Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Surviving Film School: Part 2

In the last post I discussed the characteristics of a good film. 
But what are some characteristics of a bad film?

Usually we can't figure out who the main character is, or what it is that character is trying to do.  We can't figure out his goal.

There is too much exposition.  Instead of seeing the action, characters often just tell us what they feel, or think, or what they just did, or what they are going to do.  The worst is when a character tells us what they are going to do, then we see them do it, then they tell us what they just did!
We don't care what happens next, or why.  We have nothing invested in the story.  There is no emotional connection, either to a character or her goal.

The camerawork is clumsy.  Shots are framed poorly.  They seem unbalanced, and not in the good, crooked-angle kind of way.  We don't know where to look in the frame.  There are no original shots.  The camera is too still, or it moves around too much; there might be dolly shots that aren't motivated.  
The sound design adds nothing to the story.  Or the sound itself might just be bad.  Dialogue might be tough to hear, music might be inappropriate or cliched,  presence (ambiance) might be choppy or non-existent.

The editing is plodding.  Or so frenetic you can't tell where you are.  Instead of controlling rhythm and pace to create tension or fear or joy or sadness, the editing merely advances the story.  Or it might not even do that!

The film is dark and underexposed, or too bright, or the lighting is too flat and gray.  There is no color in the film, no sense of lighting to help define time and place.

The acting is wooden.  It seems like the actors are reading lines instead of talking to each other.  Or the actors might be miscast.

Locations are poorly chosen.  They add nothing to the story.   Sets too are poorly, or minimally, designed.   Costumes are inappropriate.

Finally, we know we've seen a bad film when we feel we've wasted our time, or that the film had no redeemable feature.  Sometimes a film just misses the mark, but has too many faults to recommend it.  Sometimes you wonder, why didn't anyone making this film see how bad it would be?  Why didn't anyone tell them?  Most frustrating is when you can see the good film buried deep in the bad film!


How to avoid bad pre-production!

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