Judges and their credibility

A forum for sharing views on the art of film, video and AV sequence making as well as on competitions, judging and festivals.
Chris Abram
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Judges and their credibility

Post by Chris Abram » Sun Jul 04, 2010 2:39 pm

Somewhere amongst this electronic mire are comments about judges at competitions. Some are quite critical. However I would like to relate a very short tale to you all.

I am a member of Morecambe Bay Movie Makers and we invariably submit an entry in the Burnley Film Festival each year. For the last but one entry the club chose a film that I hand made in Thailand called "The Five Islands of Koh Samui".

Oh was I pleased because I thought this film would walk away with the top prize for filming, especially my underwater scub diving shots, and for the soundtrack. I had gained permission to film on these secret islands which were almost completely closed to the public because this is one of the genuine places where they harvest "birds nests" for medicinal purposes. I had also found the fisherman who had appeared in the photographic feature which I had read in the inflight magazine on the plane from Hong Kong and got him to take me to the islands. He appeared on film direct from the magazine. Oh, these judges would be completely bowled over!

Dave Watterson, the bearded monster, sat at the back of the room, studiously giving everyone else poor marks and marking my effort very highly indeed, I thought.
Here come the results... "The Five Islands of Koh Samui.. unsteady camerwork... indistinct audio.... why is the cameraman so happy in his piece to camera.... nothing special here ... etc, etc"
I am in shock. "If this is the best film that I had made in years, then my others must have been pure rubbish", I thought. "Watterson, and all judges, are off my Xmax list". So I vowed never to enter a competition ever again. But what did I do... went and organised "The Erics" and appointed Dave Watterson as one of my elite Final Judges! I recognised that he did have taste after all.

Wonder if he ever reads this stuff........?
Kind regards
Chris Abram

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Dave Watterson
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Re: Judges and their credibility

Post by Dave Watterson » Sun Jul 04, 2010 3:26 pm

Me read this stuff?!

Dave

Michael Slowe
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Re: Judges and their credibility

Post by Michael Slowe » Tue Jul 06, 2010 10:45 am

Don't kid yourself, he reads everything. He probably has a 'web cam' in all our edit suites so be careful.

On your 'judging' experience I offer sound advice based on over 40 years experience. Never, ever, let yourself think that you have made a good film, you will inevitably be disappointed - and this applies right down from the very top of the professional tree. Film makers are notoriously bad judges of their own work (but not necessarily of others). They equate effort, access, unusual subject with the quality of the production. Unfortunately it doesn't work like that. Telling the story well, imagination in the presentation and seamless editing are what count. I once saw a masterpiece about making a cup of tea - the producer never even had to leave his kitchen!

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Willy
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Re: Judges and their credibility

Post by Willy » Tue Jul 06, 2010 10:55 pm

Chris Abram wrote: I am a member of Morecambe Bay Movie Makers and we invariably submit an entry in the Burnley Film Festival each year. For the last but one entry the club chose a film that I hand made in Thailand called "The Five Islands of Koh Samui".

Oh was I pleased because I thought this film would walk away with the top prize for filming, especially my underwater scub diving shots, and for the soundtrack.
Chris Abram
Once you have been a judge yourself you respect judges more I think.

I agree with Michael. Last year I made 2 films for BIAFF. Film 1 : camerawork took two days. Location : 80 % of the time in a sitting-room. Result 5 stars. Film 2 : camerawork took at least 30 days. I had more than 20 hours of film. I spent some money on it. Location : about 700 miles from my house. I went back several times. Preparation (research, storyboard ....) 6 months. Result 3 stars. I was surprised, but not disappointed.

The story of the short fiction film was at least as powerful as the story of the long travelogue.

Exclusive shots don't give the guarantee for a good result. Friends know that some years ago I was the only cameraman who got the permission to follow her H.M. Queen Elisabeth II when visiting a cemetery in Flanders Fields. The BBC cameraman had to stay in a press pool. I didn't expect that my documentary would be an award winning film. It didn't deserve any special award. I accepted it. But I was proud that I could take these exclusive shots and I enjoyed making that film.

Chris, you seem to be very pleased with your underwater scub diving shots and your expectations were great. In Britain you don't see underwater films at festivals very often. In Belgium you can see them regularly. These films are made by professional divers. They go the Red Sea or Far East for some months and try to film the magical underwater world. In such films you can see hundreds of different and colourful fishes and other creatures. A narrator tells the viewer everything, but there is no clear and good storyline in the film. Usually I am not thrilled by such films. There are exceptions, but I find most underwaterfilms very boring.

