The thing you have to know is, not every film can be great. Not every short is worth your time. But mostly, filmmakers are filmmakers because they want to make art.
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Through OUTFEST 2008 I had the opportunity to screen a collection of shorts entitled Straight Men and the Men Who Love Them 2 (Too!). The compilation is a series of DIY gay themes shorts ranging from three to twenty minutes. The genres were primarily romance with a little humor and a little horror thrown in. Not the best time I’ve spent watching shorts. But I will tell you about the three gems that are worth looking out for.
Tease, directed by Jorge Ameer, makes great use of the short format. In the spirit of brevity, an attractive young man has a hot 3 minute flirtation with the camera. Like many good shorts, it plants the suggestion, then leave you hanging. (Please forgive the pun). Fun, playful and over before you know it.
Awarded the Best Short Film of the 2008 Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival, Thirteen or So Minutes was a surprise and a delight. Written and directed by William Branden Blinn. Two straight guys have a great and satisfying roll in the hay. And they talk about it afterwards, because after all, they are not gay, neither of them. Right?
This short was exceptionally well done. With a grand total of six camera set-ups, one location and two actors, Thirteen... is a paradigm for the bare essentials of good filmmaking: good writing and good performances. Blinn wastes no time beginning his tale at the exact moment of a turning point for his characters. Actors Carlos Salas and Mark Soper perfectly counter balance each other with freaked out and calmly curious reactions to the situation. They verbal intercourse is both honest and emotionally engaging. The piece was so simply, yet so well done.
Just when you think that one short is a fluke. Beginners dumb luck, Mr. Blinn does it again, (or rather did it once before) with his 2001 short entitled Confidences. Very similar in the tone of Thirteen or So Minutes, this short tells the story of a straight couple, Casey and Clay (Maria Galante and Robert Kerbeck) in the verge of sending out wedding invitations. It seems that they have the physical aspect of there relationship down, but it is clear to Casey that something is missing on the emotional end. So she calls off the wedding. Enter close friend Reggie (Norm Lewis) to come to Clay’s aid. The implied solution is nothing what Clay expects.
The storytelling in Confidences is not as succinct at the first, but it still does lots of things quite well: smart and simple camera work, focused intimate performances that pack a similar emotional punch.
Other titles included in the collection are: "A Soldier's Choice", "The House of Adam", "Midnight Snack", "Subconscious" and "Courtship at the Office".
It would be easy to beat up the other shorts in his collection since, in my opinion, they are so clearly inferior to the three mentioned. Instead, I will suggest that this collection of shorts serve as a teaching tool, Filmmaking 101. Students can see very different pieces side by side and learn what works and what doesn’t. Moreover, budding filmmakers will be able to see the key to good filmmaking is orchestrating the key elements of story, performance and technology with shrewd execution.