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Sunday, July 22, 2007

A bunch of people have asked me how my sneak preview of my short went. Hmmm, how should I answer that? The audience laughed, so that's good. And people came up and said nice things afterwards. And a short film distributor sounded interested.

On the other hand, I was hoping they'd laugh more! There are a few things in the film I find terribly funny that the audience didn't quite laugh at.

(Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.)

I'm not sure the audience knew 100% what to make of it. I could have directed the same script much broader, anywhere up to Kids in the Hall over-the-top. I went for a subtle, naturalistic kind of humor where you recognize the characters and situations, from your own life. I think that would probably work better in a longer film, where the audience has time to figure out what the tone is. The audience needs to know they're supposed to laugh.

The short aired in a block of shorts that were mostly not actually comedies. It's easier to keep people laughing than to get them laughing.

I also could have stuck a little more expo in the film. There's enough to tell you what's going on, but only if you know that you're supposed to be paying attention, and until maybe halfway through, you don't necessarily realize that all the story lines are interweaving, so you might have not been picking up all the info that's there. In a five and a half minute film, I didn't think that I would have to remind the audience what went on in previous scenes; but I ought to have referred to the previous scenes a little more clearly.

For example, in an early scene, a Texan steps on Dave's foot, and Dave apologizes. Five scenes later, Dave is at a dinner party saying, "So I stopped him, and I told him, hey, maybe you can go around stepping on people's toes wherever you come from, but that kind of behavior is unacceptable here." It would have killed me to have Dave start with, "And he stepped right on my foot!"

Likewise, I was a little too clever in some of my dialog, pursuing that naturalistic style. For example, if you pay attention, you realize towards the end of Jenny and Buster's scene what exactly Jenny is mad about: Buster has sent naked pictures of Jenny to her best friend, who is also named Jenny. ("You know how email can be!")

But you have to figure it out. And that cuts into the laughter.

So I was a little subtle. And subtle doesn't get the laughs. It gets the chuckles.

It's nice to get laughs.

In some ways you have to put more expo into a short film. A long film has time to set up its tone and its rules and its world, and then play with them. That takes about five minutes, or just when I'm rolling credits.

Or you could be not so bloody ambitious. You could not have eight characters and nine locations and ten scenes in five bloody minutes!

Anyway, those are my complaints at myself, because I'm picky.

Mostly, I'm really happy with how the film turned out. The actors are brilliant. The rhythm is great. The music is terrific. (Though because of a mixing problem, you couldn't hear half of it. That, we can fix.) I think the film is entirely successful for what I was trying to do. It's a style that would translate really well into the feature I want to direct. I got people to laugh without having to make the actors mug for the camera.

I just want them to laugh more, damn them!

So that's how my screening went. Probably really successfully! I think it was one of the better short films there. But don't ask me. I'm the writer-director. You tell me how it went. What I'm focusing on is how I could have done it differently, and better...

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