I know that usually, when people ask for a critique, what they really want is praise more so than honesty. I’m not going to pretend otherwise. What I really want though is for the film to be actually good. Comments and criticisms that will hopefully help improve my subsequent films would be most appreciated.
I liked your film quite a bit. It seems personal and from the heart. it is short enough and there is enough mystery to make me satisfied with what is there without needing more, yet i was compelled to watch it again after it was over. the images were not cliche or uninteresting. i understand why you subtitled it, but my only wish would have been that either the voice spoke clearer english (thereby not requiring the subtitles) or spoke in another language (thereby making the subtitles MORE necessary).
well done. thanks for sharing. best of luck in future endeavors.
that was cool! i think maybe it would’ve been a bit stronger if you limited the amount of images; as in used less and kept them on for longer. i know it sounds calculated, i apologize. i really liked the pov shots from inside of the car. maybe him on the computer isn’t that grabbing, instead of an ordinary, meaningful moment to the narrator it feels a bit too plain and devoid of sentimentality.
i also think the editing is too clean for a movie that’s supposed to represent someone’s thoughts or memories.
the problem with criticism here is that we’re all filmmakers and what we say just means that we’d do your idea differently. i think your movie is actually good how it is, it is you and it’s personal. if anything just treat my above “criticisms” as suggestions or mindsets you may dabble in in the future.
@Peter I think watching it more than once is the greatest compliment anyone can get. Thank you. When I made my first short, I was really surprised when a lot of people said they couldn’t understand the narration. Before then, I always thought I spoke good clear English. Apparently not. To be honest, it was kinda depressing finding that out. So what I did, I downloaded a French audio book from archive.org and used the female narrator’s voice for voice-over and then subtitled it with the real narration. At the time, I thought it was cute/funny. Now I realize that just because my friends and I can’t speak French, it doesn’t mean that other people can’t, and this being the internet, someone might come across the film and find the totally unrelated voice narration very distracting. But I see what you’re saying with this one :)
@Christopher I tried to mix-up the editing a bit, make it feel more “surreal,” but I felt it didn’t go very well with the more mellow and slow narration. I’m sure someone else could’ve easily pulled it off. I do agree with you about the laptop scene though. I shot it because I liked the composition — the shadow of the ceiling fan falling on the curtains balancing him out on the laptop (I’m not even sure you can see that clearly in the finished film) — but it was never meant to be in the film. We were suppose to shoot another day — all the scenes from the second half of the film — but my friend (the dude in the film) had to leave town the next day so I ended up using only the footage from the first day. That’s why all the cuts are long. It was sort of a necessity. Funny you wanted them longer :)
i’m probably one of the rare people that love love love long shots. i like when the sit with us and become a part of us, when they’re able to breathe – it doesn’t have to be long tarkovsky tracking shots or anything, i think the discipline of constructing a long shot brings a strange, beautiful aura to any film.
that said i’m pretty alone with that one so….
No actually I do love long shots. I really do. Not just long shots, but long stationary shots that linger. Some of my favorite films have the longest shots: Hunger, You, The Living — to mention a few. But I believe it’s not as easy as putting a camera on a tripod and letting it roll. A good long stationary shot is hard to pull off, as is evident in In the City of Sylivia. That movie was some bullshit.
All I’m saying is that for this particular film, I hadn’t planned on going that route… but did anyway.
I loved your film Al, simply brilliant and i commend you for the patience you seem to have. Let me point you in the direction of three fine filmmakers that tread the same waters as you. Looking for new ways to bend and fold the narrative: MARKUS WAMBSGANSS, ROUZBEH RASHIDI, CARLO PANGALANGAN.
I liked this film very much. I left a short comment about it, but I’ll elaborate more here. It’s very immediate, and I liked the way you edited the images against the conversation — to me leaping from one image to the next was a kind of searching, which the character in the movie is doing in his dreams, in his thoughts, and in his desire to know what happened to his brother, to find him. The restlessness is exactly how someone would feel if they had no idea what happened, it’s a feeling of being unsettled. I’m partial to very short films capturing something intangible like a thought, an emotion, so — bravo!
Everything I know I learned from him and now everything I know reminds me of him.
Wow. On a personal note, this reminded me of how I feel about my father who passed away. It touched a nerve right there.
Ok… now on to other things.
I loved your short film. It’s a little gem. I loved the way you framed the stairs, the flourescent light, the night, the empty street as the narrator used the word “search”. The POV in the car was superbly done, the narration of the dream + the sequence gave a sense of onirism, of having experienced that same dream right along with the narrator. This, the car scene was the most powerful bit, in my mind. It really made an impression.
I wouldn’t change a thing.
(PS: I’m not a filmmaker, just your regular “audience”…)
All the best to you and my heartfelt congratulations.
i liked it alot. i think the subtitles are important even though he’s speaking comprehensible english, indicative of an interpersonal gulf in the face of disappearance and possible loss. also, i had no problem w/ the cuts. though the shots are mostly of mundane, daily life the voice-over deepens their context. i like the lo-fi titles at the end too. very nice
I saw it twice, and I loved it..I like how it was written, shot etc.. It’s actually quite difficult for me to say….I agree with Agustina, wouldn’t change any of it…
I liked what everyone else has mentioned – the composition and how personal it felt. You did a very good job with this so congrats!
