Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Outfest thoughts

Outfest is always a great experience.  Every year, whether all the films are good or not, it’s a great community to be a part of.  Every year I meet more people who are involved, and it’s great to see people putting work out there.

One of the particular joys of Outfest are seeing new filmmakers finding their voices, and seeing imperfect films.  I don’t know why it is with film, but I have a little more patience for an imperfect film than a bad play.  Perhaps because film is what it is, whereas you can see a great script ruined by a bad production of a play.  I suppose you can see that with film as well - maybe it’s more apparent to me in a theater.  Either way, imperfection doesn’t bother me as much in film, and a film festival is a great place to see some risky, challenging, and sometimes imperfect work. Also, some great, affecting, beautiful stuff you don't get to see anywhere else. AND you get to hear the filmmakers talk.

One of the ways I keep myself involved in theater that I’m not enjoying is to redirect it in my head.  I mean, if I’m going to be there and it’s not good, I might as well figure out what’s going wrong to keep myself engaged. People sometimes see this as being too critical, but I see it as a way to keep engaged with a work even if I’m not enjoying it.  Or particularly if I’m not enjoying it.  I’ve started doing the same thing with films, though, as I said, it’s a different experience than stage. There are so many moving parts to a film that are seamless until you see the seams.

That said, here are some random thoughts of things I’ve started to notice this year, without mentioning any particular titles (and, by the way, I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve seen, and I’m hoping to not be specific enough to point anything out)

You can really tell when someone has money or not.  I saw two documentaries with interesting subjects, but one seemed to have a lot more money. I say “seemed”, because I don’t know.  Coincidentally, the one with more money also kept on track to the story it was telling.  The other, less spendy doc had some fascinating digressions, but those digressions made the subject feel thinner than it was, which would not have been a result I would have predicted. They also had less material to work with, and that became apparent as well.  I know more about rights issues now, and can see what a challenge it is to get rights to things, which can hamstring a documentary about popular culture. I still lean toward the docs, though.  I always see great docs at Outfest.

Sound mixing is so important.  I never really got why editors play cuts so loudly, but I did when I was in a theater and it was apparent the movie wasn’t mixed well. Again, money. Sigh.  Not a cheap business.   When the levels are off in a large theater, you can really hear it.

This one goes for theater and for film – think about us. I’m really glad you as an actor or filmmaker are getting something out of this, but folks, think about us. We’re the ones sitting in the audience. I don’t care if you have a catharsis, I care if I do. I’m glad you’re working it out, but remember that we’re watching you do this, hopefully as more a witness or participant than a bystander.

Step outside and ask if it makes sense. If you say, “no one will notice that”, guess what? You’re probably saying it to someone who already has. They mentioned it to you, which means more than likely your audience will, too.  If someone is doing an emotional scene, the last thing you want your audience to be thinking is “how did he get across town without his clothes on?”

Editing is so important, particularly in comedy. I really feel for them. You can’t hear a laugh and come in on the peak like you do on stage, or go on when something misses, you have to figure out what plays.  Then when a large house laughs, you miss some dialogue. Then again, if they don’t, the space is deadly.  What to do?  And in a drama, just as important – scenes can go slack, uninteresting, they can drag on too long or feel to short (thought not as often). 

LA has kind of ruined me for film produced here. If I know a location or a neighborhood, it's jarring when someone is a 30 minute drive away when they turn a corner. I guess that goes for any city, but I can really see it here now that I live here. When someone is sitting in front of a building in Culver City and then they go up to their office overlooking downtown, it's like watching Science Fiction.

I’m excited by Outfest every year. I’m seeing how challenging it is to make a film, but how rewarding for the filmmakers and the audience. Most of these films will not get theatrical distribution, so this might be the only chance to see them in a theater with an audience.  That’s the best part. Even though we’re in an age of sitting at home and seeing most of these smaller films on our television, nothing replaces seeing them with an audience.  I’m even seeing a couple this year outdoor at the Ford, which is a great venue, and an audience of over 1,000 under the stars.  It’s on the of the things I look forward to.

I salute the organizers and the filmmakers. This is a gargantuan year long labor of love.  Every year I like it more.  They all deserve great congratulations for putting this on.

And, who knows, hopefully sometime I can get my feet wet and try to make one myself.  Then I’ll get to really see what a challenge it is.  Fun!

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