Most of the films shown at Film Oxford’s monthly 10×10 meetings showcase documentaries/causes/charity work. This month had a fictional film in the mix called “After the Bombs”.
During this session I realised the following:
1. In film terms I prefer fictitious work over factual pieces. This is the polar opposite of how I generally feel about books.
2. In the 10×10 sessions people tend to be much more critical of fictional work. The audience are more forgiving towards documentary work (even if details are incorrect, an argument is one-sided or the quality of coverage/footage is poor).
Why? My guess is that audiences demand higher production values in fictional work (thanks to Hollywood) and it is very difficult creating a convincing/authentic world. How many times have you seen a film and thought: “that wouldn’t happen”, “why did they do that?”, “that was dumb”, “I didn’t understand”, “that bit was rubbish” (the list could go on you get the picture). If you do the job correctly then you spend hours agonising over the tiniest of details, details which an audience will either overlook, pull to pieces (or that could end up on the cutting-room floor). Everything is taken for granted by the audience who are quicker to dismiss than accept – even I do this! Fictional and factual film-making are two entirely different disciplines. But personally fictional film-making seems much harder to pull off well (certainly at a low-budget level), which I guess is why I like the challenge.
Back to the film, it covers the evolving friendship between an alcoholic and an obsessive compulsive newspaper reader. In the style of Memento, this is told in non-linear fragments (both “before” and “after” the bombs which are mentioned in the title).
The film itself was presented in rough form but there was much to admire (especially as a first time effort). It reminded me of my directorial debut (ambitious dramatic premise, confined locations with two main characters, character with a distrust of media or the state). Likewise it also suffered from several of the same technical problems. Some of these are easily overcome (the runtime is about 27 minutes or so, the editing/picture need work), some are more troublesome (the sound needs serious work and the story doesn’t hold up to intense scrutiny). This said, it felt a breath of fresh air for the 10×10 group and it is a strong debut by Barry Stringer and rest of the team.
During the session they agreed to let me have a go at re-editing the film. I have now completed this initial edit and given the film some grading. Being as I’ve been working directly with the film-edit – my choices are limited – but this is a good starting place. I have already taken the runtime down by 10 minutes, shaken up the beginning/end a bit and given it credits. The full film with credits now runs at 17 minutes. This serves as a good reminder that a fresh pair of eyes can help and that it is generally a good idea to bring in an independent editor rather than direct/edit yourself. The next stage will be to consider giving the score a bit of make-over and then showcase the results back to the team later in the week.
Whilst experimenting with this project, I wrote an “inspired by” track called Confines. The inspiration was a montage sequence where the alcoholic character gets cabin-fever. It ended up evolving into a Spanish Guitar track (a departure for me – how this happened I am not sure – but hey!). I will probably do something similar/rework this for the film or it might end up entirely different (not sure – see what fits). Meanwhile – enjoy this one for now: