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My First Short Film- Dead Silent


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#1 Zamir Merali

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Posted 06 August 2006 - 07:44 AM

Hey
I just completed my first short movie made over the span of 1 week. I would really like some feed back so that I know what to do for my next short movie. After having personally looked back at the movie I think that for my next movie I need to focus more on good composition and pacing. This short movie has bit of a slow start and the sound is suffering because I don't have a microphone and had to dub everything in post using my cameras built in mic. Anyway I hope you enjoy and be very critical

Thanks Alot


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#2 Zamir Merali

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Posted 09 August 2006 - 03:31 PM

Hi

I'm gettin lots of views but no critiques here. I'm not sure if it's because I am doing something wrong when I post my work or if it is because my movie is so bad. Don't keep me in suspense, tell me the truth.



Hi

I'm gettin lots of views but no critiques here. I'm not sure if it's because I am doing something wrong when I post my work or if it is because my movie is so bad. Don't keep me in suspense, tell me the truth.
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#3 Jason Debus

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Posted 09 August 2006 - 05:10 PM

The story moves a little slow, I really felt like turning it off in the first minute or two. There really needs to be something a little more interesting going on, I couldn't tell what was really happening until about halfway through. Camera work was just adequate, personally I don't like the handheld look for everything. Your right in that the composition needs to be more interesting. You could try locking down the camera for some shots and try to get the composition perfect.

I liked the 'twist' at the end though. I was totally expecting her to wake up at the end (since 'no sound' is a common technique to communicate it's a dream), and when she telegraphed it saying 'it's just a dream' I thought that was a story-telling mistake until ....

I just watched Polanski's Repulsion last night, it has some good 'dream sequences' techniques-wise with how the sound is handled. I realize this piece is slightly different but you might get some ideas from it. Also check out Soderbergh's Equilibrium from the Eros DVD which he used soft focus and odd camera movement (along with sound) to tell the viewer that it is distorted reality.
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#4 Thom Stitt

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Posted 10 August 2006 - 04:41 AM

Okay, Okay. I'll be the one to say it. I feel bad that there aren't many replies, and I do want to give you some very genuine feedback. So here comes the brutal honesty.

This looks like it was made by someone under 14 - I realize that's a possibility. If so, that's fine, you've got plenty of time to learn the ropes.

If you're around 16 or older, there's not much excuse for this. You need to get studying. Really start WATCHING movies. If you want to just do an exercise, take a good scene from a film you like, one you think is well shot, and recreate it PROPERLY. Not just the action. The lens length (that's "zoom" on your budget handicam), the position, the angle, the mood. Work hard on it, dammit.

It's amateur hour from the very first frame. I will admit that a big turnoff from the get-go is your format. This looks like a 400 dollar Sony miniDV handicam or worse. I only mention it first because it was my first impression - it doesn't really matter YET - I wouldn't suggest upgrading to another format until you dealt with a few more problems first.

You mentioned that you want to work on shot composition. It goes way beyond shot composition here - the majority of shots in this video are completely unnecessary. The coverage is confusing - It looks almost like it was edited in camera, and the shots were chosen based on convenience rather than storytelling. You need to train yourself to see cuts and shots that don't work. So much of this film's coverage is completely jarring.

I suggest taking a by-the-book approach to cinematography and directing before doing a whole lot of experimenting on your own. Learn about the line of action (also called the 180 degree rule), the 30 degree rule, and study up on coverage points. Then when you shoot your next project, plan it in detail first, down to EVERY SINGLE SHOT. You should never cut or take a shot if it isn't enhancing the story. I can tell by watching this that you probably didn't consider each and every shot with much contemplation. If you did, it doesn't show - this really looks like a point-and-shoot affair. If you want to be a filmmaker, your shots need to be your babies. You really, honestly need to care about them. Otherwise, you might as well be writing screenplays, not directing.

This film has very, very little craft behind it. Work really hard on your craft if you want to continue. I'm assuming you're very young, and if so that's fantastic. Get a head start now and you'll be leagues ahead a few years down the road.
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#5 Zamir Merali

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Posted 11 August 2006 - 01:59 PM

Thanks alot Thom S

This is exaclty the type of feedback I wanted, brutaly honest straight to the point. I'm definately going to try to follow your tips. Hopefully my next project will be a lot better. Now that you mention all these flaws I feel embaressed about even posting this movie on the internet but I guess critique is the only way I'l get better.

Edited by Zamir Merali, 11 August 2006 - 02:03 PM.

