How might BIAFF entries be judged?

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Dave Watterson
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Re: How might BIAFF entries be judged?

Post by Dave Watterson »

Some countries do require all judges at official regional and national non-commercial film contests to have received training.

What incentive would there be for such a system here? Judges give up their own time and money to do the work. They are not paid and often expenses are not paid. Why would they also agree to travel somewhere for training, perhaps even being asked to pay for the event?

And that begs the questions of who would train them and what would they teach!

Some concern has been expressed here and elsewhere that some of this year's BIAFF judging team were also entrants. (They did not, of course, judge their own films and all discussion of their films in public was banned over the judging weekend.) I suspect that the Competition Manager would prefer to avoid that happening ... but lacked other people to call upon. So maybe we need to consider judging approaches that require fewer judges.

On the other hand people have been expressing the view that the more judges watch each film, the less individual bias or limitations influence the result.

Dave

Oh - and the reason I have always been told for not having people judge films from their own IAC region is not fear of favouritism but of vendetta! :-)
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fraught
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Re: How might BIAFF entries be judged?

Post by fraught »

How do the IAC go about seeking out potential judges? I'd love to give it a go. I'm guilty of judgement bashing in the past, so i'd like to put my money where my mouth is. :-)
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Dave Watterson
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Re: How might BIAFF entries be judged?

Post by Dave Watterson »

There is no formal procedure, Fraught. As a winning film maker yourself you have a good understanding of how much work goes into any film, no matter how simple it may appear.

Can you put aside your own prejudices and accept any film on its own terms?
We have had films dealing with real attrocities, with faith, with abortion, with torture, with cruelty to animals, with extreme politics and even preserved railways!* You cannot close your eyes and refuse to judge a film just because it is not your type of movie, or it offends you.

Despite being so aware as you are of the technicalities of film making, can you assess a film in terms of how a general audience sees and hears it?
They don't know or care about how hard it was to get a shot, all that matters is whether it does its job in the film.

Can you register the difference between a "fault" like a jump-cut when it interrupts the viewing of the film and one where it works or does not matter?

Can you assess experimental films in foreign languages as well as animations, documentaries, comedies? How would you cope with three films in a row about Australian tree-frogs? **

Can you write notes which try to help film makers without upsetting them?
That is perhaps even harder than the actual judging.

It is a good idea to get some experience. The problem is that judging club competitions is not the same as judging regional or national ones. At club level comps are part of the general learning process and we put more weight on technical matters and the "standard rules of filming" than on how well the film does its job of entertaining / teaching / moving / puzzling.

As you are based in Basingstoke why not drop a line (using your real name not the nicname) to the SERIAC committee since they get involved not only with their own festival but several county-based ones? (http://www.seriac.org.uk/about.html).

-Dave

* Let me add that I LIKE preserved railways, but know the subject is a turn-off for many people.
** That really did happen to me at one festival.
ned c
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Re: How might BIAFF entries be judged?

Post by ned c »

I think that judging is improved by having people as judges who are not amateur film makers or involved in the movement. The primary qualification is a love of film and an understanding of film with an ability to write notes and provide comments. A look through the list of 2011 BIAFF judges shows names that are well known in the movement; yes we need them but we need an injection of new blood and a different perspective. Where to find these people? Film societies; colleges; local TV; local small scale professional film producers, camera clubs, personal networks.

There are of course the horror stories where professional film makers and critics have judged amateur films and been devastatingly honest so some degree of caution would be recommended.

I am happy to have someone with limited/zero knowledge of the n-c movement but a knowledge of film judge and review my films.

Regarding "training" judges my suggestion would be for a DVD with say 6 short films representing each of the award levels is circulated to aspiring judges and they review and make notes. When the candidate has completed their review the real report and award levels are provided. Then it is up to the candidate to make a self assessment and decide if to proceed with the desire to be a judge. This minimises the need for "marking" and any bureaucracy.

ned c
Michael Slowe
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Re: How might BIAFF entries be judged?

