Comic Relief

What it feels like to watch a block of student films.

What it feels like to watch a block of student films.

Now that I have officially visited both the Academy of Film Arts and Sciences AND the Academy of Television Arts and Science I can say that the most notable difference between the two theatres is that the first one flanks the projection screen with gigantic Oscar statues and the latter with gigantic Emmy statues.

Both are lovely, though. Leave it to an Academy to know how to set up a plush theatre experience.

We were attending a showcase of student films that were going to be featured on the KCET TV station during the coming six weeks and we had a friend whose short film was part of the lineup. It was an excellent program, but that didn’t stop us from feeling pulverized by the time we walked out afterwards.

The thing about student film, and I say this affectionately, is that it is so dark that the popcorn should come drizzled in antidepressants. The films we saw were as follows:

  • Life as the child of gay parents. 
  • A catholic girl can’t get no date.
  • A family broken up by infidelity.
  • A widower broken up by grief (and possibly dementia).
  • A doctor has to drive a taxi to make ends meet.
  • The mom dies.
  • The dad dies.

A regular barrel of laughs, this one.

Now, before I get to sounding too critical of my fellow filmmakers I should say that all the films were well done. There is a lot of bad film out there but all of these films were well made, just very dark. And I can understand the impulse: as a student you want your film to have high stakes because the greatest drama is the result of overcoming the greatest obstacle and what could be a greater obstacle than death, grief, infidelity, poverty, or middle school? I mean, right? The best films in the block were the ones that had a few laughs along the way. (The first one, a documentary, had a natural advantage because it needed no dramatic tension.)

So the bottom line is: if you want your student film to stand out give the audience something to laugh at. It is called “comic relief” for a reason.

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on January 16, 2013.

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