Thursday, July 3, 2014

Mis-drop



And finally, my friends, here is the third short film I have on deck for you. I promise, it'll be the last one for awhile, probably, at least for a few days... maybe... anyway, the film is called Mis-drop and it's by Ferand Peek. The synopsis:

300 years in the future, a forensic accountant reviews the video stream from one mercenary's drop-pod which has been damaged during the initial stages of a colonial invasion.

Well, that doesn't really tell you much. And of course, if tradition holds, what little it does tell us will probably have very little to do with the actual film. We shall see, won't we?

Let's watch...



Hmm... not bad. An interesting approach to the familiar sci-fi trope of the Orbital Drop Trooper. All in all, it was a simple idea that could have gone really badly, and for the most part they pulled it off, I think. It was generally pretty well written and acted and featured an economic use of special effects, which as a result avoided having them end up just highlighting the limitations of the project, as they so often do. The film's one real drawback wasn't really the filmmaker's fault, not really, it was due to an unavoidable flaw in the storytelling style they chose. The POV style of film-making is where you have the character either in control of the camera and/or directly interacting with the camera. It's Blair Witch style basically. It is inherently limiting narrative-wise. The filmmaker is definitely able to be more intimate with its subject, but that very same intimacy ensures you can't go anywhere outside of the subject, like when our young soldier goes running off to do whatever the hell he is going off to do. I mean, I think a tank was chasing him, but whose tank? Who knows...? And there's no way to get answers because your camera is fixed. It's a pretty common problem with these types of films.

I've talked about the film Willow Creek before.

Well, I watched it last night and it was hindered by the exact same issues. Great moments of tension buried by the style's complete inability to allow the story to finish up cleanly, everything is locked down too tight. Once your protagonist moves away from the camera, you've lost the story, as evidenced here. This is almost always going to happen in every POV film, unless your story is specifically tailored to work within those limits.

Through that link above--the one where I was talking about Willow Creek--I wrote down three rules for what a POV film needs to do in order to be a satisfying cinema experience. Just for fun, here they are again...

1. It must make sense as to why the film even exists at all.
Why are the characters there? Even more importantly, why are they filming? Okay, fine, a bunch of local boobs are going to explore the old abandoned asylum, I've been there, I've done that, fine. But you know what I've never done? Film it. And here's a better question: Why does one of the characters even own an expensive camera in the first place? Sure, in this day and age everyone has a camera on them, pretty much all the time... but it's a Smartphone camera, not an expensive HD rig. So why? Are they a reporter? Is it for a TV show? Do they have a personal history with the site/story? Answer those questions before you start, or you suck. At least make the attempt. Note: "Look at the new camera I bought just because," does not count as an answer.

2. It must make sense as to why the characters keep filming.
There comes a point in every one of these films where the shit has well and truly hit the fan. It all goes bad, big time. Chairs flying about. Monsters screaming. Buildings shaking. Ah! Ahh! Aaaaah! Run, dummies! Run for your lives! It is at this point that anyone truly concerned with their life would run, run like their ass was on fire. If nothing else, they would definitely stop trying to film, regardless of the camera's "low-light" capabilities. And if they dropped the camera? They would not go back for it. I mean, come on! If there's giant spider monsters and zombie children chasing us and I drop your camera? We will get the fuck out of there, drive to Target, and I will buy you a new one, all right? Good. As long as we agree on that. See, it's here that most of these films fail. Do you know why Cloverfield sucked? It's because it was a terrible movie. No, really. It was. It also sucked because a bunch of hipster wadjob douchebags would not keep filming while running from a giant monster. Do you know who might? A news reporter. This is the most important thing to think about when making your POV film. The characters have to have a real reason to stay in the situation. Find it, or you suck.

3. Acknowledge the limitations of the genre
The camera is a character. Everything that happens has to acknowledge that. You can't ignore that. The characters and the environment can't ignore that. If there's a zombie coming up behind them and the camera guy is the one in the back of the pack, he needs to be attacked first. I realize it's scarier to watch the zombie creep up on an unsuspecting character, but too bad, so sad. It also means you don't get have character interactions, or have a character be all alone and contemplative, in the same way that you can in regular movies. I'm sorry. Those are the rules. You have to adapt. If the camera is a person in the story, then they always have to be a person in the story. And most of all, understand your camera. You just can't drop them over and over again or they will break. Also, digital recordings aren't the same as taped ones, so old footage can't bleed over. It just doesn't work that way. You have to acknowledge that. Bottom line, it's very easy to cheat, but you can't... or you suck.

So, did this film do this? Was Mis-drop a successful POV short film? Not really, but it came close, which isn't too bad for a quick little independent project. Well done, Mr. Peek.

What do you think?
Jon

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