How might BIAFF entries be judged?

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ned c
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Re: How might BIAFF entries be judged?

Post by ned c »

There is a strange undercurrent at play here in discussing the judging of n-c movies.

As a judge it is very hard to take into account the difficulty of making most films. Yes, a filmed ascent of the North face of the Eiger has to overcome very clear objective difficulties; but an amateur drama, please!! So it’s very difficult to get decent actors, have them turn up on time and act effectively; but those are the problems we as producers/directors have to overcome. It is obvious from the top n-c narrative films that the judges should not have to make such allowances and if our productions fall below this high standard then we should not be surprised that the judges mark them down. The top n-c documentaries are of "broadcast quality" and there is no need to dumb down the judging.

As in most things the world of n-c film making is in three parts; the talented who are driven to overcome all obstacles and deliver stunning work; the vast mass of us who toil to make a movie that is watchable and the also rans who should do something else.

Much of the amateur world is rooted in the age of the “gentleman amateur film maker” where the technical difficulties were such that just making a viewable film was an achievement. Those days are gone; accessible technology has forced the n-c movie maker to concentrate on creativity and quality of performance and content. It is no good complaining that our entry (Nest egg…golden egg) received only 4 stars; I have seen “Dancer” and I am happy we did so well in comparison!!

I opened by saying there is a strange undercurrent at play and it is that many amateurs seem to want poor films to be rewarded and resent the very high quality films that the talented make. Talk of super equipment. money and resources; of professionalism are nonsense as it is obvious that most of the high end movies are made with the same limited finances and resources with which most of us work. It's just that a different level of creativity, application and talent is at work.

ned c
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Willy
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Re: How might BIAFF entries be judged?

Post by Willy »

ned c wrote:There is a strange undercurrent at play here in discussing the judging of n-c movies.
As a judge it is very hard to take into account the difficulty of making most films.
ned c
I also had the same feeling, Ned. I was very happy with my results (2x4 stars) . But I think that some other films were underestimated compared with mine. It also seemed that the majority of the audience at BIAFF didn't understand most results.

I don't think there was any discussion about "Dancer". This is perhaps the film that deserved to win the "Daily Mail" trophy. That's what most friends said and I was one of them. James Webber is a fantastic filmmaker. I also remember his "Commitment" that won the AMPS-festival one or two years ago. In Harrogate I asked a copy of his film. Good to have a fantastic evening in my club. I read the "Making Of" article about this film on this website with interest. James and his friends worked on this film for about 9 months to achieve this well deserved diamond.

I am more experienced in making dramatized documentaries or travel movies. My "Breendonk" is a good example. Instead of an expensive balloon or helicopter flight over the concentration camp I asked the local firebrigade to use their electric ladder to take a good airial shot. I didn't have to pay anything. Indeed, Ned the ascent the north face of the Eiger cannot be filmed with an electric ladder. You need plenty of money for it.

But what about an amateur drama ? Up to nowI made 6 or 7 pure fiction films.
Imagine that I make two films with the same title, the same theme, the same storyline, the same light, etc... In other words the creativity is identical. However, the cast is different. In film B you can only see real professional actors. Be sure that that film is much better. It is easier to evoke the right emotions with actors who are talented and professional. Last year I asked my actress t to cry in one scene. "Think of most terrible thing that happened to you in your life", I asked her. After ten minutes I could some tears in her eyes. A profession filmmaker can cry immediately if you ask him/her to do so.

Of course I also have some Belgian films in my mind, films that you don't know. In them you can only see a "pléade" of fantastic actors. I am sure they must be paid. A lot of non-commercial filmmakers are discouraged by it. Also because the filmmaker thinks of making money. These friends ask a revaluation of ordinary hobbyists at festivals.

An anecdote : Some years ago my clubmate; who is a young filmstudent, made the film "Seam". In my own club he received the lowest score ever : 40%. The judges thought that our friend only wanted to test them. And indeed they were right. Afterwards my clubmate confessed that it was not a film at all. At school his teacher had only given him an 8mm filmstrip. "Try to make a filmscene with it", his teacher said. Samuel cut the filmstrip into two pieces. He took a sewing machine and asked someone else to stitch the two pieces together. With his camera he took about 7 filmshots in macro or close-up from different angles. That was it. In "Seam" you can only hear the sound of the sewing machine. Samuel did not attend this local competition, but he said that this "film" was only an exercise for school. At BIAFF he won 3 stars with this exercise without any story(line). "Maybe you can give an interpretation to it if you wish, he sneered. Such situations must be avoided I think.
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Dave Watterson
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Re: How might BIAFF entries be judged?

Post by Dave Watterson »

As is often the case, I agree with most of what Ned said in his last post. There is one reservation:
As in most things the world of n-c film making is in three parts; the talented who are driven to overcome all obstacles and deliver stunning work; the vast mass of us who toil to make a movie that is watchable and the also rans who should do something else.
When we are talking only about top-level competitions, that view is fine.
When we discuss the hobby in general, the last category deserve a more positive view.