Post by Michael Slowe »

The thread, when read from start to finish is illuminating. There does seem to be general dissatisfaction with the judging process currently used by the IAC for BIAFF. It is tempting to think that there are feelings of disgruntlement amongst entrants who think that their film should have received a higher grade than it did and this is understandable if they are 'new to the game'. However it was ever thus I can assure you. Most of us are very poor judges of our own films, that is bound to be because we spend months, often in isolation from any critical eye, making our films. That is why I always insist on having rough cuts 'reviewed' by people whose judgement I trust before finally printing. I don't always take the advice but I heed it, there is a difference. As a consequence of this I nearly always anticipate very accurately the mark I can expect from judges and I'm very rarely surprised.

As to the judging process for BIAFF I agree with Ken's exhaustive suggestion which seems to be endorsed in various forms. For the final session I recall the method used by Movie Maker for their Ten Best. Every entered film had either been seen at home by various members of the editorial staff, or in the office and the final sixteen or seventeen were viewed in a screening theatre by the senior staff and a number of respected professionals. They merely scored each film with a number and by simple mathematics the ten best emerged. I agree totally with Ned, professionals are essential to the process, we are in danger of becoming too inward looking. Don't lets be afraid, there are amateur films which can live with or rise above, many professional ones. Comments from these professionals must be accepted as the true judgement, we must not be too sensitive.
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Re: How might BIAFF entries be judged?

Post by Peter Copestake »

Dave wrote -
can you assess a film in terms of how a general audience sees and hears it?


I wonder if Dave has time/inclination to discuss what he means by this "general audience"?

I live a quiet life in the provinces and have a limited circle of friends but when I was working I mixed with all sorts of people. I cannot think of anyone I know who would not be disgusted by "Helping Hands". I would have thought that a film with the same characters, including the dog, could have been moving, indeed touching, without the brutal, unloving sex that was implied. That it was cinematically (? such a word) strong, I don't deny. Indeed I woke in the small hours after a nightmare in which I had made a mess of a visitor's 35mm film which merged into visual images from the film that I had watched earlier on the net, in spite of having relaxed with Gardeners World between times. I would have thought that a judge having to know what a general audience might make of such a film is presumptuous.
Thinking more about this I wonder whether in order to appreciate a film of this sort one has to be able to assess the likelihood of the situation being realistic. The people with whom the lead character came into daily contact treated him with a kindness which is universal. The apparent "ticking off" which was all he got from the police for apparently molesting the girl would be rare. How does a general audience know if this is plausible in Korea? And if not plausible, does the film make sense?
BTW the chase seemed to be almost slo-mo on my computer. Did it look like that on the screen?

Peter.
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Dave Watterson
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Re: How might BIAFF entries be judged?

Post by Dave Watterson »

Hi Peter - if you can bear it, take a look at the "Making of ..." article about "Helping Hand" on the main IAC website. (http://www.theiac.org.uk/film/makingof/ ... -hand.html) Some internet research will also tell you that there is (or was until recently) an uncaring attitude in South Korea to the rape of young boys, and in general to the way the poor and disabled underclass live. South Korean laws are good but have not yet become embedded in the hearts of all the citizens.

What I meant by "general audiences" is those who do not share a specialised knowledge of or interest in a particular subject. For example an audience of railway enthusiasts would want a much more detailed film about a preserved railway line, than a general audience.

At the top competitions - especially international festivals - judges are not just looking for technical ability. Their task is to consider entertainment and interest values for the public. No matter how good a specialist film is, it is unlikely to appeal to the wider audience.

Those who know about railways, military history, penguins or the town of Zap (N. Dakota) want a lot of detail in films about their subject - detail which would overwhelm and bore a general audience. For such films to come top they need to go to specialised competitions - if those exist.

Dave
Phil Martin
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Re: How might BIAFF entries be judged?

Post by Phil Martin »

Thank you Peter for expressing so clearly what I have felt since I returned from BIAFF but have been too cowardly to say out loud. I cannot understand the enthusiasm with which the amateur film world embraces disgusting films. The 23rd of August at 0.17am, Propast, and Ich were all well made (the first two, exceptionally so) but none had enough merit to off-set the feeling that I had been degraded by the experience. Yet we don’t speak out for fear of being seen as unworldly.