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#6 Zamir Merali

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Posted 11 August 2006 - 05:32 PM

You mentioned that you want to work on shot composition. It goes way beyond shot composition here - the majority of shots in this video are completely unnecessary. The coverage is confusing - It looks almost like it was edited in camera, and the shots were chosen based on convenience rather than storytelling. You need to train yourself to see cuts and shots that don't work. So much of this film's coverage is completely jarring.


I have a bit of an idea of what you mean when you say lots of unnecessary shots but just to clarify what would you say is a section that has way too many unnecessary shots and confusing coverage. This is just so I can get an idea of what i should not do. Thanks.
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#7 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 12 August 2006 - 03:30 AM

So here comes the brutal honesty.

This looks like it was made by someone under 14 - I realize that's a possibility. If so, that's fine, you've got plenty of time to learn the ropes...



...This film has very, very little craft behind it. Work really hard on your craft if you want to continue. I'm assuming you're very young, and if so that's fantastic. Get a head start now and you'll be leagues ahead a few years down the road.


I'm not so sure I think age has anything to do with how well a person makes a film. I mean, if you are new to film at 80, are you going to be better than someone new to film at 14?

I watched the film and I think it is on par with many other first films I have seen outside of the fact that the camera used was not as good as some people with bigger bucks but that isnt a technical flaw on your part. That is a monetary constraint.

ThomS, I think you were honest from your perspective but I dont think you really give much room for encouragement. I highly doubt that your first film was all that great either but the process he went through making this film is much more of a teacher than all your storyboarding ideas, book reading, and criticisms combined. Filmmaking really is a hands on thing.

As far as storyboarding goes, I know a lot of, IMO, great filmmakers who dont storyboard at all. Some people like to go with the flow and see what will work best at the time. All the planning in the world will not prepare you for what's going to happen on the set, especially if something unprecedented happens.

For the one who made this film, you are not any worse of a beginning filmmaker than anyone else. Consider the points that everyone has made but ultimately learn by DOING. If everyone did what someone else told them, there would never be innovation.
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#8 Thom Stitt

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Posted 12 August 2006 - 03:14 PM

Filmmaking really is a hands on thing.


That's of course true - and sure a lot of young filmmakers' first films - and I do mean FIRST films - don't look much better than this, I agree. I say young filmmakers, because anyone shooting their first films as actual FILMS and not video tended to have better material. There's a very simple reason for that.

When you shoot film stock, you're required to learn quite a bit about how to shoot beforehand. You need to get your exposures right, sure, but most of all you need to BUDGET YOUR STOCK. This forces creative efficiency. When you have all the 60-minute tapes in the world, you can pretty much run wild. Remember those early films of Steven Spielberg, the ones he did when he was just a child? Pretty damned impressive stuff. I know I was always jealous, mine looked like crap, I was using my neighbor's VHS camcorder back in the 80s, and those early video systems age terribly.

But regardless - the early films, before you've learned anything, don't tend to get a whole lot better in repeated tries. I honestly believe that you need to train your eye before you can really start to grow. You can spend as much time shooting movies as you want, it may give you plenty of experience in on-set problem solving, but as far as the actual craft - forming a visual narrative that really works - there comes a point where you need to do more than that. You need to study film, you need to really learn what a lot of the precedents are - especially if you're planning on breaking them. I think it's crucial. And the younger you start, the better you're going to be. Young people are so incredibly, INCREDIBLY lucky these days - we have netflix, the internet, practically every movie ever made is available by download or mail order or at a local dvd rental joint. Hell, you can log onto Youtube and watch The Great Train Robbery and Le Voyage dans la Lune!! What a resource for budding filmmakers! I say, immerse yourself in the good stuff, completely immerse yourself. It'll drive you to make much better films.

ThomS, I think you were honest from your perspective but I dont think you really give much room for encouragement.


What I hope this kind of criticism does is light a fire under a person. I know it does for me - I've been brutalized critically, and while it's made me angry at the critic, it's also motivated me strongly to do better. I know not everyone is like this, but I think anyone aiming to DIRECT in film had better work on it. I wish I had someone light that fire under me when I was younger. My videos were more about just having fun going through the process of movie-making - but I didn't seem drawn too much to the fact that it looked like garbage. The novelty of seeing a movie I planned playing on my tv overwhelmed everything else.

And also, regarding the age thing - I think it's pretty safe to assume that this person is pretty young, teens maybe? and the reason for that is the actors. This film DOES remind me of early movies by myself and my friends - we acted in our own stuff. If I directed, I'd use my sister, her friends, my friends. I'd get everyone I could. Sometimes parents. Look at the setting in this video - Clearly not the result of excessive location scouting (which is FINE). The entire movie feels very youthful. If a 30-something made this, I'd be pretty much completely shocked (maybe because a 30-something is more likely to make a dialogue-heavy R-rated relationship story, but who knows).

