by Brian Smith
A new book called How Not to Make a Short Film (Secrets from a Sundance Programmer) just arrived in our office from Hyperion, and what a joy it is. Seems its "expert" author, Roberta Marie Munroe, is a rather witty filmmaker herself whose head happens to be crammed with insider-y film-biz knowledge, which basically fills these 300 or so pages.
Inside this paperback — whose chapters run a kind of "how to" gamut for those looking to create a short film — we found a section called "Top Short Film Maker Cliches." It got us howling. Its eagle-eyed analysis of hackneyed film devices is broken down into dozens of questions filmmakers must ask themselves. Said chapter's readymade for stints atop your toilet. Below are few highlights from a list that was partly assembled, Munroe writes, from unnamed "programmers, filmmakers and distributors." To wit:
-Is there a Japanese tea ritual opening scene?
-Is there a woman in your film masturbating to poetry/spoken word?
-Is there a ninja in your film?
-Is Deborah Harry in your movie? Alison Janney?
-Does your black male lead really really really want to be a rapper/basketball player?
-Does someone vomit in your film? Does it look like milk and Oreo cookies.
-Is there a convenience store robbery that goes awry? Are the owners a Korean couple stumbling through broken English?
-Is the reason the robbery goes awry due to the English-as-a-second-language issue?
-Are two men in an argument (Black, Caucasian, Asian, whatever) where one calls the other bitch? Bro? My Niggah?
-Is there a tall Black man with a bad Jamaican accent telling your white lead to find Jah? Go back to his girlfriend? "Slow down, man"?
-Are your main characters late for a wedding? Funeral? Does this cause them to fight and the woman to go back to smoking?
-Are any of the characters in your film a mime?
-A zombie? A robot?
-Is the character in the wheelchair in your film actually wheelchair bound?
-Does your film have a lesbian or gay subtext that never materializes?
-Are there white guys in their twenties sitting around a table doing lines of cocaine?
-Are there four guys driving to Vegas and one of them accidentally dies?