Friday, 19 June 2009

Brighton Born & Dead...

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.

6 comments:

Christopher said...

It has always been a little amazing to me that the script is such an after thought with so many films.

My wife is always teasing me because I always check to see how many credited screenwriters there are on a film. Almost without fail more than two is very bad news.

When I was younger my friends and I made a few student movies in college but we always spent months on the script before we started filming.

It's on film with actors but it is still a stry at it's heart.

Adaddinsane said...

Quite right too - but then I suppose I'm one of those blogging writers. :-)

Ross said...

I'll happily leave a brief critique of Brighton Born and Dead. I went to see it to support independent genre filmmaking and that a few of our Ten Dead Men team and some of my other friends were involved.

I will not slag off any of the acting as such as i'm sure all involved did their very best, and there were a handful of nice shots in the film, but the film as it stands is an unbearable mess, and does not hold up as any kind of coherent narrative.

I was hoping that at the very least it would be a fun, eventful, gory movie, but I literally slept through around a third of it simply because nothing happened for ages.

From what I saw of it you could probably cut it into an effective 10-15 minute short film. It was excruciating and it felt like the film makers did not have any interest in making an actual film.

As Chris rightly mentions there is no script to speak of, and as such there is no real sense of story, characters or any kind of structure. I really wanted to like it, and I have watched a large number of micro budget genre films, but with the best will in the world I cannot call this a bona fide feature film.

There was also a weird collection of shots beforehand called high heels from hell (i think) that I literally could not comprehend. Was it a trailer? an opening titles sequence? A short film? I had no idea, but it got lots of cheers from the audience.

I really was hoping to enjoy this but the experience was sincerely painful.

Bryan said...

Hi Chris,
Congrats on the DVD. I'll check it out sometime. I have a close friend who just wrote a movie script. Do you have any advice I could give him on getting it on the silver screen? It was his first attempt and it looks pretty good. I enjoyed reading it at least. Thanks!
Bryan

Chris Regan said...

C - I have the same thing with screenwriters - usually more than two is pretty bad, and more than three means the film will be terrible. Although I'm sure there are exceptions.

A - Is there a PC term for writers who keep blogs?

R - Knew I could rely on you.

B - The best advice I can give si to get more people involved. If it's a big budget script then it might not be the best one to start out with, but worth holding onto as a sample. If it can be done on a low budget then it's worth trying to hook with with a producer and director at the same level and trying to get it made. But film is all about collaboration, even at the writing stage, and the more people you have behind a project the better.

Bryan said...

Thanks Chris,
That makes sense. It sounds like he might have to start out low and work his way up as his portfolio grows. Thanks for the advice.