On Friday the graduate film production students held an informal screening of our “P1” films. (P1= Project 1) These were the very first films that we produced as part of the program. They were limited to five minutes in length and we had to record production sound, but we were not allowed to incorporate dialogue. That was pretty much all the direction we were given. Other than that we could make whatever kind of film we wanted in whatever style we were most comfortable with.
It was an exercise designed to show how well we were able to tell a story visually and to demonstrate what strengths (and by extension what weaknesses) we had coming into the program. The P1 is designed to be screened once in class, critiqued, and then forgotten. But ours is a precocious cohort (that’s an official term at the school meaning all the students who began the program at the same time) and we collectively decided that it would be nice to have a chance to show off our work to our classmates- some of whom we almost never get to interact with.
So one of our classmates organized the screening. The day grew closer. My trepidation grew larger. My P1 was a comedy called “Fussy”: a short film about a pair of new parents with a baby that won’t stay asleep. The critique wasn’t too harsh, but it didn’t get many laughs in class. I worried that I would find myself sitting in the P1 screening listening to rapt silence. I’m new to comedy. I really hate to admit how much I long to hear people laugh at my work. Laughs are the sweet, sweet nectar of life to me- especially because I’ve seen the movie so many times it has lost all meaning, much less humor.
So I was looking forward to the screening and dreading it at the same time. I consoled myself with the knowledge that it was pretty likely that everybody else was in the exact same boat.
The day came and the screening came off without a hitch. “Fussy” screened. I hunkered down and prepared for the worst. But the worst never came: it got great laughs and everybody seemed to enjoy it. When people asked, afterwards, which film was mine and I told them “the one with the baby” the response was consistently “that was hilarious!” or “that was so funny!” Both much higher praise than I anticipated.
So the moral of the story is that the most important part of making a film is putting it in front of an audience. Showing work in class is the best way to learn to make better work. Showing work in front of a neutral audience is the best way to remember why you go through all that trouble in the first place.
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