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Posted: Wed May 10, 2017 11:17 pm
by Willy
Very interesting, Ken. Editing must be judged by specialists in editing, directing by experienced directors, etc... That's what I understand. That's ideal, of course. However, I am not against non-filmmakers who love watching movies and who judge my movies, but I wonder if my own film at BIAFF was judged by three non-filmmakers. In that case I have problems with it. And imagine that the three judges prefer to watch feature films (fiction films) to documentaries or travelogues? The criteria are different. Maybe I was very unlucky this time.
In Belgium we have two categories: fiction films and non-fiction films.

Those were the days...
An other thing: I remember that 15 years ago I received at least three individual written crits at BIAFF. Sometimes even five or six. "Those were the days"... Now it is only one. I wonder if the two other ones know what the first one has written. BIAFF has a good reputation thanks to the judges'crits. In other international festivals you don't even receive any written judges' comments. But I hope it will stay like this. Remember the local competition last year that I mentioned in one of my previous mails. I had the best score, but the leading judge put the other two under pressure to decrease my marks because I had already won too many awards in the past.

Three judges not enough
In a panel of three there is always one who is dominating the other two, in particular if the other two are beginners and don't have any experience. Three judges is not enough. Finding enough judges is perhaps utopian, but I don't understand why you, Ken, were ignored. That's incomprehensible.

Courses could be organized to teach beginners how to judge films. In our country it was a failure some years ago. The "students" all failed in regional competitions. But I know that in the Netherlands it was a success. A critic who loves watching films and who can evaluate the contents (power of the story) in the first place and secondly the casting, structure, storyboard, soundtrack, photography, alright for me. However, I think that in general a real amateur filmmaker-judge can better focus on all these different aspects because he is used to working on all these things. Mind: I appreciate all the work done by the BIAFF-judges this year and in the past!!!!! We are all grateful to them. They always do everything bona fide and on a voluntary base.


Posted: Mon May 15, 2017 5:11 pm
by Dave Watterson
Lots of interesting ideas in this thread, but some need more thought.

At present the 250 or so films coming to BIAFF need five teams of three people to do first round assessment. That work starts Friday 8pm and ends Sunday about 3pm ... so say two days. If a single panel were to watch all the films that would require ten days of solid viewing. The people would also need some longer breaks so say two solid weeks ... and they certainly will not write reports on all they see. Even if the panel were five people, the time needed to write 50 crits would mean the festival might be over before they were done.

IAC is extremely lucky each year to find enough people who are willing and able to give up a long weekend to the judging. Bear in mind that some will come a very long way. They get board and lodging but pay for their own travel. How many could even consider a two-week commitment?

At club level and arguably at the 1-4 star level, film competitions serve an educational purpose. The judges can point out technical details which need attention. But at the top level those things should be taken for granted. The only thing that matters is the impact of what is shown on screen and heard from the loudspeakers. At that level what advantage is there in asking active film makers to judge? Surely someone representing the general public is in a better position to say which films work and which do not. They do not necessarily need to know, let alone say, that the line was crossed or the lighting was too contrasty or the sound recording was boomy.

We seem to forget that the purpose of a film is not to demonstrate the degree of mastery one has of cinema techniques, but to communicate to an audience.


Posted: Tue May 16, 2017 8:54 pm
by TimStannard
Dave Watterson wrote: We seem to forget that the purpose of a film is not to demonstrate the degree of mastery one has of cinema techniques, but to communicate to an audience.
I totally agree Dave.
However, especially at this level, a film that communicates something well to one viewer may not do so to another viewer (as this year's Daily Mail and Best British awards clearly demonstrate). The best film makers know how to communicate and are well placed to comment on why a film communicates well or less well. As film makers we don't simply want to know whether a film works or not, we want to understand why - especially when it works for one group of people and not for another.


Posted: Wed May 17, 2017 9:21 pm
by Willy
We should know better than dig up old skeletons, but sometimes it is useful to do it. Do you remember the award winning film "Nothing Girl"? It was made by the Canadian filmmaker Pierre Daudelin. BIAFF 2006. We had heavy discussions about it for weeks and weeks. Nobody seemed to have enjoyed "Nothing Girl" And technically it was not perfect at all. At least that's what many friends said. Anyway, it was difficult to understand the story. It is a pity that we didn't see any other films by Pierre the following years. I also remember an Italian documentary and an Argentinian fiction film and... Where have all those filmmakers been?