Maybe your film is different, Chris. I can't judge it as I have not seen it, but I wonder if your documentary has a good storyline. Imagine you go to the zoo and you film one animal after an other. Your narrator says something about each animal. I fear that I myself would not be so fascinated by this film. Actually there is no difference between a zoo film and an underwater film.

A judge is not a person who thinks that he knows it all. He has no monopoly on wisdom. But he is someone who must be respected. Certainly Dave and his wife. I don't know any other judge who can give a better-founded analysis of a film. Have you ever been a judge yourself, Chris ?

It is a pity that I don't have the opportunity to see your "Five Islands ..."
Willy Van der Linden

Chris Abram
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Re: Judges and their credibility

Post by Chris Abram » Wed Jul 07, 2010 9:39 am

Good morning Willy,
Yes, I have been a judge on several occasions and I must say that I do enjoy the role. I do have respect for Dave Watterson, only because he has earned it, unlike many of the so called "judges" that float through our videography structure. So many "judges" couldn't put a programme together of any reasonable standard if ........! Oh, don't get me started on that because as some of the IAC hieracy know, I am a man of opinions and with the energy and drive to stick up for them as well.

If you would like to see "The Five Islands of Koh Samui" then have a look at http://www.morecambebaymoviemakers.org. ... ct036.html
Whilst you are there just look through the "Members projects" at a few of my other short films made just to have some fun with the club. My latest one "Six Miles Intu't Bay" is about a day I spent with one of the last remaining tractor shrimpers as he went about his work six miles off shore in Morecambe Bay, where the Chinese Cockling tragedy happened. Don't ever try it because, as you are probably aware, old, rust bucket style tractors only have one seat, and the shrimpers wants that one, so I had to spend eight plus hours being bounced up and down on the wheel arch. The things that I do just because I love being an active videographer. Nowadays it is nice to do some thing that I want to do, just for the hell of it!

Kind regards
Chris Abram

Michael Slowe
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Re: Judges and their credibility

Post by Michael Slowe » Thu Jul 08, 2010 10:17 am

Chris, I saw that Morecambe Bay film, I was the judge who didn't give it first place at the Burnley Festival!! I was sorely tempted though because I really liked it and it is the sort of documentary I try and make myself. I think it was second, mainly because the winner was an imaginative piece which I thought more ambitious and which had just that something extra. I know how you feel about sitting on the wheel arch, I'm currently shooting something in the country which involves being driven around on a quad bike, also being shaken up!

tom hardwick
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Re: Judges and their credibility

Post by tom hardwick » Fri Jul 09, 2010 7:03 am

For those of you that keep your back issues of FVM, go to issue July/August 2005 and read Laurie Miller's letter about Judges' comments under 'Hidden Agenda'. Beautifully put.

tom.

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Willy
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Re: Judges and their credibility

Post by Willy » Fri Jul 09, 2010 6:26 pm

Chris Abram wrote:Good morning Willy,

If you would like to see "The Five Islands of Koh Samui" then have a look at http://www.morecambebaymoviemakers.org. ... ct036.html

Chris Abram
Hi Chris,
I have seen your film and I enjoyed it. It is not that kind of nature film that I had in my mind. It is not boring at all. Your trip to the five islands was something unique. The films has some excellent technical qualities : photography (dramatic sunset, perspective in pictures etc...), the balance narrative voice and music, camera work, etc...

It think it must be you who is saying something to the viewer at the end. Yes, you are very enthusiastic. A film always radiates some emotion. In the first place in your own heart. That's also the first objective when making a film. It reminds you of the fantastic time you had. However, when taking part in a festival the film must also radiate enough emotion in the heart of the judges and the audience. That's something individual. That's also my experience. A festival reveals how the judges feel about the story of your film. Hopefully you understand what I mean.

The technical qualities of a film are important. The story is even more important. Is the film well-structured ? Are the viewers/judges thrilled by your story ? When making a travelogue : have you created enough atmosphere ? For instance live sounds are very important. Imagine you show a busy street, but you don't hear the traffic or passers-by ... Things like that. Local people saying interesting things to the viewer can also be very interesting. I realize that this is not always easy. Last year I saw a film about a Thai prostitute. My friend asked questions about her life. Suddenly she began to cry. I felt sorry for her. After that you could see western men in their eighties walking with some young Thai ladies in their twenties. Awful. I was shocked. I found it a very good film. The interview was not taken from different angles. But this was good. Otherwise the Thai lady would not have expressed her feelings in such a spontanuous way.

