Monday, January 16, 2012

Student Film Purgatory

Once upon a time, I made a goal to write and direct four short films, each less than 2 minutes, in one semester. Each of them, I decided, would take approximately four hours to shoot, and they would all be ready to show by the end of the semester.

Here's what happened: I made one, and it took a year.

The irony is that Stage Fright really did only take a few hours to shoot. I put a crew together, got a location, and cast it in something like two weeks. Then it went into post production and...disappeared. The guy I had editing it was overcommitted, and this little side project was just about his last priority. Then, when it was finally cut, my sound guy (who had been expecting it months earlier) was busy getting married. And so on.

There are three kinds of student film:

  1. Those that get finished
  2. Those that don't get finished
  3. Those that are currently in purgatory, whose final state is unknown

The films in purgatory are sort of like Schrödinger's cat, existing in both states, progress (life) and termination (death), simultaneously. Unlike the poisoned animal, however, the student film cannot be observed in this state. The box, so to speak, is sealed shut. 

Remember Weighted? Well, it never went into purgatory, thank goodness, which is why it got finished about eight months after I started writing the script. That kind of thing is vanishingly rare for student films--in fact, I know of no other capstone project that finished so quickly. It was a charmed project, in many ways, and I'm grateful.

Other projects have not been so fortunate. For instance, the following is a trailer for a capstone project that got started more than two years ago. It's a short film adaptation of a couple of scenes from the book "Ender's Game." 

By Jacob Schwarz's account, it's...well, it's getting there. The CG effects in this thing have been his personal nightmare for what probably seems like an endless eternity to him now, but he's still working at it. That's saying something, since he graduated and moved on to getting paid for what he does over a year ago.

So, if I had to guess whether this film will be dead or alive when it finally emerges from purgatory, I'd guess it'll be kickin'. Jacob isn't the kind of person to let something with so much cool potential just fade away. But he's running out of time. One of the frightening truths of student filmmaking is that your projects have expiration dates. There is a point, and it changes from film to film, at which completing it becomes an abject impossibility.

Here's to hoping Jake can drag The Third out of purgatory, and soon.

1 comment:

  1. Didn't Poe write a short about between life and death? NOT pretty:

    In any case, by all means let's not relegate any more potential scripts to that place!


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