3 Things I Learned From Watching 22 Movies In 11 Days
by Mandi Harrison
The 2018 Phoenix Film Festival has come to an end and it's taken me a few days (okay, more than a few) to recover. Chris and I went to the festival last year, but probably saw half the amount of movies. This year we decided to get the festival passes, which allowed us to see any movie we wanted and we took advantage of it, catching movies anytime we had a minute. Finally tally: 22 films in 11 days.
*Full Disclosure: 2 of the movies were blocks of short films and there were 5 shorts in each block. And 2 other movies weren't festival movies, just ones we wanted to see anyway.
Seeing 22ish movies in a little over a week will teach you a few things, like how it can be exhausting just sitting watching movies and that there IS a limit for how much popcorn you can eat. Here are some other things I took away from this experience.
1. You have nothing without story
"But don't all movies have a story?" No. Some movies are just a concept that never developed into a story. Some movies are just series of moments the filmmakers thought were great and pieced together to make a "story". And more often than not, the story starts off great, but slowly loses its momentum and doesn't have a satisfying conclusion.
A good story needs a beginning, a middle and an end. The beginning needs to grab your attention right away and show the character's wants and beliefs, the middle needs to challenge those beliefs and the end needs to answer the question: did the character get what they wanted? Sounds super simple, but there are so movies that miss the mark.
We saw a lot of movies that had potential, but weren't fully fleshed out. They would've benefited greatly from writing a few more drafts of the script or editing the movie differently. I've learned that no matter how anxious I am to start filming, it's worth the time spent making sure the story works.
Having a good story, something that engages, can forgive a multitude of sins, including the overall quality of the film, which leads to my next lesson learned.
2. Spring for sound equipment
When I'm invested in a movie, I can excuse a lot. But if the story is lacking, I start picking it apart. The editing, the way it was filmed, and most of all the sound. Having quality sound can take you from amateur hour to professional. I'm not talking sound effects- it's about using a boom mike and filtering out the outside noises during the editing. And then adding in effects if needed. Everything I've read and seen has showed me that a good chunk of our budget will be going towards sound and it will be money well spent.
Geek out moment: One of the non-festival movies we saw was A Quiet Place. I LOVED this movie. The use of sound was incredible. I had chills walking out of the theater.
3. Know your audience
Not every movie is suited for every person, so not knowing who your core audience is can really set you back, with time and money. There were several movies that we saw that were trying to cater to too many audiences, or worse yet, were self-indilgent, just made for the filmmakers. Asking yourself who this movie is for and being extremely specific with your answers will help you. It will save you time and make your story gel better. Marketing towards your core audience will make sure that the right people will see your movie and in turn will recommend your movie. If the movie is done well, a buzz will begin and everyone will want to see what the fuss is about.
If you ever get the chance to go to a film festival, I highly recommend it. The people-watching opportunities are fantastic, there are some really great movies, plus you will be supporting your local film community, which helps local filmmakers. (*cough* like us* cough*) Sorry, had a tickle in my throat. Anyway, I'm really happy that we were able to go and see so many movies this year. We learned a LOT and had fun along the way.