Anyway I am sure that everybody finds your film very interesting and enjoyable, Chris. The organisers of the festival also appreciated your entry. I am sure about that. Of course there is only one top award winning film and that's something we must accept. Many filmmakers talk about their cameras and about the quality of their pictures, but they don't show any films at festivals. But you do ! Many thanks for having given me the opportunity to see your film. On the continent it is very hot at the moment. 33° ! I had to stay inside. Also yesterday. It is a bit like in wintertime. It gives the time and opportunity to watch films or to edit them.
Willy Van der Linden

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Willy
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Re: Judges and their credibility

Post by Willy » Fri Jul 09, 2010 6:40 pm

Willy wrote:
Chris Abram wrote:Good morning Willy,

Last year I saw a film about a Thai prostitute. My friend asked questions about her life. Suddenly she began to cry. I felt sorry for her. After that you could see western men in their eighties walking with some young Thai ladies in their twenties. Awful. I was shocked. I found it a very good film. The interview was not taken from different angles. But this was good. Otherwise the Thai lady would not have expressed her feelings in such a spontanuous way.
.
I have forgotten to say something : Of course everybody does what he wants to do. But in the film a great-grandfather who was courting a young Thai lady fell down in the gutter or on the pavement. He was drunk. Very disgusting ! The lady had to 'sell' het body because she had to look after her boy. She was divorced. She didn't find any other way out of her difficulties.
Willy Van der Linden

Chris Abram
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Re: Judges and their credibility

Post by Chris Abram » Fri Jul 09, 2010 7:44 pm

Sorry Willy,
Have just seen the last post which is supposedly attributed to me. It is not mine and also, I do not go for films with storylines of that nature.
Chris Abram

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Willy
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Re: Judges and their credibility

Post by Willy » Fri Jul 09, 2010 8:48 pm

Chris Abram wrote:Sorry Willy,
Have just seen the last post which is supposedly attributed to me. It is not mine and also, I do not go for films with storylines of that nature.
Chris Abram
A misunderstanding I think, Chris. I didn't suggest to go for a storyline of that nature. I don't make such films either. I talked about your film, but I also referred to a different one to show that emotion is important in any film with a storyline of any nature. Also the storyline in a travelogue is important. I already made several travelogues, but they were not always successful. The judges were right.
Willy Van der Linden

Lee Prescott
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Re: Judges and their credibility

Post by Lee Prescott » Tue Jul 13, 2010 8:24 pm

Judges: Now I must be very careful, very - (mustn't I Dave)?! I have read with much interest the Postings on this page / subject. Much of what is written is so obviously quite true and in depth BUT - amazingly - what I find odd and always have done is that whilst what is written here is fine it never gets into, or appears in the scribblings, of oh so many, many judges - no matter from where. It is this aspect that generates so much comment, (complaints), about judges!

Also the lack of constructive criticism! The dislike by some judges of certain subjects also an aspect which they fail completely to put aside whilst appraising "a film"! The failure of many to recognise the producers "target audience" and view a film accordingly! The technical side is a separate matter from the artistic in my opinion.

I have often said that the competence of any judge can be ascertained from what he or she writes about a film! It happens that in some cases one is left wondering if a "judge" even saw the film right through - or at all!

Lee.

tom hardwick
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Re: Judges and their credibility

Post by tom hardwick » Wed Jul 14, 2010 6:50 am

It's been a long time since I received any judges comments on my films although over the years I've written many hundreds of A4 sheets in (hopefully helpful) criticism of competition entry films. I'd like to read some of the judges' comments that have so inflamed the contestants, so what about posting one or two here?

tom.

Brian Saberton
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Re: Judges and their credibility

Post by Brian Saberton » Wed Jul 14, 2010 3:08 pm

I've had dozens and dozens of judges comments over many years at both club, national and international level for my films and I've generally found them to be constructive and helpful with good advice that I've been able to adopt in the hope of improving my work. I think that's a pretty good measure of the care that, in my personal experience, judges take over their comments.
Brian Saberton

col lamb
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Re: Judges and their credibility

Post by col lamb » Sun Jul 18, 2010 1:58 pm

Well said Lee

It is a long time since I put in one of my own movies to BIAFF and from the comments I did receive, it was not worth the postage me sending in a movie. Nothing constructive at all, nothing negative, just I did not understand it. What was there to understand? What was the editing like, the sound, the camerawork, the quality and varience of shots, the storyline, the flow of the work, the lighting, the scenery, the continuity, the actors, the costume? Zilch, nothing no comment!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have seen the critiques of some of the club movies and the comments are not worth writing, it is just like some of you judges have nothing better than a few stock lines to include. If you cannot do a thorough and professional job get out.

Sorry Tom but if you have not entered into a competition recently you should not be judging, nor should anyone else who is not actually a movie maker (Wedding and Company pro mo's do not constitute a movie in my mind).

Its time that we shook up the whole judging thing and threw out anyone who has not entered BIAFF within the last three years from judging.

Col Lamb
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