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Posted: Thu May 04, 2017 2:36 pm
by Willy
Many thanks for having evaluated my film "Hop around the Weald", Howard-Smith. "Hopping mad", ... yes, that's how I felt when I received the judges'crits and the three stars, the "awards" for my slow-developing and thoughtful documentary about the Weald" which is the area that I love so well and that I visit three or four times a year. Your Original message was longer, Howard-Smith. It was shortened. Censorship? I could just have the time to print it. I really don't understand what has happened.

BIAFF is a lottery sometimes. Imagine you have made a good documentary for BIAFF and three judges who prefer drama to documentaries are asked to judge it? In a good documentary you can pick up new things. That's what I have tried to achieve in an Original way. Indeed, Howard-Smith, there are acting scenes in my film. There is some animation in it and captivating archive footage that I received from the South East Archive (University of Brighton). I worked hard but with enthusiasm on this travelogue. I did my utmost to make a film that is not boring. Sorry to say this: last week I stayed on a farm in the village of Goudhurst together with some friends of my club. The farmer said that I know the Weald better than most Kentish people. I have a poor knowledge of other things. Of computer and technique in general for instance. But as a foreign teacher of English and history I am interested in the beauty of your country and it is history. I am a John Foreigner who has made a film again about an area of outstanding beauty in the UK. I sometimes wonder:... Am I allowed to do this? Even if I make an appeal on friends who live in the area. It was like that in Guernsey, in Wensleydale, in Scotland and now in the Weald. I also made films about East Anglia, the Orkneys and the Isles of Scilly.

Slow developing is necessary sometimes. An example: a man is sitting on a bench. He is enjoying the lovely breathtaking view on the Weald. You can hear the sounds of the countryside. The sound of nature. By developing this scene in a fast way you may kill the right atmopshere. Afterwards you can drive up the pace. Everything goes crescendo. I wonder if the judges felt it like that. But I don't blame them... Maybe they had already watched ten long films before mine was screened.

Two years ago I also watched that memorable film about life in the Chartreuse, Dave and Michael. My friend Brian Higbee sent a copy to me. Also my wife Vera watched it. To be honest also to please my friend Brian. We thought it would be a film with a length of about 90 minutes. But it didn't stop. However, after some time we enjoyed the mystical atmosphere in the monastery more and more. I remember the monks that we praying all the time in complete silence in their splendid isolation. After an hour or so something different happened. Some monks had their hair cut. An other short intermezzo: a monk was working in the vegetable garden. It was wintertime. After about two hours and a half we suddenly watched a lively scene. In the distance we could see some monks who were skiing! Vera and I really enjoyed that film. But we also realized that it is only possible to enjoy such a film for 100% when you can watch it at home. Definitely not at a festival or competition. I had the same feeling when watching Michael Slowe's films, in particular "Moon at Night". 3 stars... that an insult. Forgive me if I am saying this in a categorical way. It deserves 4 or even 5 stars... At a competition like BIAFF it is difficult to receive the result for such a film, the result that you deserve.

Some years ago we were kindly invited on this forum to make suggestions about the BIAFF-judging system and other things. Was it Ned who suggested to make two different categories: fiction and non-fiction? That's the new system in my own club, in my region and in the national competion. Do you remember that we even talked about the names IAC and BIAFF?


Posted: Thu May 04, 2017 7:45 pm
by Howard-Smith
Sorry Willy, the shortening of my earlier appraisal of your lovely film 'Hop Around The Weald' wasn't due to censorship, it was due to me shortening the comments myself. I've now put the "hopping mad" phrase back in!
It's impossible to devise a 'perfect' judging system and it can never be a totally objective process. Inevitably judge's personal prejudices and preferences will come into it to some extent.
I've been a first-round judge for the past three years, very much enjoying the experience. I tried my utmost to be fair and to be constructive in my criticisms and generous with my praise whenever I thought it was due. I also kept referring to the criteria laid out for each star rating, as all the judges are supposed to. My feeling is that the vast majority of judges strive to do the same and to be as fair as possible.
But this is no comfort to those of us who are sorely disappointed that we get a lower star rating than we think we deserve, especially if certain judges have been nitpicking, pointing out in their appraisals trivial 'faults' which don't matter and are not worth mentioning.