My first movie was a scifi story in which an alien planet crashes to earth, and the two planets somehow meld to create an alien-earth. Everyone in the world is knocked out - the film begins (after a terrible stop motion opening titles sequence in which a play-dough planet crashes onto a spinning globe) with people everywhere waking up mysteriously, not knowing what's happening (too many first films begin with waking up - appropriate though it is). From there, I could tell you all I want about how the story's about paranoia and how the main character comes to realize that his friends aren't really his friends at all, and the people you thought you knew are something else entirely - but really that's crap. It was us at 6 and 7, basically playing in front of the camera. I had a script I had written (it read like a short story), and which I didn't use because I felt I knew the story well enough to not bother. Really, we just had more fun making it up as we went.

At 12 and 13, my movies were no better. The subject matter had changed. We liked the blood and guts by this point. But the craft had not developed much from that first piece of crap I did half my lifetime earlier.

It wasn't until around 16 that I started getting serious about WATCHING films, and gaining all that knowledge hidden in them.

...what would you say is a section that has way too many unnecessary shots and confusing coverage?


To give you an idea, I'll briefly break down the first minute for you. I'll try to stray away from critiquing the shot composition, acting, etc, and try to concentrate on the editing and shot efficiency.

Your first cut takes us from a close up to a medium-close, and it's a jump cut. It looks like the camera pretty much stayed where it was and zoomed out. Maybe ever so slightly higher. But it is a jump. The important thing is that we're establishing her sleepy confusion.
We cut again to a medium shot. It's establishing the same thing again, for the third shot in a row. Sure, the alarm clock's in the shot now, which she reaches for, but this is not a reason to cut to a whole new shot.
Then an insert of her hand grabbing it.
back to the medium shot.
POV of the alarm clock showing a time we already know from the first frame of the film.
close up of her line.
insert of the alarm clock tossed onto the bed.
medium-close of her moving the covers.
medium-wide of her standing up in bed.
insert of legs beneath the covers move. a bit of a jump because the camera still hasn't seemed to have moved.
medium of her tripping forward.
back to insert of legs.
full shot on floor of her landing.
empty wide shot of her standing.
crossing the line to the other side of the room, now she's looking to the right of frame instead of left, and it's a closeup.
wide of her slumping into chair. probably the longest shot in the first minute at about 7 to 8 seconds.
cut to medium at her looking at something.
insert of computer, her finger pushes the button.

There's the first minute. Nearly 20 cuts, which averages to nearly a cut every 3 seconds. Pay attention to what each shot does for you - there's a lot of repetition and I could ask a lot of questions - I could probably ask you for nearly every single shot, why this? why that? why this?

The story of the first minute is a girl waking up having slept in, she's groggy and clumsy.
How awake are you in that state? Pretty alert? Is your mind jumping all over the place? It's more likely to be crawling, sluggish, unsure of what's real.
our perspective in this opening is extremely alert and jumpy, it clashes with the action, and it doesn't really cut together.
This sentence may not make a lot of sense, but I'll still say it: You've got to tell the story you're telling.
The language of film, again, influences EVERYTHING that's being told visually. Your shots are everything. Whether you're trying to create a dream state, or you're just showing a light-hearted comedy - either the shots are going to create an alternate reality like a dream or a fantasy for the audience to be hypnotized by, or they're going to completely disappear and the audience is left to be enraptured in the story. The camera is also your point of view - Many films have quite a personality to the camera. Is it neutral, curious, impatient? How are we, as an audience, going to perceive this story?

Your movie draws so much attention to itself with all the questionable shots and jumpcuts that it achieves neither. Once you train yourself to think in a completely different language - the language of the moving picture - you'll be on your way to learning the craft.

And also, I'm a kid myself, I'm really no teacher. lakmir0 mentioned that you shouldn't just obey a discipline. That's true. The best thing is to learn as much as you possibly can. The idea I think is that before you go "breaking the rules", you need to be a master of them first.

