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Victoria Video Club
Bulletin Vol 63 No 3 - Page 2

November 2003


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:

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.

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.

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.

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.



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.

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.

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.

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 production method.

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.