Posted: Thu May 04, 2017 8:04 pm
by TimStannard
Willy wrote: we also realized that it is only possible to enjoy such a film for 100% when you can watch it at home. Definitely not at a festival or competition.
It's very interesting to read this as I find precisely the opposite. Possibly due to having wife, stepdaughter and daughter as well as being self-employed and so constantly potentially "on-call" by phone, email, Facebook or whatever I find festivals the ONLY time I can relax and give a longer film my full attention.


Posted: Fri May 05, 2017 10:52 am
by Willy
Yes, I understand Tim. You are younger than me. Our children already left the house about 20 years ago and I can enjoy the lively atmosphere in my daughter's family home with my three grandsons. Actually I meant watching a film at a judging session for a festival. That can be stressful sometimes because you have to focus on the films all the time. The best time to enjoy a film like the one about life in a monastery in the Chartreuse valley is in the late evening. You can feel the atmosphere in a more intensive way. I remember we went to bed late after midnight after having seen that reportage. But we were not disturbed by any telephone calls or other things. Actually it would be ridiculous to see a movie about complete silence when there is noise in the house. I live in a busy street and now at this moment I can hear cars and lorries passing by. This is not the ideal moment to watch a film like the ones made by Michael for instance. He shows life in a bookshop and in a theatre pub. And at the festival itself? It has the advantage that you can see your film on a wide screen. However, you can also buy a TV-set with a huge good quality screen. Maybe I have given the impression that I am against film festivals. In 20 years I attended about 15 BIAFFs. I always enjoyed them, also because they offered me the opportunity to socialize and to have a short chat with IAC-friends. At SERIAC I can meet my Guernsey friends for instance. Together with Peter and Mary Rouillard I made the film "Guernsey, I Love You!". SERIAC gives me the opportunity to meet them again because Guernsey is far from my house.


Posted: Sun May 07, 2017 7:14 pm
by Michael Slowe
Willy and Howard, we shouldn't let this develop into a criticism of either this years results or judges in general. They do their best in difficult circumstances. I think that having to write detailed critiques sometimes rather interferes with the job of deciding the film's merits vis a vis others in the same batch. The points that they make are very often irrelevant to whether the film is any good overall - that's what really matters.

As to length, this is the crucial issue in my opinion. Ideally, films should be viewed in a cinema, large screen, good audio and complete concentration. You can achieve this at home (small children and phone calls excepted), but preferably only one, or at most two, films in a session.

Willy saying that he won't enter again for BIAFF solves nothing, but I do appreciate how he feels. The problem is, who and what do we make films for? There are only limited opportunities for our films to be seen in public. On line facilities have improved enormously and the quality on sites like Vimeo is staggering. When you think that the hundreds of film festivals and competitions throughout the world receive literally thousands of entries, you wonder how they are whittled down to the 'selections'.

Maybe Willy and I in particular are not concise enough in our story telling for our documentaries. We must tighten things up and be far more selective in our editing. Long documentaries can succeed if they are good enough. I've had two Diamonds running for nearly thirty minutes and a few Fives of similar length. Willy, we are getting old, we must try and retrieve the imagination and creativity of a few years ago. Difficult, but worth trying!


Posted: Sun May 07, 2017 9:22 pm
by Willy
There is a time of coming. There is a time of leaving. I feel that I must leave now after two BIAFF-decades. Because of health problems. That's the main reason, Michael. In 2013 I crept through the eye of a needle.