Maybe I am wrong, but I think there was only one filmmaker who won the Daily Mail Trophy twice. The Austrian Bernhard Hausberger. He was a regular. And his films were exceptional. They were all very moving. We all miss Bernhard very much. And there were no discussions at all. We could understand Bernard's documentaries very well. They made a deep impression on us.


Posted: Fri May 19, 2017 2:56 pm
by Willy
Dave has explained again how BIAFF is organized. Many thanks, but... here we go again...
Imagine that BIAFF would be organized as follows:

New possible procedure:
1. 250 movies or more are sent to groups of 5 judges by Wetransfer or Dropbox. Each judge writes a report just like 15 years ago. One of them is the "sub-manager" of the group. But the BIAFF Competition Manager is the "big boss". It is he who sends the films to the judges. It is recommendable that the judges live in different parts of the UK. They don't belong to the same region.
2. Second round: the same procedure.
3. Final round: a panel of 5 or more come together in a hotel or any other venue. They watch the movies, have a discussion and take a decision together. Just like at the Guernsey Lily festival. I remember there were 7 judges at the "most friendly film festival in the world."

Advantage: hotel costs are reduced to a minimum. It will be easier to find judges. They can also be found at film schools for instance. I know that at Exeter University there is a department "filmmaking". Why not asking professors a to judge the films? Maybe they would be very happy to do this. It would also be a good "exercise" for their university students. It excludes prejudices because these people don't know our BIAFF "regulars". We sometimes tend to compare movies made by the same filmmaker in the course of years. Who doesn't say things like : "I have already seen better films made by him!"... ?
Disadvantage: organizing all this would take three or even four weeks longer, but I think it is worth it. Let's say that 21st December is the final deadline to enter, not the 31st January. Problem solved.

The judges will have enough time to watch the films twice or three times if necessary. They are at home (round 1 and 2) Filmmakers have worked on a film for months and months. That's why it is respectful that enough time is spent on evaluating their movies. That's very important.

All the things that I have said now are not new I think. Other forum-friends may have said these things as well. Of course I know that it is not easy to organize everything. I have always respected the work done by everybody who is involved in the organisation of a festival or competition.


Posted: Fri May 19, 2017 10:56 pm
by TimStannard
Whether or not the ideas are new Willy's concept certainly has its merits. I particularly like the idea that judges have longer to view and review the films and write up comments. I'd be in favour.

There would no doubt be other obstacles - challenges to overcome - but two that immediately spring to mind are:
1. Getting results in. I'm sure all judges would have the full intention of submitting their results on time, but as we found with our NTRIAC online competition (which was tiny) we still had to pester one judge several times before we had their result. Presumably with BIAFF 3 judges would need to communicate in order to come to a decisions and if people aren't in the same room, but are communicating electronically this could also slow the process down.
2. As I understand it, judges at BIAFF are given a certain amount of coaching about what is expected at each star rating at the beginning of the judging weekend and are shown examples of films of different star rating. this is, I presume, designed to achieve some sort of uniformity to the judging. This might be much more difficult to achieve with judges such as Willy's professor.

We tried to mitigate this with the NTRIAC comp by formulating a scoring system with marks out of "n" for different technical disciplines/creative skills, totaling 100. We had slightly different disciplines/skills for fiction and non-fiction and weighted the scores differently. The problem here is very few of us like our creative works to be reduced to a mark out of 100 (although seeing the different marks from each judge can be revealing) and there will always be films which fit into neither of the two categories. I suspect if BIAFF were to try introduce a points based system there would be uproar.

As an aside, of the judges comments I read (NTRIAC comp), those written by people I know to have been on BIAFF or other IAC competition judging panels seemed much observant and useful than those by others which rather destroyed our idea that using industry professionals would be particularly beneficial. Then again it may simply be that the judges from outside the BIAFF "circle" needed more guidance in the types of comments expected.


Posted: Fri May 26, 2017 11:41 pm
by Willy
Many thanks for your reply, Tim. I've just come home from a holiday at the seaside. Yes, you are right that there would be some obstacles. I know that the best coaches are in the sands, but I think these hurdles can be taken. As you said it would take longer to get in all the results. But imagine that 1st January would be the final deadline, not the 31st January. So one month earlier. The 'submanagers' would have the task to incite the judges to send the results and crits to them as soon as possible so that they can forward everything to the competition secretary on time. It's a matter of delegating. It would also lighten the job of the competition secretary.

