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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Why it's good to attend short films screening events

I've attended three local short film screenings since February that screened my short films: Filmmakers Anonymous 2 (check out my video diary), Malaysian Shorts (check out my video diary) and the most recent Cinejam that was held last Friday.

Much unlike the massive Sony Tropfest in Australia, which is held every end of February at a huge open space with food stalls and people bringing their own food, picnic cloths and resting chairs (click the link and see the photos I've taken), the local ones are relatively small events that are more often attended by others of the film industry than a regular joe, perhaps because films screened there may not appeal completely to the masses like the short films at Sony Tropfest.

Nevertheless, I find these screenings beneficial because of a few things:

1) Getting to meet other filmmakers, and a number of them are actually pretty nice and friendly.

2) Wide variety of short films shown, from music videos to documentaries to narrative fiction to experimental videos. Some mindblowing, some not my cup of tea, but nevertheless, it's good to see so many different types of filmmakers with vastly different styles in the country.

3) Unlike posting my own films online, I get to gauge audience reactions in real-time. And these audiences, not being my own friends and family, and not knowing who I am, are going to be more objective. I tend to pay attention to the audiences whenever a short film of mine is showing.

So yes, that's one of the reasons why I usually try my best to attend these events. Just so I'll be the first to see if there are people jeering and throwing stuff at the screen when my films are showing. :D

All three events I mentioned tend to end with a Q & A session, where all filmmakers are invited to sit before the audiences to either introduce themselves and then talk briefly about their films. Now, this is one of those segments which I have a love-hate relationship with. I love it because it brings audiences closer to the filmmaker (and the film), I hate it because these sessions are occasionally filled with awkward silence and are not as lively and interesting as I would've expected.

There are times when a film seem to leave a deeper impression for audiences, most usually a documentary about a controversial issue, or a gut-bustingly funny comedy, thus the filmmakers of these films often have the privilege to be... peppered with questions from audiences. While the other filmmakers are... neglected and forgotten. It's all right for some who prefer not to be asked anything at all, and prefer to remain as secretive and inconspicuous as possible. But I DO wonder whether it's all right for everyone?

After sitting through so many short films for nearly 2 hours, I think it's hard for audiences (I would also include myself as one of them) to remember every single short film when everything has ended, or some might even missed out the films that were played first (during FA2, my GIRL DISCONNECTED was the first film to be screened, and I was nearly mortified to see that many people coming in only when the film was about to end!).

So yes, I've sat through two Q & A sessions, one at Filmmakers Anonymous 2 and another at Malaysian Shorts. (The one at Cinejam was called off as the screening ended prematurely) Most who attended FA2 may remember me for dominating (or, to put it bluntly, 'hogging the limelight') the session after being asked a question by DMJ (of course, without her, I'm sure I would've gone through the whole night without anyone asking me anything at all, haha... sigh). After feeling rather bad about what I did in FA2, I became self-consciously quiet during Malaysian Shorts, merely giving a lame introduction of my film, and then shutting myself up as soon as possible, absolutely generating a "well, don't think this cute Edmund Yeo guy is that interesting, let's not ask him anything or he'll fall apart" response from some audience members... okay, that's just me being my usual neurotic self.

What occurred to me is that maybe either one of these short film screenings should try to have ONE Q and A session with the filmmaker after EACH film is shown. So yeah, after a film is screened, invite the filmmaker of that short film to come out to introduce his or her film, or let audiences (or the emcee) ask him/her questions. The memories of the film will still be fresh in audiences' minds, allowing them to comment and ask whatever they want to ask before they forget. The filmmaker will feel less self-conscious about using other people's time (as long as the emcee or organizer know when to stop him/her). It'll be like AMERICAN IDOL (!!!), but instead of having three judges, we'll have audiences interacting with the filmmaker.

It's more personal, it'll probably be more productive. (But that might also mean that some filmmakers might leave right after their own screenings and personal Q & A sessions)

Just an idea. Let's see whether those behind the aforementioned screening events or fellow filmmakers have anything to add to this.