My critique, since you asked for it :) is this:
Some of the shots felt disconnected, for example the beginning staircase shot and the fluorescent light immediately after – good composition, but I was curious why you started with that. Since it’s your film though, I can’t argue with it. My thoughts were that once the protagonist picks up the phone and starts talking, you cut to an outside shot, and that really felt like I was inside the man’s head. I think that was your biggest strength, as well as some of the things you can work on: which shots are personal and subjective, and which shots are impersonal and objective.
Also, buy a tripod. I will join the group of people who love long shots (I love them. God help me I do love them so) but like you mentioned, they are very hard to pull off. I thought some of them should have been static. Most of the exterior night shots were beautiful with handheld though :)
That said, very interesting, very impressive. I’d like to see more of your work!
@L.A Thank you, will most definitely check them out.
@Odilonvert I’m partial to very short films too :)
@Agustina The car scenes are my favorites; I’m glad “just a regular audience” liked it :P You’re too kind :)
@Brian Ah, the lo-fi titles. Love them. I’ll talk about them below in a bit.
@Dylan Hearing someone say they watched it more than once always brings a huge smile to my face :)
@TheGamGee Thank you for your honesty. I really do appreciate it. I’m going to try and explain a bit about why I did what I did, but you should know up front that I’m not trying to “defend” my film against your criticisms or anything, just trying to show my thought-process — what was going through my head while making the film.
I opened with the staircase/light scene because the phone was ringing. The idea was that the phone was ringing inside the brother’s house, where the brother’s wife is. But she’s asleep, or out…. or whatever — that part is irrelevant. The point is, no one was there to answer the phone. If you noticed, the film opened right in the middle of a ring. I was trying to imply that the phone had been ringing quite a while before we got there. Had the film started right when the ringing begun, the opening shots would’ve been showing the empty house, shots of the: empty living room, empty dining area, empty kitchen… and then finally empty staircase/light towards the end of the ring. Also, I just thought the stairs/lights looked pretty :)
When the phone wasn’t answered, it went to voicemail, and we cut to the stills showing that it’s late at night (even though that’s already implied, you’ll see why I included them anyway). The one shot of the car/light after the stills was there to tie in the stills with the video because it’s the same location. We kick into the protagonist’s head/thoughts right after that with the shot of the brother’s silhouette.
Have you seen Harmony Korine’s Act da Fool ? This film was actually heavily influenced by that. I had the idea in my head for a while, this story of loss and uncertainty, but I couldn’t figure out a way to tell it. Then I saw Harmony’s film one night and it was like — “Eureka!”
Act da Fool was shot as a series of hand-held 8mm vignettes tied together by a voice-over narration. Reminds you of something? :P That’s why I chose to shoot hand-held; that’s why I chose to shoot on DV too, instead of HD. That being said, I’ll have to agree with you – some of the shots were probably way more shaky than they should’ve been.
Goodness knows I tried to make my own film instead of just xeroxing Harmony’s. That being said, the lo-fi titles are from Act da Fool, and so are the stills at he beginning :p
Hope I didn’t bore you with all the unnecessary details.
No no, details are fascinating. I’m glad to see you knew what you were doing. It’s always insightful to have actual conversations about what worked and what didn’t work. If anything it helps me figure out what I like or don’t like, what I would use in my own film.
Great short film. I loved the answering machine recording playing. The part where he says he is dreaming that he is in a car but he doesn’t say it until after we were already in the car was very cool to me for some reason.
I would definitely recommend a tripod if you can get one though or possibly just laying the camera on a pillow on a table, because there were a handful of times where the camera shaking was distracting. Other than that great job!
I’ll stop just short of calling it a masterpiece.
The writing was perfect, and the actor who placed the call was perfect.
The shots were perfect, and the editing was perfect. Nothing was too long or two quick.
I’m not always a fan of shaky camera, but it worked very well in this instance, and I think that it is made best for things like memories. I would hope that if budget allowed, most of the time you would use a camera mounted on a dolly of some kind.
This film stands on its own, but I could just as well see it as the perfect beginning, or ending to a great movie.
That it is based on a real incident of a missing person doesn’t make the film better, as such true life films often make a movie better in our own minds, but the opposite here is true; that a film so good can be made about a real life circumstance is a tribute to the missing man and those who love him.
I see great talent on display. The shot from the back seat of a car that comes before the person says he is in the backseat of a car was a perfect shot.
I am normally totally against handheld camera work, but in this instance I must disagree with Alex Miller, because I think that it works perfect for this kind of emotional setting, in which we are basically watching a montage of memories. In the future, work with a tripod or dolly as much as possible, but I think that this was perfect.
It’s been over 2 months since I posted this — which is like 2 years in internet time — I figured anyone who’s gonna watch it already has — so it’s really amazing to see that people are still watching it, and more importantly, loving it. I really really appreciate it :)
Right now, I’m actually in the preproduction stages of my new short, which I’m hopefully going to be shooting on an HDSLR with tripods and lights and dollys, so… well, we’ll see about that. Don’t wanna jinx it :)
You very effectively painted a haunting portrait of a powerful situation with a few brush strokes. Glad to hear you are planning more, and broadening your technical horizons — kitchen paper title cards were amusing, but I’d agree with others here that a tripod can be your invisible friend, unless there’s a reason not to use one. From your notes above, I can see these were all artistic choices, and that’s cool. I hope you can keep that emotional depth with your next production. Kudos, and good luck.