Though most people agree that the secret truth is, there are no rules.
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#9 Kirk Productions

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Posted 15 August 2006 - 07:54 AM

Zamir,

You've gotten your share of feedback for sure. I would add a couple technical things as well. First, I would disregard comments that focus on the type equipment you used, dollar value and such. It is extremely expensive. You can work on refining your skills on things such as those moving shots, versus some tri-pod shots and then slowly upgrade when you feel your talent has earned it. Definitely reduce the quantity of cuts back and forth and just from what I have learned in my short inexperienced career, the hardest part is cutting footage that you have taken as a director. But while editing your footage, watch it, watch it, watch it. Ask yourself as you watch, "does this tell me something I already know?" "Does this add to the story" "Is this even relevant to the story". You will find yourself deleting scenes, reducing length of scenes, etc. You will only use a fraction of the footage you took, particularly with video when you can go crazy sometimes on the amount of footage you shoot.

I would close with this: Lighting, lighting, lighting. Lighting sets the tone of things and helps your camera to focus as well. You can always darken things in post but lighting them in post does not work too well. So, while not to overdo it on lighting, be at least a little more liberal. I found the whole clip to be rather dark and it didnt really look intentional.

Eric



Thanks alot Thom S

This is exaclty the type of feedback I wanted, brutaly honest straight to the point. I'm definately going to try to follow your tips. Hopefully my next project will be a lot better. Now that you mention all these flaws I feel embaressed about even posting this movie on the internet but I guess critique is the only way I'l get better.


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#10 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 19 August 2006 - 06:24 PM

When you shoot film stock, you're required to learn quite a bit about how to shoot beforehand. You need to get your exposures right, sure, but most of all you need to BUDGET YOUR STOCK. This forces creative efficiency. When you have all the 60-minute tapes in the world, you can pretty much run wild.


I totally applaude this statement. This point right here is why I personally believe digital will not overcome film as the professional medium no matter how technically superior digital is supposed to get. (I know this may get backlash.) People, by their very nature, cannot put as much effort into something that is unlimited as in something that is limited. If you are wearing a $9,000 suit, aren't you going to be more careful eating with it on than you would be wearing a $10 t-shirt? Same sentiment here, and I think everyone serious about honing their skills should learn film. But the point is moot because digital is cheap and most people like the cheapness.

I think people like George Lucas actually set a bad example for filmmaker's because he shot over 200 hours of footage for Attack of the Clones on digital. There is no reason at all that anyone should shoot that much footage to get what they need. If you are careful, you shouldn't even need more than a 6:1 shooting ratio. But it was digital so Lucas went off.
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#11 Jimmy Ren

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Posted 06 September 2006 - 04:18 AM

Hello Zamir. Very nice work for your first attempt! It took a while, but after about the half way mark, I started to get more involved in what was happening with the young girl. It may have worked better if you established her plight earlier on. After she realizes that she's trapped in a strange, silent world, you could have had her attempt to do something about it. Escape? Communication? It might have been cool if her father, in the car, received a strange, silent call on his cell phone. Or her brother is afraid to go into her room because he thinks he hears whispers from her. Those kind of things. Anyways, as each of her attempts at communication or escape fail, she becomes increasingly desperate, and this leads to her eventual "suicide." That way you build up to it, otherwise, it seems a little jarring. (But I think you did a good job of filming her suicide. Nice shot of the door too).

Besides the story stuff. I think technically, I agree with Jason when he suggested that you lock down some of your shots. Maybe not so many quick cuts, especially at the beginning of the movie. I also noticed that you followed your actresses everywhere she went: from the alarm to the chair to the window to downstairs, and so on. For expediency, you may want to cut some of those transitions and just cut to the beginning of the next scene at the next location (bedroom, kitchen, balcony).

Once again, nice work and good luck on your next project! :)
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#12 Morgan Peline

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Posted 07 September 2006 - 05:00 PM

I can't get the film to run all the way through yet but....from what I see of the first minute and a half...


Yep, the first section is all cut, cut, cut.

Why?

There's no specific reason...I'm not an editor but I've always been told you should either cut or use a specific shot for a reason. Usually for emphasis. You could have covered the whole sequence in 3 shots: a medium shot, a medium closer-up and a close-up of the clock.

In other words shoot the whole sequence in one size (usually best to start with a wide master to see what the action is) then shoot it all over again in a tighter shot. This gives you the option of deciding when you want to cut in the editing room and also gives you the opportunity to change your mind e.g. for pacing. If you edit in camera or don't cover sequences 'enough' you might dig yourself a hole later if you want to change something.

Also big no no apparently 'verbal exposition' - it's very tv: 'Oh no I'm late!!' is a terrible line. Why not just have her just look miserable when she sees the clock - I'm sure the audience is clever enough to undertand that she is late. If you absolutely have to make a verbal exposition make it in an exciting scene where you don't seem like you are in expostion mode - a tip I've read from a book on directing (it seem squite good actually):

http://www.amazon.co...o...TF8&s=books
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