General Competition / Private Pain
You've put your heart and soul into making a movie for a cause you believe
in or a topic you are passionate about. It goes to a competition
comes the comment "aimed at too specific an audience."
It seems so unfair. Why can't judges accept that some movies are targeted
at a particular audience?
But almost all competitions are for movies aimed at a general audience. Judges
consider the quality of the film making technique, and the way information
is presented. If it is well done they will say so. But their brief is to
find work which can be shown to the public. So films which speak mainly to
minority interest groups tend not to do well.
How could competitions be otherwise?
It is hard enough for organisers to find good judges, let alone experts to
suit all the films that might be entered. Around the millennium many movies
were made about specific communities. Most were pretty dull if you lived
elsewhere, though fascinating to folk on their home turf. Could you seriously
expect the national comps to recruit judges familiar with every parish?
At the top competitions - especially international festivals - judges are
not just looking for technical ability. Their task is to consider entertainment
and interest values for the public. No matter how good a specialist film
is, it is unlikely to appeal to the wider audience.
Those who know about railways, military history, penguins or the town of
Zap (N. Dakota) want a lot of detail in films about their subject -
detail which would overwhelm and bore a general audience. For such films
to come top they need to go to specialised competitions - if those exist.
There are certainly competitions for films on wildlife, transport and art.
Digital video making, however, offers a way out of the dilemma. It is possible
to make a separate version of your movie - probably shorter, omitting masses
of detail, but explaining basic elements which experts in the field take
for granted. I have seen one or two films "selling" a particular school to
parents and potential students that have been re-cut to be mini-documentaries
about modern education, for example.
If you do send your specialist movie to a competition, I hope the judges'
remarks will recognise all that is good about it, even if they do not give
it a prize. Remember why you made the film and who you made it for. Your
true reward will come when the work is seen by its intended audience.
- Dave Watterson