Pictures Judges See
Festivals today are flooded with a variety of film and video types and styles. Judges have to sit through
the bad ones hoping a few good ones will come along.
Following are descriptions of what festival judges see today, starting with the least worthy efforts:
THE FAMILY FILM
These were plentiful in years gone by but, thankfully, they are not as
common today. They depicted the family on outings, celebrating birthdays, Christmas, pursuing hobbies and glimpses of other
personal activities. It is rare to see these subjects in the winners column any more, largely because todays picture maker
prefers to try something more creative and challenging.
THE MOVING IMAGE FILM
This is what the judges have been waiting for, movie making at its
best, a story told primarily by its moving images with a minimum of dialog and talk. Fine, but why are so many pictures like
the above examples seen on a festival program? Because there are so few really fine pictures made, the judges have to sort
out those not as exemplary for the second place and the honorable mentions. Were the awards made only for classic examples
of the best in filmmaker's art, few trophies would be given.
THE FILMED VERBAL JOKE
These are quite common. The filmer hears a funny story and thinks
it would be a great movie. But the story is told in dialog, and the climax, the final line, is always spoken. What became
of sight gags, the main staple of classic screen comedy? Good film comedies are seen, not heard.
THE DIARY FILM
Normally it describes a family experience, but of somewhat greater interest
to a general audience. The diary film documents a family experience, often a trip to a foreign land, known here as travelogs.
(Europe calls them tourist films.) When treated as a diary, showing family members in countless scenes and a personal commentary
by the maker, these are indeed, a diary on film. Such films can make fine documentaries when treated objectively, that is,
when the maker leaves himself and his family entirely out of both the picture and the narration. Diary films should never
be submitted to a major competition.
THE INTERVIEW FILM
It is surprising how many of these
are submitted to festivals. The worst consist of people looking at the camera, and expressing an opinion, reading a poem,
championing a cause, or relating a personal experience. There is no action, nothing moves, and they can in no way be called
a motion picture.
THE ILLUSTRATED RADIO PLAY
Festivals get a lot of
these. A story is being enacted on the screen, but in a voice over the narrator tells what the story is, what the actors are
doing and even at times, what they are saying. Such efforts could just as well be on radio as the images are no more than
illustrations of what the narrator is saying. A good judge spots these films quickly for what they are.
THE FILMED STAGE PLAY
A producer reads a one-act play,
likes it, and decides to film it. He often uses one set and all the filming is done on that set. His actors speak their lines
and tell the story verbally, exactly as is done on the stage. While the story may come across clearly, it is delivered
by the spoken lines of the actors, not by their visual action. If such a picture wins, you may be sure the judges were not
on their toes.
THE COPIED STILLS
This genre was quite common 30 years
ago and is occasionally seen today. A filmer copies someone elses photographs, usually from a famous book or album. On the
screen, the narrator describes what is being shown. The maker, having heard movies should move, moves his camera slowly from
side to side and
uses his zoom lens. The pictures as such may move across the screen but the subjects in the frame remain
static. When these pictures win it is because the judges were swept away with the subject and the story, and not with the
THE FILMED BOOK
Many a good book makes a good movie,
but usually not the way the book is written. In books, the action is described with words. On the screen the action must be
shown. Book passages must be transformed into action and not all books offer this possibility. When the story in a book can
be told in action, success is close at hand. But a lot of effort has to go into the script to meet this challenge.