C is for Comedy

C is for Comedy

Comedy is by far the hardest genre to write or film – especially if you tell people that’s what your film is going to be.

Comedy doesn’t have to make you laugh out loud but it does have to cause surprise. It’s the unexpected moment or the build up of incident (‘can they manage one more twist?’) that makes something funny.

Or anticipation, the expectation of the predictable (‘Oh my god, they’ve killed Kenny’), coming at just the right time.

Or uncomfortable recognition as in the UK version of ‘The Office’. I’m sure everyone has worked with at least one of these characters at some time.

A good idea can be strung out for so long so that the impact is lost. For example, I saw a film many years ago called ‘Waiting for Gorgo’ in which a long-forgotten UK government department had been working in a basement for decades waiting for the return of a Godzilla-like creature that would threaten London. The idea was fine and the first five or so minutes were clever, then it got bogged down and ended up just being overlong and (to my mind) boring. The filmmakers overwrote and then overplayed their idea.

With comedy, timing is everything. Not easy at all.

And C is also for cassette.

The late and much missed Metro Screen had a table in their reception area made from old 3/4” Umatic (not ‘pneumatic’) video tapes. You have to be really old to remember these precursors to VHS – 1kg each and only 1 hour recording time. The players were huge and off-air recording laborious but the tapes were very stable and almost indestructible. It was good to see them repurposed.  But thank god for digital uploads.

B is for Barnacles and (Berlin) Bears

Barnacles are best known for attaching themselves to the bottom of ships and being very hard to remove. Filmmakers can also suffer from barnacle encrustation when they get too focused on one idea, one script, one particular shot, one piece of music. It can be hard to give up an idea that you have been thinking about for years but sometimes that’s the only way to move on.

If you’ve tried every way to make it work but can’t get beyond a certain point, it’s probably a barnacle and needs to be removed. The film may be feasible in the future or you may realise it is never going to be possible, like the juvenile novel that needs to be written but then kept safely locked in a drawer until maturity (yours not its – it probably won’t improve with age).

And segueing in a totally contrived manner from barnacles to the Berlin International Film Festival …

Filmmakers can get fixated on getting into one of the major festivals like Berlin but they take very few short films into competition. Berlin however has a couple of advantages over Cannes and Venice. It has the Generation section for films for children and young people and the TEDDY Awards for films with LGBTQI themes. This means that there are (relatively) fewer films competing in these areas and therefore a slightly higher chance of being accepted. The more your film addresses a defined target audience, the more likely (or the less unlikely) your chances of being accepted. Australian films have done very well in both these competitions so don’t overlook them and focus solely on the main short film competition.


A is for Aardvark

Anyone old enough to remember the old paper phone books may have looked at the first few pages of the alphabetical entries. That is, If you were really, really bored, alone in a motel in a small country town on a wet Sunday night before the internet.

I was always puzzled by the large number of business names beginning with Aardvark or AAardvark or AAAardvark. How strange, I thought, to name so many businesses after an obscure animal. Then I realised that they were all attempting to be first listing in the phone book and therefore attract more customers. Google ‘AAAardvark’ and see how many businesses still use this technique.

I doubt if it ever worked because who would go randomly to the first page if they specifically needed a tree lopper or a tightrope walker or a telephone sanitiser? Possibly an out of work aardvark wrangler would find what they were looking for but no-one else.

However the principle is sound – the majority of people only read the first page of Google search results so there is a huge industry dedicated to the science of website optimisation, that is, getting on to this valuable first page.

This same principle applies to film titles – make your title distinctive and memorable and it will have a better chance of being found by searchers. Avoid titles starting with ‘A’ (for example, ‘A Wish’) as it can be swamped by all the other films called ‘A something’. See how many other films there are with the same title (you’d be surprised.) Aim to be on that first page.

Actually I have never seen a short film called ‘AAardvark’ so maybe you should ignore my advice – just go for it and you will probably rank #1 on any search.

Masterclass: Finding Film Festival Success


Each year, Sundance Film Festival receives over 8,000 short film submissions and programs just 60-80. Your festival strategy begins long before you finish the film. Hopefully, before you even roll camera! Attend this masterclass to give your film the best chance of success.

  • Venue: Metro Screen
  • Start: October 22, 2015 6:30 pm
  • End: October 22, 2015 9:00 pm

There are thousands of film festivals across the world – all with different deadlines, premiere requirements, rules and regulations. So what should your approach be?

This masterclass is a must for those wanting to distribute their short film or independent feature through film festivals both in Australia and internationally.

more details and to register>

Focus on Festivals

Want to get your film into film festivals?  Of course you do – but the major festivals like Sundance and Clermont-Ferrand get around 7000 short film entries each year.  So what do you do?

Now my advice can’t ensure that your film will be among the 1% or 2% of those entries that are screened but I can help you avoid the common mistakes that mean your film will definitely NOT be accepted.  After all, you don’t want to reduce your chances by ignoring the basics of festival entry.

 My Focus on Festivals training covers:

  • Preparing your film for festival entry
  • Supporting materials you will need
  • Finding the best festivals for your film
  • Entry formats and systems
  • Planning for the life of your film


Distribution begins in pre-production

I’ve just read about a filmmaker who had a distribution offer for their film but couldn’t accept it as they lacked the right delivery materials.

Don’t let yourself be put in this position!  Distribution begins in PRE-PRODUCTION!  If you know what materials you are likely to need before shooting your film then you can take timely steps to acquire them.  It’s always going to be easier (and cheaper) to make provision for these materials at an early stage rather than trying to create them later.

Key art/stills?  Music/actor clearances?  Delivery formats?  Ruth Saunders Shorts can advise you on the right delivery materials for each market.