However, we must all draw a line somewhere between the violence of Tom & Jerry and snuff movies. If so we must each have some touchstone, some basis for our personal judgment. For me, I think it is whether such a film has given me any new insight into the human condition to outweigh the sense of revulsion. I initially thought that Helping Hand passed that test; but it did not. There may be value in drawing attention to the mistrust and exploitation of mentally disabled people but I cannot see how the explicit homosexual rape of a mentally disabled boy provided any insight into the issue. It was simply gratuitously disgusting and, in my view, overshadowed a valid comment on the mother’s failure to understand mental disability and her consequent mistrust leading to fear that her daughter might have been molested.
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Re: How might BIAFF entries be judged?

Post by Peter Copestake »

Many thanks to both Dave and Phil.
Dave for putting me on to the 'making of' site which I had looked for but missed which explains things that I and others had not understood. Your definition of 'General' makes sense to me, Dave, but to my mind I would be 'general' in this instance which seems to me to be a film for specialists i.e. cineastes, and not suitable for a general audience.

Phil, I cannot thank you enough; it's good to know I am not alone!
Peter.
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Brian Saberton
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Re: How might BIAFF entries be judged?

Post by Brian Saberton »

As I said in another thread on the subject of BIAFF: I'm afraid I wasn't quite so keen on Helping Hand. I could see that it was an accomplished film deserving of diamond status, but I lost the thread of the story in a couple of places and didn't feel much involvement with the characters, though I do agree that the acting award to the young male lead was well deserved. Perhaps a second viewing will clarify things!

Having read the "making of" piece I've now got to grips with the bits of the story I didn't follow. I see a lot of films and like to feel that I am reasonably well informed, but was I the only person who didn't grasp some of the issues and symbolism and, if so, is the failure to understand my fault or the film-maker's for not making things a bit clearer? As far as the opening sequence was concerned I didn't feel at the time that it was particularly graphic though on reflection it was, perhaps, longer than necessary with one rather crude moment. I wonder how it would be classified for commercial release?
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Re: How might BIAFF entries be judged?

Post by Peter Copestake »

P.S. without the brutal, unloving meaningful physical relationship that was implied.

I don't know where the word meaningful came from in my post of 23rd. It doesn't make sense to me. Presumably a 'senior moment'. Sorry!
Peter.
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Re: How might BIAFF entries be judged?

Post by Mike Shaw »

You're certainly not alone Brian. I also lost the plot in a couple of places, didn't see the need for over-emphasising (or even showing!) the crude rape at the start , and wasn't really all that clear at all on any of it until I read the synopsis. My fault? (Our fault?) Or the film-makers fault?

Perhaps the subtitled transation didn't do the original script/dialogue justice, losing for example the intonations - and hence implications - of the spoken language.

All that said, while I can see it was probably worthy of a diamond award, I still believe the Dancer had more merit - but again, perhaps that's because I didn't need subtitles to follow the plot, and the story-line was more understandable to 'Western' concepts - maybe the Helping Hand theme is more in keeping with their culture and understanding.
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Dave Watterson
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Re: How might BIAFF entries be judged?

Post by Dave Watterson »

[Slightly off-topic, but related ... we need your help, please ...]

We have just started an additional forum Advice on Film. Click the IAC diamond at the top left of this page to return to the index of forums and you will find it in the list. This new forum is aimed at helping people develop their films to the stage where they might be entered for BIAFF and other competitions.

To start things off there is a documentary from John Collinson of the Northern Ireland Camcorder Club. He is asking for advice - NOT JUDGEMENT - the sort of gentle comments you might give to a club colleague asking for help with their film.

The scheme will only work if some of us are prepared to spend a few minutes watching the films in the forum and suggesting how they might be improved. There is no point detailing every fault ... consider what achievable changes the author might make which would have the most impact on their film.

-Dave
Ken Wilson
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Re: How might BIAFF entries be judged?

Post by Ken Wilson »

To return to the original thread...
I note what several people have been saying about who the judges should/ could be and how they should be qualified.
Michael mentions using professionals as one solution and though this could be a good idea, we should be very cautious.

