Monday, August 4, 2014
SIlent Night (2013) and the dangers of shorts
Around Christmas I was directed to a short film called Silent Night by the filmmakers on Twitter. The filmmakers followed me and because I wanted to spend time with the film I followed the link to the film and then bookmarked it. I then sat on the film until March before I took the time to watch it.
An amusing Christmas set horror film, the film is extremely well made little confection that kind of missteps in its final seconds. I know what they were getting at but I don’t think the film makes the jump to get the chills its aiming for. The film can be seen above and its worth taking three minutes to decide for yourself.
Normally I wouldn’t have bothered writing up this short little film simply out of time constraints. The film runs under three minutes so writing the film up and revising the piece would take, depending on the length and how much revision I do an hour to two hours. Normally I wouldn’t allow that sort of time ratio for something that kind of was going to go off my radar. However this film meets a couple of criteria that would have gotten it at least a brief mention:
First the film mostly works. Even for the bump at the end the film mostly works and I probably would have mentioned/ linked to it in a Nightcap if nothing else.
Secondly the filmmakers reached out-however tentatively- to me so I will reach back. While it’s been months since they did so I still felt enough about the act to take the time to see the film when I could and write it up.
Thirdly the film illustrates a couple of dangers about making short short films and writing about them.
The obvious- or not so obvious danger with a short short film is that you have to get it right fast. When you make a short film, under three minutes in this case, you have to be certain you have really told everything. Is everything clear? If not your film is going to end up forgotten faster than a longer film because the bump and the brevity will drive the “blink” of a film out of our memory. If the short doesn’t work it becomes “that was okay what’s next?” Silent Night kind of has that problem.
Making films this short means you have to get it right. Several short films at this year’s NYICFF still hang in my memory months after seeing them. The minute long The Deep End still haunts me with its amazing visuals. As does the two minute long Sun with its belly laugh ending. On the other hand the awful Fat Cat was gone from my memory when its minute was done (And yes I looked it up)
The reason that short films don’t get written up by most people except enmass has to do with the ratio of run time to writing mentioned above. Most people I know don’t want to waste time writing up a film if it’s going to take an inordinate amount of time to do so. It’s nothing to toss off a line or two but two or three or more paragraphs for three minutes is insane in most peoples view.
Worse writing about really short films or any short films is difficult because you have to be careful not to spoil everything. How do you talk about it and not ruin everything? I have that problem with Silent Night. I can’t tell you what’s wrong without wrecking it. In writing about short films, especially really short films you have to attack them from a different position and be very aware of what you’re doing. They can’t be written up by rote because each film has its own set of problems. You almost have to invent a new form with each piece on a short film- for example here I’m using Silent Night film to talk about the form. I’m also using it as part of this month’s exercise of writing on short films to try and help improve my writing skills
Ultimately making or writing on short films is a very slippery slope