Story Fragments


A visceral, gripping, melancholic tone poem.

All day I spent my time entering film titles into a “hit list” for an upcoming festival- a list of all the films screening with the name of the director, the cast, and a few lines of description about it. Story after story, reduced to a few descriptive adjectives and an open ended question: will she come to terms with her mother’s devastating cancer? Can he prevails in the face of radical injustice? How will they survive the fallout of a crumbling political regime?

I haven’t gotten to watch any of these films, and probably never will: these are questions that will largely stay unanswered for me. All these lyrical explorations of death and cancer and injustice and sophisticated character studies about the lost and lonely, and delicate coming of age stories of misfit teenagers in third world countries and darkly comedic dysfunctional family dramas ( there are no straight comedies at film festivals, I guess) make up the best of the cinematic storytelling available from the past year, and even I, as a filmmaker, will find it difficult to get to see them.

As I patched these tidbits together in my festival quilt of a spreadsheet I found myself wondering how I would describe my own film in a blurb for the festival: would I use up one of my precious lines to trumpet my own qualities as a director? I largely trimmed these lines out of the description for the sake of the hit list- if the director’s name doesn’t already ring a bell then it’s not going to help sell the film. Would I use up a line to quote a trade review from Variety or one of the other big publications to try to lend myself legitimacy from having garnered their interest? I trimmed nearly all of those lines out too: if a stranger- even a stranger who works for a big name trade publication- has to tell me how to feel about something then I’m not going to get to enjoy feeling it for myself. And would I fill out my logline ( that’s the one-line description of a film’s story for you lay men out there) with three dollar words like a stripper in a dollar dance? They typically come in threes such as: “a loving, tender, contemplative romance” or a “nuanced, quirky, sophisticated character study” or “a moody, ubiquitous, obstreperous deconstruction”.

I hope not.

Maybe this is why I’ve never gotten into the big festivals. That, and, of course, the fact that I haven’t made much in the way of features.

It got me thinking about the drive to tell stories- even about stories, and the fact that hundreds of people put their love and money into these films that I was reducing down to a few spare lines on a buy sheet. Copying down the logline of a film is like writing an obituary- so much of the life of the thing simply doesn’t come through onto the page. I was noticing this while reading the obituaries in the last issue of Variety. Some artists got a nice half page spread. Other life-long professionals merited a single line squeezed onto the bottom of the page.

Is this what St Peter’s book looks like? A series of loglines each summing up a person’s life? Some touring their own accomplishments, others riding on acclaim from their peers and others striving to hit upon the right combination of magic money/power/fame words to guarantee success? Does any of it help, I wonder?

Anyway, here is a do-it-yourself festival logline generator:

A (adjective) (adjective) mind of breakout director ( your name- first and last) comes a (adjective) debut feature. In the (emotional adjective), ( visual adjective) world of (place/setting), a (adjective) hero struggles to come to terms with the (adjective) news of her/his ( loved one)’s (adjective), (adjective), (worst thing ever). A (adjective), (adjective), (adjective), (genre) (story type) (subject matter) that will hit you where you live. ” A (emphatic) (superlative) (hyperbole) film !!! Not to be missed! ” ( title of trade publication).

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on January 22, 2016.

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