Comments on Max
This was originally posted on June 11, 2010.
I recently completed my first short film, Max, that I entered into Canon and Vimeo’s Beyond the Still contest. After that round of the contest concluded, I received some great feedback from one of the judges, Nick Childs.
First, some info on Nick Childs from Vimeo:
Nick is EVP, Director of Content Development, for GREY New York, the flagship office of the Grey Global Group. Nick joined in 2007 to help form a new executive leadership team, which quickly won the E*Trade account. The initial campaign culminated in two spots that aired during the 2008 Super Bowl. The “Baby” ads topped critic and viewer lists for best commercial of the game, won multiple awards for best commercial of the year, and have since been viewed online by an audience of many millions. The 2009 iteration of the campaign topped viewership both online and on-air as best commercials of Super Bowl XLIII.
Nick’s brand work has won at the Addys, Effies, One Show and Cannes.
His independent film, “The Shovel,” starring Academy Award Nominee David Strathairn, won Best Narrative Short award at its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, and went on to gather 15 awards, playing more than 50 festivals worldwide. It aired on television around the globe, hit number one for short films on iTunes, and was selected to launch YouTube’s “The Screening Room”, the website’s foray into presenting the best of global, independent film.
For more information on Nick, check out the link to Vimeo.
Now, his comments on my short:
I really liked your opening shot and setups. The way the camera was moving and tracking pieces of the character in CU. It was a great use of the equipment, nicely structured and edited and drew me into the story; seeing the glimpses hooked me and made me want to see what was next… the inevitable pullback to wide to reveal the story.
I also personally very much appreciated the way you took your time with scenes and setups. Not overdoing the dialogue or feeling as if you need to cram a ton of narrative into fast and fractured scenes. The way the story — or at least the first half — unfolded, was intriguing and began to layer a nice three-act structure.
The scene I liked most was in the kitchen. Well, actually, the terrific shot from outside the car onto his ring finger and his thumb toying with his wedding ring. That clearly set up tension in his marriage, which then got resolved very well in the next scene. In the kitchen, the opening shot onto the wife was particularly nice. Good, unexpected CU framing that brought us right into her mind in the scene and also highlighted the strength of the lensing in camera. She’s was great casting and played it nicely, letting pressure develop, clearly at odds with her “secret”, and then hitting Max with it. I felt poignancy of the scene and you showed great control in not allowing things to get melodramatic by letting them stay quiet and not pushing the music or shots.
And then I really liked the way you threaded it back out of a flashback by simply cutting back to the ring and the previous scene again. Clean, simple… nice.
That said, I felt like the story slowed down a bit too much after that. I did love the shot of the contrail out the cab window, and even the low angle shot in the lot as he pulled in for the job interview. Good, establishing beats in which the cinematography was really continuing to build the story or a mood.
But the dialogue and action at the interview didn’t seem to take us anywhere new, and made me feel like the big climax had already happened in the kitchen and the back half of your film was a long denouement, or playout after the peak.
Finally, I was confused by the structure of the wallet and opening of billfold with “after all these years”, and I feel like the final still doesn’t do a lot that’s interesting for future filmmakers to pick up that blurred photo and do something with it.
Please continue to cast well, and keep taking your time with setting up strong scenes and great shots. But maybe push the narrative to carry a bit more story through action or dialogue.
Nicely crafted, Andy. Look forward to another chapter down the line.
I chose to share this for a couple reasons.
First, because I’m very proud of the work that my friends and I were able to do in a short amount of time for our production. For a handful of the actors, it was their first time doing anything like that. Looking back, and especially after hearing these comments, there are a few simple things I wish I would have changed or added, but overall I’m really pleased with our effort.
Second, I’m sharing this because I really think it’s important to be open to feedback and to share your thoughts on subjects with others. We’ve all been new to something at some point, and it is really important to remember those who helped you along the way. It’s even more important to help those who come after you, to help them and guide them as they make many of the same discoveries and learn the same lessons you did months, years, or decades ago.
So, I hope that if you have taken the time to read this, you can take something away from Mr. Childs comments. If you are at all into video production or filmmaking, take a moment to seek out people like Nick Childs, Philip Bloom, and Vincent Laforet. These guys are award winning directors and producers and they take time out of their busy schedules to answer a question, leave a comment, or have a conversation and they ooze knowledge and experience. I have learned so much in the last six months and I owe a lot of it to the many people just willing to share a moment with me.