Many people enjoy the fun and frustrations of trying to make movies - even if the results are poor movies. Those people are as much part of our movement as the high-flyers. It is often instructive to look at the websites of clubs and find enthusiastic articles about the making of a film which to an objective eye is dire. Those involved loved the making of it, often worked hard and were proud to have achieved something.

-Dave
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Dave Watterson
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Re: How might BIAFF entries be judged?

Post by Dave Watterson »

Ken Wilson has been making the running for most of this thread, with his carefully thought-out suggestions and practical experience. His last post made me think hard ...

He is right: I often argue that the only thing the audience cares about is what they see on screen and hear through the speakers. They neither know nor care about the problems and effort required to produce those scenes.

He is also right that we all sometimes make allowances for special cases - when we realise they are special. Tell us a film is made by a young person and we may think twice about it. Show us a mountain-climbing epic and we can all see how hard it must have been to make. Present claymation and we all recall how hard it was to make a realistic model from Plasticine. Those allowances are applied by ALL audiences not just the judges. If judges make allowances ... then they are still reflecting the views of an audience.

As a judge I try to make such special allowances in the way I write about the film, rather than in the score I give it. But maybe such factors do sometimes nudge me from "top of the 2stars into a 3star" award.

What I (and audiences) do not allow for - and realistically cannot - is the problems the film makers had shooting their movie. Was that dialogue filmed by a busy road in 10 second blips between lorries? Was it impossible to get lights into that shed? Did someone improvise a camera stand when Pat forgot to bring the tripod as promised? Did it require one take or fifty to get that speech on camera? The audience does not know and does not care.

Ken touches on this in the course of talking about professionals as judges. Most professional film and tv makers are prepared - as a matter of course - to go much further than most amateurs to get the shot. They probably assume an even greater amount of work behind the scenes than was actually the case. But they study the results rather than contemplating the effort behind them. I have worked on a jury with two professional cameramen. As each film started they muttered to each other about the type of camera and lens being used ... but in their judgements and comments they talked only about how effective or not the film was and did not mention the lenses etc.

If anything most professionals are harder in their judgements than other jury members - in the business there is little time for kind and gentle critiques ... a shot works or it fails ... go again. Or they go to the opposite extreme as Ken describes and are patronising to amateurs.

At club level judging I reckon there is more place for the sort of practical experience another film maker can bring. S/he can say "Your white balance drifts off here ..." or "I had a similar problem and solved it by ..." thus adding to the practical knowledge the film maker has for their next project.

At higher levels of competition I think we have to work on the basis of what a general audience (sorry, Peter, I mean an audience without specialist knowledge of film making) gets from the film. It is too easy for us to get buried in the technicalities and forget that they have a purpose. The purpose is to get the film-maker's message / story / whatever across to the audience. To me the ideal judges are those who can speak/write sympathetically about films in terms of the audience's experience.

Dave
tom hardwick
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Re: How might BIAFF entries be judged?

Post by tom hardwick »

I was at a certain final of the Triangle competition all yesterday afternoon. It shall remain nameless, not because the films were disappointing (on the contrary many of them were quite excellent) but because the judge sitting in front of me spent much of his time head down, writing.

This involved looking away from the film he was judging, putting on his reading glasses, writing his notes, removing said glasses and watching a bit more of the film. There were times (I counted them) when he missed three complete consecutive scenes.

Gotta say, his comments on the films were pretty good. I'll leave it at that.

tom.
Ken Wilson
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Re: How might BIAFF entries be judged?

Post by Ken Wilson »

There have been lots of interesting follow-up comments to what has been said on here earlier, some of those points raised by myself.
I wanted to clarify a couple of things and to add something to what Tom has just posted.
Ned said:

"..many amateurs seem to want poor films to be rewarded and resent the very high quality films that the talented make."

I am quite sure that I for one was not saying anything of the kind. In fact that is the exact opposite of what I was saying! It`s due to the recent BIAFF event and suspect results in particular that many of these comments have been made here and the point that many good films were NOT rewarded and many "poorer" ones rated higher than some thought they should have been.

All my postings have been consistant and carefully written to avoid misunderstandings, but as always, there is the constant danger that something will be taken the wrong way.
To summarise, I feel that there must be a better way of judging our films. We agree that there never can be a perfect system as we will all agree to disagree on what are "The best films ever made." If I were to compile my list of the 20 greatest films which I have seen at the cinema, there will be many (most) who will strongly disagree and will propose an entirely different list. It is not an exact science and we all have our preferences and pet hates. It is for this reason that there are such wide variations in what the star ratings mean to each judge and how the BIAFF entries were placed. It is a lottery who your panel of 3 judges might be and therefore also your results and as a consequence, whether or not a particular film gets screened at the festival.
It is for this reason that my proposals were for more judges to see more films. This evens out any personal bias on subject matter, style or whatever.
It seems that nearly all of the postings on this subject agree with me in principal, but it`s the how`s and where`s and logistics of how to do it which is the issue. 200+ films to view and rate, critiques to write and a festival to organise around the results. It`s no simple task however you do it. But if the results are inconsistent and random and depend on luck as to when your films is viewed (early in the day and a judge is fresh, or late in the day and weary!) and by whom, then why bother at all? We may as well draw film titles out of a hat to determine the results.
I do feel that most of the best films will win through in the end as sheer quality cannot be ignored, but as for the rest, don`t we deserve the best system we can think of to make it fair?

