So last night I went to the premiere of Brighton Born & Dead, a locally produced horror feature that I'd been hearing about for some time. A few Ten Dead Men alumni worked on the film so I went along to support their work and local filmmaking in general.
It was good to see so many Brightonians at the screening and nice to see people actually supporting this kind of thing. I'm not sure what to say about the film itself. There were moments that showed a lot of promise, particularly the Palace Pier opening sequence, and the look of the killer who had a rather distinctive and creepy looking mask. It needed cutting, and with enough cutting it could have made a really excellent short film. At it's best, it felt like a grindhouse film made by Andrei Tarkovsky, and I think I might just leave it at that.
I am deliberately skirting around the issues with the film, but I've made my thoughts on internet criticism quite clear. However, there is one issue I can't ignore and it relates to a larger concern with independent film-making in general. It's also an obvious point for me to make.
Micro-budget films need scripts. They probably need scripts even more than bigger-budget films need scripts. I'm not even talking about good scripts - micro-budget filmmaking is often about learning your craft by practicing it and like the films the scripts are going to reflect the experience level of the writer. But a writer at any level will still give your film some structure, some sense of narrative coherence. For all the criticism of Ten Dead Men, I can say one thing with absolute certainty - the structure is sound. It works and flows as a film. Getting people to sit through a micro-budget film is already a big ask and at least with a competent enough script in place you make the ride a bit easier. But so many low budget films fall down at this first and obvious hurdle because there is a misunderstanding that scriptwriting is about cool dialogue and quirky characters and not about structure and pacing - the things that really determine above all whether a film is watchable or not.
There is a certain arrogance I find with independent filmmakers who don't seem to feel the need for a script. So many independent filmmakers go out and shoot thinking the shooting itself is the important thing. And so many independent directors do their own producing and writing too thinking it's all part of their job description. With the exception of the other blogging writers, I've only met a few people in filmmaking circles who have chosen to concentrate on writing as their chosen craft (even fewer who've chosen producing). Most people seem to see it as an extension of directing. It's not, and when it's treated as such it shows in the films. And that singular vision of a director who refused to compromise (i.e. collaborate) becomes something that only resembles a film in that it has pictures that move and it makes a noise.
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