Well, I’m now working more than I have in years. Not since my first year at Tavares Teleproductions have I worked this many hours. Luckily, my skill-set has improved and I can be more efficient with my time. Editing TV spots for the Food Network & MTV2 aren’t all bad. There are far worse ways to make a living.┬áThis past Tuesday, I taught an abridged version of my edit class for several hours to inner-city kids. During the lunch break, one of the students commented on the HORRORS OF WAR Poster on the wall, asking if I knew anything about the movie. I said, “Sure”, and then proceeded to play the trailer. Even the 3 girls were blown away. When it became clear in the class, via the Webdocs with me in them, that I was one of the makers of the film, they seemed to take on a different attitude. I was given a compliment of the highest order; they said the movie was going to be “Off the Hook”. I think I can safely say there are at least 7-8 new copies for rent from that class. Now if only the movie would get released in North America. Maybe this November. Maybe not. Who knows?

We just got another award for HORRORS OF WAR. In August, we’ll receive the “B-Movie top emerging B Filmmaking talent” by a B-movie convention. I’m also going to be on a panel with Lloyd Kaufman & Jim Wynorski. I can’t wait, so I’ll be attending this one. I’m there to represent the “unknown” filmmaker. I still can’t watch the movie again, as I have seen it far too many times.

Progress on the feature length documentary has continued in due course. I’m setting a kind of deadline for late September. I doubt this will get any kind of public release, but this is what we are going to give to cast & crew as a free thank you for working on the movie. Timing this out to coincide with a DVD release would be great, but there are no guarantees with a “tentative” release date.

One last HORRORS OF WAR update, on the German Amazon.com (Amazon.de) the reviews are sharply in contrast of those who love it and those that hate it. That seems to really sum up people’s feelings about the film. They either love it or hate it. I think that really is the secret of all movies. Some people love your movie, some people hate it. Get used to it kids. That’s normal and that’s life. There are some movies I hate that other people love. Go figure. Only amateurs & hobbyists don’t understand that.

I have been dealing with technical issues on Eternal for the Derek. I have been capturing, then re-capturing the footage trying to tweak everything just right to edit in HD with the AspectHD codec. It seems to work much smoother with the JVC HD110 than the Sony line of HDV. The solution was to use a cheaper Sony HDV Handicam so that the capturing goes smoother, and Jesus Marimba that works so much better. After this weekend, we’ll be all caught up on everything that’s been shot so far, plus we’ll be finishing off the rest of what they are shooting this weekend. Once it’s all digitized, I am making 2 backups on the 2 portable 500 Gig drives Derek bought. Redundancy can never be bad. Always protect the data, and protect it often. I’m down to 1 intern helping on this project and I need at least 2-3 more. Assistant Editors have become the lifeblood of my editorial process. I like the team aspect, especially when it’s not my own project, although I will probably institute this process into my own movies from here on out. Collaboration seems to increase the quality in the edit.

All of my feature work is on hold for a little bit. I want to develop the screenplays more fully and be 100% sure they are ready to roll. I value the script above all else these days. I want to choose my material very carefully and make the best possible movie based on what will be the blueprint.

Lately, I’ve been listening to my old CD’s. The Black Crowes had so much more passion in their style than I remember. I had a bunch of CD’s, but only listened to a few tracks. Now I’m devouring the entire catalog. Chris and Rich Robinson conveyed a depth and soul rarely heard in popular music, especially from ones as young as they were.

As for the world of Rossdonia the controversy is abound. “V” was convicted of turning over the names of the kitties that spilled the water dish on Brandy’s computer. I commuted his sentence and this caused uproar in Rossdonia. I know he broke the law, but he’s my friend, so I let him off the hook. The scorn & ridicule he and his family have been through was enough. I know that Paris Hilton spent a few weeks in jail, but this is different. I know this guy, so I’m letting him off. Besides, it’s old news. Let’s move on because I have better things to do than answer for my own questionable actions.

I like watching short films online. There are a lot of varying degrees of talent out there. Even more crap exists than good and even less great material, but it’s the spice of life to see it all. Here’s my laundry list of my own personal preferences and personal dislikes in movies online.

What I see a lot are some recurring bad elements. In particular, I find it completely annoying for a movie to insult the viewer by stating the obvious. I mean, when you have a character saying, “I just lost my job at the plant!” when we just watched them get fired in a lengthy scene, it makes me talk to my screen, “Really Captain Obvious? You mean the job I just saw the character get fired from?” It is possible to cut into the middle of the next scene where it can be made apparent that the characters already had the conversation. Audiences are not that slow that they need information pounded into their skull. It makes the filmmaker seem dumber than the audience.

