This week I watched 23 short films.
We technically started class this last Tuesday, but on a very limited basis with only our three lecture classes taking place (no workshop classes). The reason being that the second year class had their “Crit Week” (either Critic Week or Critique Week depending on who you ask).
In first year, we have two main film projects. One is a 3-5 minute short film that we shoot over the Winter break, and the other is an 8-5 minute short film we shoot over the summer break. Crit Week is designed to be the showcase (and critical analysis) of those 8-5 minute productions.
Crit Week was broken into three days (Tues - Thurs) and two major blocks of four hours each day. Each filmmaker gets assigned an hour slot where their 8-12 minute film is shown, then the rest of the hour is spent listening to professors across the various disciplines of film critique and guide the filmmaker in order to help make the film better (through edits, reshoots, ADR, etc) and tell a better story.
They usually scheduled 3-4 simultaneously in classrooms adjacent to one another so when it came to making a decision on which to go see, I relied on the upper year students who would recommend seeing X person’s style or “Y film has a great script”. There were often conflicts, and occasionally I was unable to go into the room I wanted due to capacity. Regardless, I wanted to see as many films as I could.
I missed two films technically. One when a few other first years decided to go get a beer together. I joined them and had a really nice time, but then we wrapped up for them to go home and I realized I had time to make it back for one last scheduled film. The other one I missed was actually one of my most anticipated - a body-horror about a woman, afflicted with body dysmorphia, finds a hole in her body. I had to visit the on-campus medical center for a check-in about my cancer surveillance plan here in the US and it went much longer than expected. Luckily I was able to get the filmmaker to send me a private link to watch it in my own, which I did this morning. It was great.
I learned a lot this week from watching the many films that those only a year ahead of me had put together, and the various comments made by those critiquing. I'm looking forward to the 3-5 films and the opportunity to do something quick and short with those, and to see what the class comes up with.
I did not just learn about story and the filmmaking process though, I was also able to see the various styles, strengths, and weaknesses of the filmmakers in the year ahead of me. I saw some outstanding stories and one even made me cry. There are a few directors that I did not get to see but I heard had made some amazing films, so I still have to reach out to them to see what they put together.
The three classes we had this week were: Elements Of Dramatic Narrative, Fundamentals of Directing, and Practical Production.
Each is going to be interesting in their own way, but the Fundamentals of Directing has me the most excited right now. I have never directed anything besides the rushed short I did for the TIFFxInstagram competition last year. The class has a rotating professor every two weeks where we just learn and discuss the concept of directing for film the whole time. The first class already has me looking at movies differently as we discussed the concept of form vs content and using the image to emphasize emotion and bring attention to dramatic moments.
My favourite quote from the class was:
Art is taking what you love, and organizing it in a way that gives meaning to the audience.
The world is full of content these days, but rarely is it full of art and something worthwhile of our attention. Be picky about where you focus your attention.