Yes, we are getting old. However you could still call me a "youngster" in the world of amateur filmmakers. I am 71. But it is just like in sports. There are boxing athletes that must stop at the age of 40. Other ones must stop at the age of 35.

I have heard that BIAFF will take place in Harrogate next year. I can already tell you that I am almost sure that I won't be able to attend it unless a clubmate is willing to drive the car. It is a shame, because I find the Cairn Hotel one of the best BIAFF venues. I was there twice. I will be at the Cairn Hotel on 16th August on my way to Scotland, but my old friend will drive the car. I am looking forward to staying at the Cairn Hotel because I remember the fantastic times Vera and I had there meeting IAC-friends.

Yes, you are right, Michael. Quality on Vimeo is staggering. That's what I felt when seeing your two films. I will ask my clubmates how we can show our films on vimeo instead of competing in festivals. There is an other problem. Our style is very recognizable. The judges and the audiences are getting tired of our style. Ten years ago I received awards for my new concept. Think of "Together with Yoda". Now that style is not new anymore. Maybe there will be a revival in a few decades...

A bad experience that has influenced my decision: last year I had the best score for my film "Master of Time" in a local competition. However, the leading judge did his utmost to change this favourable rating. He put the other two judges under pressure and said: "He has already won too many awards. I prefer a different winner." In an other competition one of my clubmates showed a fantastic movie about China. But his result was bad. One of the judges told him why: "I never give good results to good friends because otherwise I could be accused of favouritism."

However I am sure that this time I was very selective in my editing, Michael. In 23 minutes you can see quite a lot of things in animation, acting scenes, archive footage, etc... It is a pity that you have not seen my documentary yet. Having your address I will forward a copy to you.

Making of...
Now I am writing a "Making Of..."-article for one of the magazines. "Hop around the Weald" has brought me quite a lot of adventures. One Sunday workers were cutting trees on the location of filming. I had to go home without having done any camera work. One week later, on 31st July, I was in the longest traffic jam ever on the M20 to Dover. I could do 10 miles in 17 hours and had to wait for 4 hours in the harbour of Dover before embarkation. Helicopters delivered water. Ladies 'in need' jumped into the bushes along the motorway, etc... In Brede (East Sussex) I had to keep my camera focused on sheep giving birth to triplets for some hours, etc... I wanted the most spectacular shots. In Tenterden I had the flu and I had to persevere. I suffered quite a lot, but going back home was not an option.

International film festivals in decline?
"If I were you I would take part in a different international film festival", one of my English friends said. To be honest I looked at the list on this IAC-website... International film festivals seem to be in decline. Some have disappeared in the course of this year. Now I am trying to be creative in a different way.


Posted: Mon May 08, 2017 9:14 am
by TimStannard
Willy, many of your comments are valid. The two points you listed under favouritism are valid. Certainly at club level but I think BIAFF mitigates against this to a large degree. First judges are allocated from different regions from the entrant (I now ask David Newton to exclude my films from being judged by anyone from SERIAC, NTRIAC or SoCo) although this is a problem with international entries or where a name becomes known nationally. I do wonder whether al credits should be excluded from entries - but that creates a potentially serious problem for the makers.
Second at BIAFF we are predominantly looking at star ratings rather than directly competing with other films. Judges are not in a position where they can only select three five stars from a batch of 100 films - they can award as many films five stars as they like. It is only for the eight diamonds, the top two prizes and the special awards (sound, acting, documentary etc) are in direct competition.
I would be happy to let you have my own more detailed thoughts on "Hop Around the Weald" if you like, and speculate as to wh judges might not have seen it as a four or five star film, but I don't think a public forum is the best place.


Posted: Mon May 08, 2017 10:37 am
by Ken Wilson
There has been a lot of dialogue on this subject since I last logged in. It`s been an extra busy time with us here as we had a film show to give at Cheadle and Gatley club and then this last weekend we were in Scotland to do the SAM workshop (on comedy) so there obviously had been a lot of prep work for me to do getting everything ready.

