Friday, September 21, 2012

Dig: Online Premiere


Winner: Silver Screen Award (Short Film Competition) - Nevada Film Festival

Official Selection:
2011 LA Shorts Fest
2011 Carmel Art & Film Festival
2011 NewFilmmakersLA (Fall)
2012 Durango Independent Film Festival
2012 Beverly Hills Film Festival
2012 Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival
2012 Dances with Films
2012 HollyShorts Film Festival
2012 Action on Film International Film Festival

Beware! This post might wander into self-deprecating mode if I'm not careful (though it might have already).

Dig was and remains an incredibly important film for me on a number of fronts. It was the first film I directed that I didn't feel was shortchanged in any way, it was the first film where I wasn't continually bothered by something in it, and I feel was a real elevation of my work, essentially helping to kickstart me both in regards to my career and my aesthetic. 

You can follow the writing, pre-production and post-production phases of the film by starting at the bottom of this page with the post titled In Preparation for Writing Dig and scrolling upwards.

It's funny to look back on these posts from more than two years ago. Hard for me to believe that it's been that long and I'm only just now releasing the film online. As you can see from the list above, the film enjoyed a healthy festival run, though not as healthy as I would have liked (more on that later). Had I know the film would only play in a handful of festivals, mostly in the LA area, and won no awards save one, I would have probably just released it online and been done with it. But I honestly felt like it had a really good chance. It was, in many ways, designed for it. 

A tough subject matter. Recognizable actors. High production values. High level crew. But it was not meant to be. As rejection after rejection rolled through and award after award was handed off to other filmmakers, I was left wondering what happened. 

I had festivals tell me they rejected me due to my choice of actors. Another, because they had already programmed two features that were about the holocaust. Festivals in which I had other films, much lesser quality films, rejected me. I couldn't even get the film played in my home town of Seattle, WA. One festival offered to provide filmmakers with the judges written comments about the film:

1. I never thought that I would find a "holocaust" film interesting, ever again.  This is the one, the subject was treated in an original way, it was beautifully filmed and the production values in general were very high.  I appreciated how the desolate landscape reflected the desolation of the boy.  The actors were both good choices and had good direction.  The cinematography was innovative in it's use of shadows and sharpness/blurriness.  The music enhanced the drama and came to a crescendo at the perfect moment.

2. This short works mostly because of its incredible production values. The midsection is draggy, and the plot is a little weak, however the performances and the direction help make this work. Notably Mark Margolis, who it’s always a pleasure to see (and wonderfully in a leading role). The atmosphere and cinematography are top-rate, and the film has a beautifully crisp color palette.

3.  I loved blending the exploration of morality,Nietzsche's ideas along with the discussion of the students and the kidnapped Nazi in this thought stirring short.The actors did a great job of showing a range of emotions without overplaying them and engaging the viewer to feel those emotions.The struggles between ideology and the characters reality were apparent and left a lasting reflection for the viewer once the film was over. It presents some challenging thoughts on moral code.The lighting the cinematogtraphy and music were perfect in enhancing the story.

They rejected us as well.

Now, I'm not writing this post seeking sympathy. I'm not trying to make you feel sorry for me. The film has brought me a lot, including advancements in career and more directing opportunities. It's a film I'm incredibly proud of. I put everything I had into the making of this film. Nearly every screening has brought positive comments from Festival staff and the audience about the acting, cinematography and music. Mark Margolis who plays Heinrich in the film told me that he thought it was one of his best performances (this was after he had played Uncle Tio in Breaking Bad for which he received an Emmy nomination). 

In fact, I don't really know why I'm writing this post. I think that if this had played in 100 film festivals, won Sundance, and got me a three picture directing deal, this post would be easy. "Look at me, I'm amazing." But when I started this blog I told you that I would be honest about the process, about the ups and downs and my reaction to them.

I guess that, at the end of the day, I'm surprised. Unless everyone I know was bullshitting me, I got excellent feedback on the film. Travis thinks it was the length and at the end of the day, it might have been. 26 minutes is long for a short. We had endless debates about whether we should cut it down and resubmit but I knew that would take time and money and it wasn't guaranteed to make the film better.

To some degree, I had the luxury of not needing to cut it down. I could make the film that I wanted to make. And so I did. And Dig, all 26 minutes of it, is exactly the film I wanted to make.

Now, I know in this day and age, watching something that's 26 minutes long on the internet feels like an eternity. Stick with it. I think it's a really good film, that presents a really interesting moral dilemma, one that doesn't have easy answers. I'd be curious to see what you think of the film, so please leave a comment either here or on the Vimeo page.

I wouldn't recommend watching it in the tiny screen posted above. I'd click over to the Vimeo page or watch it in HD.

I look forward to seeing what you think of the film and if you like it, please pass it along to others.

7 comments:

  1. A good friend of mine used to work for several film festivals and from what he used to tell me, I can pretty securely guess that the length of the short is probably what kept it out of some festivals. For festival programmers, shorts no longer than 8-10 minutes are the dream submissions.

    Think about it - there's only so much time available for screening at a festival. In the time it takes to run DIG, they could have run THREE shorts of eight minutes or less, FOUR shorts of six minutes or less, and so on.

    So it becomes a dilemma of choosing between spotlighting three worthy filmmakers vs. one worthy filmmaker. I can imagine that if DIG was up against some stiff competition, that 3 vs. 1 equation could be a stiff hurdle to clear.

    I'm curious - the other short that did better but wasn't as good... how long was it?

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  2. 23 minutes. (I have yet to make an actual short, short film.) Of course, it had won an MTV Movie Award before being submitted, so I'm sure that helped.

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  3. Thanks for all your hard work on this. I very much look forward to sharing this with friends and colleagues.

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  4. You should make your Vimeo page nice and pretty w/ more links & add some more of your independent work there.

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    1. Sure thing, but it's easy-peasy. We're talking 5 minutes of work.

      The only impediment to fleshing out your Vimeo presence is the upload limit for free accounts (500 MB), but you can upgrade to Plus for just like one month and knock everything out. The main cool thing about Vimeo is adding production credits (so it can link back to other Vimeo users - hint, hint).

      Also, have you considered selling it on iTunes? http://itunes.apple.com/us/genre/movies-short-films/id4414

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