On Tom`s point...I have worked amongs quite a few panels of judges and their individual judging methods vary quite considerably. Some never take their eyes off the screen and write notes at the end. Others constantly look down and scribble away as Tom describes and miss much of the film. It`s tough as you need to remind yourself of various points at the end for your comments, but without missing the film on the screen. I try to keep my eyes glued to the screen and scribble a few basic notes on a pad on my lap without looking at it. But it`s how people want to do it and what works best for each judge. This is the huge plus of having a DVD at home to look back on to check a point you need to clarify. I do this when writing critiques for our own competition as I have the facility to review something I might not be sure of.

But writing whilst viewing can be a mistake. For example, one critique I received some years ago said that I had a continuity fault with an actor wearing glasses. I was told that in one shot they were on and in the next shot they were off. I couldn`t believe how I had missed such an obvious continuity fault so watched my film again. In fact, there was a shot between the two decribed where the actor took the glasses off. Perhaps this was where the judge looked away to write notes?

If we are saying (as we are) that editing is vital and every shot should count by adding something to the narrative, how much is being missed by looking down to write while the film is running?
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TimStannard
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Re: How might BIAFF entries be judged?

Post by TimStannard »

Ken's suggestion has much going for it.

I think there is little doubt that the more people who see a selection of films the more consistent results will be. I also believe that the opportunity to watch films more than once, as in judges viewing DVDs at home, might improve this. It would certainly help overcome the issue of tryig to make notes (so as not to forget) whilst viewing and possibly missing scenes as commented on by Tom.

I have a couple of concerns with Ken's suggestion which I'm sure we might be able to tweak - as Ken (or was it someone else) said, we might want fiddle about with the numbers a bit.

My first concern is the idea that only films scoring more than 18 points go through to the next round. It is just conceivable that in a film where some peope just don't "get it", the scores might be 5,5,4,1,1,1 - 17 points although half the panel thought it was worthy of four or more points.

That's an extreme example and, I would hope, highly unlikely, but lesser discrepencies might result in the film not being passed forward. If the judges had viewed together and been able to discuss, it is quite likely that those scoring higher might be able to point out things which would cause the others to revide their score upwards. This is a problem with judges acting in isolation.

My suggested revision to Ken's suggestion that those with 19 (or was it 18?) points or more as well as any films totalling fewer than 18 points but where two judges or more awarded 4 points or more, or one judge awarded 5 points.

My other concern is about the method of writing comments. A couple of lines from each judge for films receiving fewer than three stars is not really adequate. We are not likely to end up with a dozen comments, more likely the same two comments repeated six times. This would be a shame, because there may well be half a dozen or more very simple things which could make massive improvements to films at that level which could and shuld be commented on (and which are probably very easy for judges to identify)
Tim
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Dave Watterson
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Re: How might BIAFF entries be judged?

Post by Dave Watterson »

How would it be, Tim, is there was agreement beforehand that members of the panel took it in turns to write a full report on a film, while the others could add comments if they wished?
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TimStannard
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Re: How might BIAFF entries be judged?

Post by TimStannard »

Dave Watterson wrote:How would it be, Tim, is there was agreement beforehand that members of the panel took it in turns to write a full report on a film, while the others could add comments if they wished?
Simple, easily implemented and addresses the problem. Perfect, Dave! In fact, pretty much the way the new "Advice on Films" section will hopefully work (but more formal and less public).
Tim
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Ken Wilson
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Re: How might BIAFF entries be judged?

Post by Ken Wilson »

Tim said:
My first concern is the idea that only films scoring more than 18 points go through to the next round. It is just conceivable that in a film where some peope just don't "get it", the scores might be 5,5,4,1,1,1 - 17 points although half the panel thought it was worthy of four or more points.
As I said and Tim noted, these are just ideas and numbers can be played around with on how many judges there are and what the points would be deciding divisions between the star ratings. As Tim also says, the above is a fairly unlikely scenario.

The idea was to put forward new ideas which would not be too complicated. It`s always going to have to be a compromise between what judges would be prepared to do (can do) and what the film maker wants. Hence my thoughts on judges writing just a few notes on each film. You couldn`t expect everyone to write up over 200 movies as it would be a full-time job! But Dave`s idea keeps more-or-less the current system of one on the panel writing up one third of the films seen, although I think the panel should be able to read what is written on their behalf before the comments are sent to the maker, perhaps via e-mail.

From my private correspondence, it seems that even more people are not happy with BIAFF 2011. I have been thanked for raising these points on the forum. A DVD was sent to me for my comments after a disappointing BIAFF result upset the maker. Several people have suggested that they will not enter another BIAFF competition if the judging system remains as it is for another year. so I hope that the powers that be are listening! Ken
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