In the past few weeks, we have been asked to judge several club competitions. As I have said in the past, I have made very many films and have also judged at many competitions (though not at BIAFF as I have never been asked, although I have offered-but that`s another story)! So I have sat many times on each side of the fence.

In one of these club competitions, we were given guide-line rules that the special awards such as "Best Photography" Best Editing" and so on, could only be given to winners from each section. These were "Best Fiction", "Best Documentary", "Best Holiday Film" and so forth. In this instance, we had a film with excellent photography, in our opinion, the best images in the competition. But we couldn`t give it the "Best Photography" award as it failed in other aspects of film making, so didn`t win in any category. This meant that the film we had decided had the best photography, couldn`t get it`s award.
So why do I mention this?

In my previous posting I repeated my claim that as not ALL judges see ALL films, the present BIAFF system fails very often so we cannot say this film is the "Best"...anything. Dave W. claimed that poor films are removed by first round judges and the very BEST films ARE seen by final round judges, so the results are as accurate as they can be, taking into account any judges personal preferences and prejudices. But as the above illustrates, this can fail.
Perhaps a film may have a first rate actress or actor but they appear in a poorly written, badly shot and poorly edited movie? I would think they would have zero chace of getting the acting award as the film is stopped at the first round.
I have writen many times in the past that the method of 5 groups of 3 random judges, one of which is allocated any individual film to judge as a system is a poor one. All the complaints we hear as we travel around clubs and festivals would give weight to this argument.

Naturally there is no perfect sytem and there will always be winners and losers and disappointemts, but the present set up just is not good enough for the IACs premiere event (as they call it themselves.) Funds should be used to arrange judging sessions over at least two weekends (as they used to be) with comfortable seating and viewed on a large screen with sufficient time allowed for writing notes. Ask film makers with experience instead of any new-name volunteer who happens to be available, to judge. This fatigue which sets in explains much about why Willy and Michael`s longer films are getting low star ratings. But we have been here before and nothing changes.


Posted: Mon May 08, 2017 7:09 pm
by Michael Slowe
No, no,no Ken! Not judges who must be film makers. That is one of the problems. Film makers are looking for problems that are not always (hardly ever) going to affect the overall quality of the film. In my honest opinion and experience, the most intelligent and sensitive judges are not making films themselves - Jan Watterson for a start. I find that habitual cinema goers are the ones who tend to offer the best critiques and advice when I show them a rough cut of a film that I'm working on. These people know little or nothing about the film making process, they don't need to, but they generally can see what works and what doesn't.


Posted: Mon May 08, 2017 9:18 pm
by Ken Wilson
Sorry Michael but can`t agree, but not club level film makers. A mixture of both film makers and non film makers with some knowledge would be ideal. Knowing the problems we face to me is an advantage and helps with giving useful critiques instead of nit-picking trivia which has no bearing on the story etc. Such as Howard`s comments that a telephone number wasn`t a residential address or whatever it was. Mine was about an actress with a broken finger nail, absolutely nothing to do with the film they are watching. If these are the non film makers we want for judges, we are doomed! On one of mine the judge didn`t give their name only listing the three on the panel and the comments were so badly written I am not surprised they didn`t want to own up.

It`s ridiculous that in the theatre drama festivals, like the annual event we have here in Wakefield where 7 plays are performed in one week, the adjudicator has been trained and is qualified to make a judgement on various aspects of a play, whether we agree with it or not. But it seems almost anyone can judge at BIAFF as long as they haven`t had ideas of their own / are independant, or have criticised it in the past.


Posted: Tue May 09, 2017 1:26 am
by Howard-Smith
Yes, just to clarify what Ken was referring to, in my film 'How It Feels' an emergency contact address and phone number on the last page of a passport were shown on screen for 3 seconds. One of the judges knew Sheffield well and said that the address was in the middle of town. The judges made the bizarre decision to Google the address and found it was a Cafe and takeaway, which formed part of their criticism. There was also criticism that the phone number looked like a real one and it was suggested that I should have used a fictionalised number that can be obtained from a list on the internet.


