Having just finished my first serious short, I’m very happy to say that I managed to avoid nearly every thing listed. Talk about an ego booster.
The “PSYCHO”, zoom-in/dolly out shot.
The serious voice-over narration.
Hand-held camera work.
Using lyrics of a background song to narrate/ drive the film’s theme.
Switching from color to black and white.
Poorly researched period pieces.
Tarantino-esque tough guy/ pop culture referencing characters.
Out of focus shots.
Clowns and mimes.
Regarding the “film about a struggling filmmaker/film about yourself” cliche. Just about how unforgivable is it? because that’s exactly the idea for a short film I’ve been formulating for a long time and am serious about doing. =/
@Laura Gaynor: Yes, many of us have made short films before.
@Hidden Behind the Screen: The thing you have to remember about “cliches” is that they don’t really exist. Things are never about what you do but rather how you do them. If you should avoid so-called “cliches,” it’s because they’re hard to do well, not to mention already over-done which means you not only have to figure out how to do them well but you also have to find a new way of doing them else you’ll elicit eye roling from the audience.
Frankly, no one on this site has any idea what they want. Everyone just loves “personal, auteur-style movies” and yet seems to hate anything fitting that description made after about 1999. If you want to make a movie about yourself as a struggling film maker, go ahead. In my oppinion however, you would do far better to be truly creative and to do something fun and interesting. The worst experiences that I’ve ever had working with people putting together movies is a direct result of them taking themselves far too seriously. If you’re not having fun making movies, you shouldn’t be doing it. That goes for everything, not just movie making. Professionals have to do what they have to do to earn their living but I find many take themselves far less seriously than the “student journalist” / film school / &c. type in general. I’m obviously going to be flamed for this (I’m well aware of my audience) but it’s true. Try writing a commentray article on the juvinile editorial activities and petty rivalries of your campus newspaper(s) and see the amazing shit storm that results if you want proof.
@Danger Paule: First off, those are hardly short film cliches. 90% of people making short films don’t have nearly the ressources for the grand majority of the “cliches” you listed and many, many big-budget pictures are ripe with them.
Thanks for the input Anonymouse. But the thing about this idea I have is that it wouldn’t be so serious. Yes it would be about my troubles as a young filmmaker but it would also be kind of like a parody of myself. It’s ment to be someone of a comedy actually. I grant I do take myself very seriously but I’m also not hesitant to poke fun at myself and satire the fact that I do take myself seriously. So in that way I was thinking it would be original, and some of the ideas I have for it I think are pretty original to me…
But then again…I thought the charactor walking with background music was original too. (My first script was like 80% that.)
Well to be perfectly honest, I for one would not recommend anyone make a “personal film” about themselves. It always ends up being pretentious and lame. Be creative and make something that will actually appeal to someone beyond yourself. If you want to include some of your own experiences, go ahead. Frankly, I won’t be watching it so it doesen’t bother be in the least. If you want to avoid cliches, which you manifestly do, you should just be creative. Have fun doing what you’re doing and make sure that shows up on screen. Don’t try to be philosophical or political, just do something crazy and fun.
Make people laugh. If you can do that, then they won’t hate your movie.
Opening shot: the alarm clock going off. The kid then rolls over and groggily shuts it off. Followed by a Getting-Ready-in-the-Morning montage,
My first short I wrote (but never made) consisted of the alarm clock beggining, the guy walking to music, the random gun (a mac 10, no less…) and an excessive use of montage. in a 15 minute short there was about 9 montages.
What can I say I just love me some montages.
Always starting a line of dialogue with “Well… [dialogue].”
The loss of a loved one (specifically a lover).
Ok I’ve not watched a lot of conventional narrative style shorts.
But I have noticed there’s an interest lately in shooting pretty street lights out of focus, at night.
And then, the focus on the background zooming back in to focus on, often, the actor’s face in the foreground. Smoking a cigarette and looking at… nothing.
In general it seems smoking a cigarette continues to be a popular “moment of contemplation.”
The film starting with the character in his bed, waking up. That always got on my nerves.
I almost feel like we’re at that point in cinema where EVERYTHING is, to some point, a cliché. All that’s really important me is whether the film can elevate itself above its familiar parts, to become more than merely a generated string of tropes.
As for the ‘making a personal film about yourself’ question. I say go for it. In fact, make several.
Someone else is always going to tell you your film is regurgitated shit, the trick is to keep experimenting and ignore them.
Predictable dialogue (especially, in teens flicks)
Film concerning death and other essential subjects, presented with a ‘deep insight’
Brief montage of flashbacks ala Christopher Nolan
Inadequate use of CGI after perhaps having only couple of days into it
Sadly, it does seem more and more shorts fall under the radar of cliche, unless filmmakers themselves get to understand how to appropriately create association and point for the use of those cliche-categorized aspects.
What I noticed from watching people react to short films is that they usually find it a) pretentious, b)boring, c) with “cliches”. I believe that a short film is a very difficult format to handle. You are supposed to make something good under 15 minutes with very little money, having to deal with characters that have a few minutes of life and be truthful about them. Often enough filmmaker find ways to achieve something like that quickly from what they have learned from full lenght feature films, and because it works they become “cliches”. So you need to think of something new, and usually in this time you are called “pretentious”. If you try to make things as simple as possible they will say it’s “boring”.
You have a free pass to use most of the “cliches” listed in this thread in a feature film, because it is so long that everyone will feel the effect of what you wanted to pass and then forget that it was a “cliche”. So when it comes to shorts you are forced to think ahead of the countless short films that are being made around the world, and avoid evertything that works because a lot of people are using it too.
My biggest problem with this format is how difficult it is to build a perfect atmosphere. Think of The Turin Horse, and then think how anyone could find it pretentious if you molded it to be 10 minutes long. But with enough time you end up with a masterpiece.
So I believe that you should work in your atmosphere first if you are trying to do something that you feel that it’s more meaningful or (and I hate this word) “deep”. Maybe try to make it as simple as possible, without “many ways to interpret” that only you will care about to consider, and yes, I know this sounds harsh, but when you don’t have a stablished name people will probably underlook things in your short film.
And to finish: avoid guns, violence and edgy characters, or don’t if you are trying to make a really, really good point. Avoid this “coolness” would be an option.
I’m writing a short myself and often I think it’s “pretentious” because no one will care enough to take a good look at it. I rewrote and made things easier, but sometimes I still think I maybe pushing it a bit too far. The point I made in the script is the same one I want to make in all my films if I’m lucky enough to make them, and is something that I feel strongly about. If people will think that what I find truthful “pretentious”, well, then there’s nothing I can do.
In my first student short I had my protagonist wake up to an alarm clock. Only he reached for a bong and pulled a cone before switching off the alarm As for cliches: I agree with the slow mo walking to a song, the over use of cigarettes, the pop culture references and I’ll add transformations shown through musical montages. There’s also the cliche of the guy who tries to transform himself in order to get a girl to like him, fails at doing so but then gets a girl when he realizes he should just be himself.
What I want to know is who in the hell watches short films? Are there people somewhere that actually watch them? I’ve never met anyone that watches short films on a regular basis.
looks like a commercial
CGI / underwater photography
bad locations (forest, directors house, car)
sounds like it’s been recorded in a cave
A pretentious student film about making a pretentious student film. So clever.
@Westley: True. They’re pretty tedious. But the Tropfest Short Film Festival draws a huge crowd when it screens it’s sixteen finalists.
I wonder how hard it is for a single shot to get a spotlight at festivals, needless to mention its mere chances to draw attention.
You can say that again.