Indeed, judges at BIAFF are given a certain amount of coaching, etc... But imagine that examples of films would sent to all judges by Wetransfer together with a guideline in a film "by satellite" or in a letter... This can even be done some weeks before sending the films to the judges. I have the feeling that now judges are asked not to be too generous. Maybe that's what the present organizer(s) fear(s). This year there were 8 diamonds, 13 five stars, 55 four stars, 86 three stars, 61 two stars and 8 one stars. Would it damage the good reputation of BIAFF if there would be more five stars and less four stars for instance? I think it is important not to let down our amateur filmmakers, our real hobbyists! I am sure that all this is wishful thinking. Don't you think so? A soft approach or a hard approach... I am for the soft one.


Posted: Sat May 27, 2017 10:14 am
by Michael Slowe
No Willy, the 'soft' approach would tend to devalue the awards that are given. I think that they have it at about the right level, we may quibble about whether a Four might have been a Five, or, more often, whether a Three should be a Four, but generally over the years I think that they've been pretty consistent. Film making is not something that you can calibrate with stars anyway. I't's meant to be an art, and art can be viewed in all sorts of ways and from many aspects.

By the way Willy, (and others who might be interested), my web site has had its final adjustments and now carries virtually all the 'serious' films that I've made since starting in 1963, thirty one in all, from ones shot on Standard 8mm and 16mm film, up to HD digital video. I hope that it is now easy to navigate and find individual productions, both by title and genre. The site is


Posted: Sat May 27, 2017 12:44 pm
by Willy
Your nex website, Michael
Who would not be interested in your new website, Michael? It's fantastic what you have done. All your movies are in categories: people, places, art, action and animals. Of course I have already seen quite a lot of them: Glass Art, On Silk, Melissa, Hounds & the Huntsman, Still Life, It's an Alcapa, ...Your website gives me the opportunity to watch them again, but also the ones that you made in the 60's and 70's and 80's and 90's. 1963!!! That's a long time ago. I was still a teenager! I was seventeen.

In my old club I organized Michael Slowe evenings after I had received copies from you, Michael. Now I could ask the chairman of my present club to do this again by using a laptop. We can surf to your website and watch your films on a big screen. Times have changed. Sometimes I hate new technology because it has become too complicated. Sometimes I adore it because it gives new opportunities to do things better.

To be hard or not to be hard... That's the question!
Ok, Michael, a hard approach then, but does it mean that the number of 5 stars must be limited? I agree not to change the number of diamond awards, but 5 stars... Imagine that there are 30 films that really deserve 5 stars...! Recently I was a judge at a competition. After the festival the secretary wrote on the website: "Willy has not let us down!". It sounded like a relief. I am happy when other people are happy. I am sad when other people are sad. I don't have the skin of a rhinoceros (in Dutch the skin of an elephant). I must admit that I am a soft one. "I don't mind if people find me a hard judge!" That's what I ever heard from a friend. He seemed to be proud when saying this. Does it mean that you are good judge if you are always hard when judging?

By the way: don't you think that the judging system should be changed to give the judges more time to watch the films? Quite a lot of forum-friends do think this. Me too!

I am puzzled! Help me! (I am exaggerating a little, but...)
Sometimes forum-friends say: thanks to the crits you can learn something and make your films much better in the future. In autumn I will take part in our national competition. Yesterday I asked my clubmates if I should change this or that in my new production taking the hard criticism at BIAFF in account. Please, do not do that they 'shouted'! Do not damage your film, they said. I am puzzled!


Posted: Sat May 27, 2017 9:07 pm
by Michael Slowe
Willy, (apologies to other 'readers' for our private conversations but you can all join in!) by referring to hard or soft judging, I wasn't suggesting that judges should demolish films in their critiques, just that BIAFF has to be mindful of not diminishing the achievement of a high award by lowering the criteria for these awards. You will remember the old Ten Best, of blessed memory, where they chose just ten films annually, from the entry of some three hundred and fifty. If the entry standard that year was very high they still only chose ten. Likewise, the BIAFF Diamonds are I believe limited in number, I agree with your suggestion however, that if the standard was particularly high, maybe the Five Star category could have a few more films allocated.

I'm glad you located my web site. My creative media student grandson made it for me. We debated how to categorise films into genres and I think it works quite well. I'm not quite the oldest IAC member making films but must be getting pretty near to being so. To me the year I began (on standard 8mm film) in 1963, still doesn't feel all that long ago!


Posted: Sun May 28, 2017 10:51 pm
by TimStannard
Willy wrote: but does it mean that the number of 5 stars must be limited?