Posted: Tue May 09, 2017 10:54 am
by Michael Slowe
Howard, you have not commented on the discussion between Ken and myself concerning qualifications for judging. Silly minor points that you refer to are, we all agree, nothing to do with judging a film. I actually noticed a glaring mistake in the BIAFF film Archway 0173, but it didn't matter one iota. The mistake was that the telephone number of the title was referred in the film as being situated in (I think Kensington), whereas it is actually near where I live, North London. Archway is on the way to the home of Arsenal Football Club!

The point is do good judges have to be film makers, I say definitely not, Ken disagrees. He does however concede that a panel could consist of a mixture of both, that's at least progress!


Posted: Tue May 09, 2017 7:08 pm
by Howard-Smith
With regard to the debate concerning qualifications for judging, I'll give you a few of my personal thoughts.
I definitely think that there should be a mixture of filmmakers and non-filmmakers. Just because I make films I shouldn't be excluded from being a judge. But you don't HAVE to be a filmmaker to be able to appraise films. What's needed is judges who understand both the art and the craft of filmmaking and have a definite passion for, and a genuine interest in, films. A judge should be open-minded, being prepared to be objective when appraising a film whose content is not to his or her personal taste. A judge should give praise and encouragement whenever possible and not be determined to find as many 'faults' as possible if such faults are unimportant and can therefore be construed as nitpicking. Important weaknesses should be discussed in terms of constructive criticism. A judge should avoid worthless generalities, for example, 'some of the acting was good but some of it wasn't'. A judge should understand the basic grammar of film. Perhaps potential judges should be vetted by sending them say five films of varying quality and inviting them to give a detailed written appraisal of each, to check that their appraisals are of sufficiently good quality. Another suggestion is to have more than three judges watching each film, say five judges per film, watching them at home maybe. Then an average star rating from the five judges could be taken as the award. (But if the judging system were to be changed, one danger is that it could get awfully complicated and make a lot more work for David Newman, to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude for all the work and organisation that he already does.)
Judges should be people who have watched a wide variety of films old and new.
I could go on but those are a few of my random thoughts in no particular order. Must get back to editing a rom-com which has taken up virtually all my spare time during the past three weeks! And a voice keeps echoing in my head saying, "3 stars... 3 stars..."


Posted: Tue May 09, 2017 10:55 pm
by Ken Wilson
Now here`s an interesting thing which you might like to review, Michael and others. I have just been reading the extensive rules for voting for BAFTA, the professional version (more money, power, influence, members, etc) of BIAFF. The members of BAFTA are allowed to vote within their own chapter which appears to be where they work within the film industry.

So it seems that Directors vote for the Best Director, musicians vote for the Best score, editors for Best Editing award and so on. It mentions that in round 1 (one) 80 members are voting. For the category of Best British flm a minimun of 7 members and up to a maximum of 20 members are voting for this.
I should point out that this is a quick late-night "skim" over scan of the numerous pages of rules on voting with strict guidelines on who, how and what must be done and that any conflict of interest must be revealed with that person leaving the voting system and SO MUCH MORE...

The nominated films, or directors, cinematographers, costume and make-up teams, actors and so on which are read out at the awards ceremony are the 5 which have received the most votes from large numbers of academy members. So in effect, film makers from within each specialised category who know what they are talking about. We still might not agree with their choices, but it is a system with a large number of voters with specialised knowledge. If I have read this correctly, as I say as a quick read through, BAFTA thinks judges should be film makers not just someone who might like to watch films. Oooh a bit of controversy there.


Posted: Wed May 10, 2017 5:04 pm
by Michael Slowe
You're right there Ken, controversy!