DID YOU READ

The short filmmaker’s guide to short filmmaking

The short filmmaker’s guide to short filmmaking (photo)

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They may not get a lot of press, but short films and short filmmakers are the lifeblood of film festivals. They are the place to discover great new filmmakers. Before Steven Spielberg blew up with “Jaws,” he was a 22-year-old kid with a short called “Amblin.” Before Martin Scorsese reinvented the gangster genre with “Mean Streets,” he was a film student with a six minute movie called “The Big Shave.” Before they were famous filmmakers, they were short filmmakers.

Short films are a great way to get your foot in the door of Hollywood, but if you’ve never made a short before, it may be tough to know how to even open that door in the first place. With that in mind, we recruited the team behind the Fantastic Fest short “No Way Out” — actor A.J. Bowen (a.k.a. one of the stars of the multiple Fantastic Fest award winning feature “You’re Next”), writer/producer Eric Vespe (a.k.a. Quint from Aint it Cool News), and director Kristoffer Aaron Morgan (a.k.a. the director of the upcoming feature “The Home”) — to give us five tips for aspiring short filmmakers. Here’s some great practical advice from a couple guys who know what they’re talking about.

TIP #1: Be prepared.
Kristoffer Aaron Morgan, Co-writer/Director: “Storyboard. Have backup plans to your backup plans. Having a solid prep and battle plan will let you sleep well the night before your first day shooting, and give you the confidence you need to do your job. Direct the storyboards while you’re fully rested, so the sleep deprived bastard on set at 3:00 AM can ask your former self for help when he needs it.”

Eric Vespe, Co-Writer/Executive Producer: “There’s a term in poker: set yourself up in the best position possible. There’s always going to be problems when you’re shooting. It took two hours on the first day for A.J. to get into his appliance. If you’re prepared and you know what you need, you’ll be able to handle it.”

A.J. Bowen, Star: “I live in a movie world largely of improv. That can’t exist if you’re not prepared and don’t already know exactly what you’re trying to say. These guys showed me artwork, they showed me video. We spoke beforehand about everything we were going to do. That let me go in and be free to find happy accidents that occur on the set.”

TIP #2: Focus on performance.
KAM: “At the end of the day, the greatest resource you’ll have to make your short successful is a motivated and talented cast. While important, don’t let technical craft and aesthetics distract you from the most important thing you should be worried about: is your actor telling the story the best way he can? Are you giving him the resources he needs to do so? That’s your job. Let your crew worry about the other things, that’s why you recruited people smarter than you in those positions to begin with.”

AJB: “We shot on a soundstage, which is atypical for shorts. It was a rich environment. I didn’t have to work hard to imagine anyting because they created this amazing playground for me. My job was just to hit that light and then that light.”

TIP #3: Make sure you have a dedicated support system of producers to help you with logistics.
KAM: “This way you can focus fully on the creative. My suggestion is to have, at the very least, one producer that helps you manage the technical/creative aspects of filmmaking, and one to oversee general resource and logistical management. Make sure you get along with them very well, they’re going to be your emotional and logistical foundation during the entire process. You have to trust your producers, otherwise you’ll be up all night with a worry-ape slugging away at your chest.”

EV: “You know that saying that no one will care more about your movie than you will? We didn’t find that. These people were sweating their butts off for three days like it was their own project. It was as if it was their project.

AJB: “That’s the thing; it was their project. Everyone just wants to get behind something that they believe in.”

TIP #4: Be an actual short.
KAM: “Know what you’re trying to say, and say it in as concise of a manner as you can. My rule, keep it under fifteen minutes. Ten is better.”

AJB: “A short should be, in my mind, under ten minutes and you’ve got to tell a beginning, middle, and end of a story. I don’t see the point in making a short film that’s supposed to tell part of a different story unless it’s episodic. Shorts fail when they treat the medium as a lesser version of a feature. I don’t want to see the first act of a feature film as a 30 minute short. Just get your shit together and make the feature.”

TIP #5: Don’t be intimidated and too shy to ask for help from professionals.
KAM: “Even the biggest names want to practice their craft in their off hours, that’s what makes them the best. Also, be humble when asking for favors, but bold when pushing for people’s best work.”

AJB: “I was getting ready to go shoot a movie and Eric called me and was being way too kind, acting like I had the ability to turn anything down. He asked if I’d read the script and I said of course I would. Any chance to work with people whose opinions you respect who you think are talented, it should go without saying: that’s why you do this.”

KAM: “People think we legitimately spent $30,000 on this thing and we didn’t. What we spent was a lot of hard work and passion and favors from some very, very talented people here in Austin.”

What’s the best short film you’ve ever seen? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.