But the number of five stars isn't limited, is it?
You comment that there were "only" thirteen five stars (plus the 8 diamonds) in 2017.
In the previous year there were only eight.
There were also only 49 four star awards.
The largest group of films for both years (and for as long as I can remember) are in the three star category.
This "bell curve" is pretty much as one might expect and as standards improve over the years (if indeed they do) one might expect the curve to remain even though the standard for each category rises. Otherwise after 50 years we might end up with all films being awarded five stars, thus rendering it rather meaningless.

As to whether you should change your film in the light of comments only you can decide that. But I would only suggest you change anything if you find yourself agreeing with the comment. If you change it but don't agree, you are no longer making the film you want to make - something I believe is the greatest privilege we have as amateurs.


Posted: Mon May 29, 2017 2:05 pm
by John Roberts
Tim, couldn't have put it better myself :D


Posted: Mon May 29, 2017 3:08 pm
by Michael Slowe
Tim, I'm sorry to say that the standard does not seem to rise year by year. Technically yes, picture and audio quality is now quite beyond what could have been imagined say, in 1970. Even films shot on 16mm Eastman Color negative did not match what we mostly see today. As to artistic standard? I'm not so sure. We may have got lazy in thinking that superb picture and audio was sufficient and were tempted to neglect the most important aspect. I've been around a very long time and, apart from a few exceptional examples, don't think that we are seeing rising standards. Very many films that I see are much in the pattern of thirty years ago (technical considerations apart). Can Dave Watterson please comment on this, I feel that he may well feel much the same as me, it would be good to have his thoughts on this, after all, this is surely not a subject that will upset anyone!

Willy, Tim is spot on. Don't alter a film unless you feel that changes are essential and they will markedly improve it. Personally, once a film is finished (printed as they used to say) I leave it, regardless of what anyone might have said about it. Even if I know that they are right I don't go back, I tell myself that I had every opportunity while I was making it and if I didn't do it well enough then that's my tough luck, on to the next one. That has been my unalterable rule since I started film making, otherwise you can drive yourself mad fiddling about for ever.


Posted: Mon May 29, 2017 9:35 pm
by TimStannard
Michael Slowe wrote:I've been around a very long time and, apart from a few exceptional examples, don't think that we are seeing rising standards.
This sounds like an interesting debate, but then perhaps not!

Outside of technical improvements, is it really possible to judge whether standards are improving? What do we mean by "improving standards". Styles come and go and therefore something that fits better with current styles may be considered "better" than those in older styles, but what is "better"?

Should we really expect standards to rise? I'm sure many will agree that the Hollywood blockbusters of today, whilst they may have technical improvements, often spectacularly so, are not an improvement in terms of storytelling or imagination on films of yore.

This isn't limited to film. People still write (and prizes are awarded for) stage plays and poems, yet most seem to agree that nothing surpasses material written half a millennium ago by a certain bard from Stratford.
Michael Slowe wrote:Very many films that I see are much in the pattern of thirty years ago (technical considerations apart).
I know only too well what you mean. If I hear another travelogue end with "...and so we bid farewell to <wherever>" or a documentary including the phrase "restored to its former glory" I swear I'll scream.

A good film, whether a documentary or a drama, will keep the audience entertained. Entertained is probably the wrong word - what I mean is something that will make them want to watch to see what happens next and want to talk about it afterwards to both people who have seen it and people who haven't. What was entertaining several years ago is often not so now. But this is often down to stylistic changes and I'm don't think that a change in style to something more contemporary is necessarily an improvement in standards.

So, let's explore this further: Ignoring the technical aspects, what would we consider an improvement in standards? I'm not accepting answers like "better storytelling" - that's far too vague. Something like "snappy editing" or "no voiceovers" I'd consider stylistic, so I'm not allowing that either.

My hypothesis is that making films is simply a form of storytelling and as humans have been telling stories for millennia, it is highly unlikely we can improve the general standard.

Contrary to how this may sound, this is not a defeatist attitude as I believe as individuals we can always improve our storytelling. My hypothesis applies to film makers as a whole.


Posted: Tue May 30, 2017 4:14 pm
by Michael Slowe
Tim, my mentioning the standards of today's BIAFF films compared to past years was prompted by Willy, he seemed to think that todays films are better than those of, say, twenty years ago, I disagreed, that's all. Of course, you are right, there is no yardstick whereby the standards of films can be measured.