Then having flashbacks to a scene we just saw 3-4 minutes ago becomes equally erroneous and let’s face it: AMATEUR. In a 20-30 minute piece, do we really have to be reminded every 2-3 minutes of your key points by dialogue? How about telling the story visually or better yet, not insulting the audience by telling them what should have been obvious, if you’d shot it or edited it well enough.

I know a filmmaker who feels that voice over is the ultimate sign of poor writing or directing. I pointed out brilliance like SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION’s voice over, but regardless he persists that it’s a cheap gimmick to cover up the fact that the filmmakers could have just let the story tell itself in the images and dialogue and that all voice over does is insult the audience because someone is assuming they couldn’t possibly have understood the story unless it was spelled out to them. I have tried to avoid voice over because of that conversation with him for years. Every time I hear a voice over, especially in a short film, try to imagine the movie without voice over and would I have “gotten it” without having it. If I can understand the story, all I can think is that the filmmaker is some kind of failure because I can’t figure out why they think so low of their audience that they had to beat us over the head with the obvious information. Even if the story would make no sense without voice over, in some ways that’s an even bigger failure because the filmmaker failed to find a visual way to tell the story without having to TELL the audience what is going on. I guess I’m not a fan of voice over at all now too.

The camera is there to represent the viewer. Is the camera angle in each shot telling the story? How is the camera running around the scene in circles somehow helping the scene? It can be helpful to a scene, but if it’s not, it seems more like an amateur wannabe director thought, “This would be a cool shot!” and it has NOTHING to do with the story of the scene or doing anything even for the emotion.

Even the use of transitions seems more like a kid finding a new toy as opposed to having some level of intention. Wacky dissolves, fake zoom in, zoom outs, wipes, and page peels are radical transitions. Audiences respond to a transition to think “Oh, something is changing.” The term “transition” really equates to meaning CHANGE, so if you use a transition in your editing program, but there isn’t a change, then it’s a bit jarring. This seems like common sense, but I guess it needs to be stated because soooooooo many bad “shorts” use transitions all the time without signifying a change. So, as a viewer, I re-adjust my mindset for a change, and there isn’t one. I watch a transition, and then realize, “Oh this wasn’t a change at all; it’s just poor filmmaking skills covering up their amateur mistakes… NOW continue the story…” but by then I lost a lot of interest and clicked on the link for a lesbian make out video where story is less relevant and far more compelling than bad amateur shorts.

Another element people most miss is SOUND. It’s 50% of the experience. Bad audio, changing from shot to shot, and lack of room tone, etc. are signs of the AMATEUR. Amateurs think that by adding a music track this somehow covers up terrible audio recording on set. One of the slightly more complex concepts missing is Sound Design. Making editorial changes like jumpcuts or sped up footage, it tends to work better if there is accompanying SOUND. If you notice that a well timed music cue or a sound design element makes the harsh editing much more palatable. That’s what makes it acceptable to the viewers psyche. Without it, the choices to make jumpcuts, hard edits, sped up, slowed down, funky transitions, or any abnormal edits – they all come across as either mistakes or again: AMATEUR.

Even in the French New Wave when jumpcuts were all the rage, and breaking the established rules was the order of the day. The sound was always consistent. Just watch Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless, one of the pioneer films of the Nouvelle Vague era and it’s clear that even though many rules broke about Picture, the Sound remained consistent. The rules weren’t broken, just replaced with their own set of concepts.

If you’re just recording a scene, then you’re not really directing. Directing implies DIRECTION, as in for a story or the characters or the camera, and even the editing.

If you’re making movies just to placate yourself and the audience isn’t a factor, by all means, continue your artistic masturbation, but if you have any desire to actually connect with audiences, then you may want to take their point of view into consideration. There’s nothing wrong with jerking yourself off with a camcorder, metaphorically speaking – hell, even literally. Everyone is allowed a fetish, I guess. Just don’t expect audiences to care or investors to put money into someone not interested in what the ticket buyers think.

At least that’s my opinion. Everyone can make movies however they want. All I can do is express my opinion & feelings. Michael Bay is still making movies, and making money at it, so what the hell do I know.

Categories: blog

Peter John Ross

A filmmaker, a dreamer, and the world's only Dan Akroyd Cosplayer


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