Several years ago when Phase 4 had a film in the North vs South competition, the judges that one particular year were professionals, in the sense (I seem to remember) that they had a video production company. They clearly had no idea of the world of amateurs (n/c film makers) or how we work with low/ no budget, using home made props and costumes borrowed or bought from charity shops and actors and crew giving their time for free and so on.
With each critique, we all received some notes written I believe on an A4 page, constructed as a list of "How you should make films." These notes were very insulting as they took us through each stage such as how to hold a camera, how to get interesting shots, recording clear sound and editing to make your film interesting to an audience. Perhaps this was their way of trying to help, but their comments were not perceived this way. As you can imagine, once these had been read, the place was in an uproar and everyone was outraged at the patronising and insulting way we were treated as "ONLY AMATEURS." I believe organiser Vic Williams received many complaints after that one.

So it`s no easy task choosing who will be right for the job. I believe that any professionals who enter the judging ring, should be made well aware what amateurs do and preferably, should have started that way themselves.
I know that there is one argument which Dave has mentioned before, that it`s what is up on the screen which matters, but I think that there is much more to it than that and it isn`t so cut and dried. Do we make any allowances at all for the way we make our films? We certainly do for younger film makers who are rightly encouraged to learn from their early efforts.
What about lone film makers? Yes I think we also sometimes can give extra points knowing that this is a "one man band."
The judges often show that an ambitious project that didn`t quite work, had some allowances made in its marking for its low budget or amateur status. So realistically, the judge does need to view a film with some consideration as to the way it was made.

I know that the people who post on here are regular contributors and are limited in numbers. I also believe that there are others who read the forum and don`t post any comments. But there are many more who, for whatever reason, don`t look here at all on the IAC website or forum and so are not having their say on the judging debate. But private messages I have received via e-mail indicate that unrest is wider than what is appearing on here. Of course I am not going to speak for those people, but I just pass this news on.

Hopefully at the next IAC council meeting, the content of the forum will be taken into account. Taking the lead from FRAUGHT, I too would be willing to help next year in some judging capacity if required and am prepared to miss my first IAC International competion as a film maker. It isn`t reasonable to make complaints without being prepared to also "throw a hat in the ring" as a judge, if this is wanted. You have to put your money where your mouth is.
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Re: How might BIAFF entries be judged?

Post by Willy »

[quote="Ken Wilson"]To return to the original thread...
I note what several people have been saying about who the judges should/ could be and how they should be qualified.
Michael mentions using professionals as one solution and though this could be a good idea, we should be very cautious.

I agree with you, Ken. Indeed we must be very cautious. I am not against professionals who are in a judging panel, but only in the open category. I remember that there was still an open category at the IAC-Film festival 7 or 8 years ago. I think it was a category for commercial films and/or films made by filmstudents.

I have the feeling that real amateur film festivals do not exist anymore. A film festival is still a competition. That's clear. But nowadays it means that real hobbyists must also compete with professionals who can work with a budget and who have different intentions. That's a pity. Actually that is not fair. I understand that professional films give some distinction or prestige to a festival, but ...

In general the BIAFF-ones are interesting, kind, constructive, encouraging... They are not insulting. Hopefully it will not change in the coming years. The BIAFF-notes serve as an example to others.

I must admit ... I even encouraged two filmschool students to take part in BIAFF and other festivals. They both won an international medallion or diamond award. The second one only made experimental films. One of his BIAFF-films was "a piece of art". But why not saying it : I had mixed feelings when I received his diamond (he was not able attend the festival). I felt embarrassed... thinking of so many real hobbyists who came off worst. The first one made fiction films. You can see his actors on TV every day. A hobbyist can't afford such TV-stars. A professional actor is always a bonus. I am still in touch with the second one who has become a film-director for Belgian television. I am proud that I even lent him my video camera so that he could make his first fiction film. He is still a very kind and modest young man. That's a relief.

An other question : what are professional judges ? Professional script-writers ? Professional cameramen ? Professional sound men ? It is not guaranteed that these people are able to evaluate films in the best way and write encouraging notes with useful and constructrive criticism. I prefer critics who have a big heart for real amateurs (n-c-filmmakers).
Willy Van der Linden
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