Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sundance Short Documentary Program

This post was lifted from an email I sent my Flashpoint Academy Documentary students after seeing the Short Doc. program yesterday.

Hello From Sundance,

I have been to six screenings so far and by far the best one was the short documentary program. There were 8 films selected out of 1200 entries. Just think about that 8 out of 1200. The only one you will be likely to see is an HBO Documentary on the actor John Cazale- Fredo from the Godfather. It was great, but it was also the longest and by far the most expensive, and it didn't seem to fit in with the other seven films as it was the most commercial.

A few trends I noticed:

Lots of graphics. Two films were originally designed for the Internet and were all graphics and/or found footage- one about nuclear weapons and the other about Internet censorship.

A third film was about a Canadian artist and they shot an interview, but the entire piece was animated. Very beautiful and poetic.

Another trend- recording dialog and interviews separately and shooting B-roll. No on camera interviews. Two films I saw- one was shot with a digital still camera and the other about people who store their belongings in public storage in Scotland- recorded their interviews on a digital disc recorder separate from shooting.

This is very interesting to me because of the emphasis it puts on the B-Roll. The Scottish storage locker film was great because of the images they shot, and perhaps because there were no talking heads or faces.

There was a fascinating film called Utopia Part 3 about the world's largest shopping mall- in China. The mall is a bust, no one goes, there are only a few stores open, but it really illustrates some of the problems China is having with growth and capitalism.

After the HBO/Cazale film perhaps the most traditional doc. was about high school kids in New Orleans post-Katrina. The filmmaker followed three students who were attending school even though they were living by themselves- their parents and siblings had moved or been taken to foster care. The filmmaker said that 20 percent of students at the school lived without their parents.

The final film- and one I hope I don't have to see again- is called Chop Off. It's about a performance artist who chops off body parts as his art. Very tough to watch- no amputations on screen- and full of medical and media ethics questions.

Those are the 8 films out of 1200 that made it. Just seeing them makes me want to explore some of these techniques and shoot more film.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I'm a fan of your blog. Thanks for all the sundance coverage.

I think other young filmmakers might use your page as a resource too. If so, there's a video contest they might be interested in. The city of LA is hosting it: http://discoverlosangeles.com/thats-so-la/

Thanks man. Keep up the great pieces.