark".
In an interview, he described the making of the film as follows:
"It's freaky enough trying to make your first film alone and then on top of that working with kids who've never acted before and a remote location. I realized very quickly that to direct a film you don't need a great deal of technical skill or talent. All you have to have is a feeling for something -- and be able to make a decision really fast."
Again elements it's hard to quantify up front.
Maybe the best way to find the next generation of filmmakers doesn't come from constructing an obstacle course of bureaucratic hoops or providing professional guidance to a chosen few.
Maybe it comes from creating an open source environment where anybody with a "feeling for something" can get their hands on a DSL camera and a couple of willing actors.
Perhaps that's a recipe for chaos. But when you watch "Two Cars, One Night", consider why these kids in it are where the story places them. And ask yourself if the message that sends or implies might have been "adjusted" had it been constructed under bureaucratic scrutiny.
Then set those thoughts aside and give yourself over to a remarkable first film.
And Enjoy your Sunday.