Cart 0

THE YOUTH FILM FESTIVAL

IMG_5055+2.jpg

 THE CATEGORIES


Question: What type of movie should I make? 

There is a category for literally EVERYONE. Study these descriptions and samples closely and choose based on your strengths, whatever resources/support you have available and whatever interests you the most. 

Remember: Even if you can’t make a film - for any reason – you can still participate by “pitching” (category #5). 


 Category #1: ANIMATION (45 seconds to 3 minutes)


The definition of an Animated Film is: 

A collection of pictures that are photographed frame-by-frame and then played in quick succession to appear as though the subject is moving.  

You can tell almost ANY kind of story and have several styles of animation to choose from: 

  • Hand Drawn (such as all traditional Disney films)

  • CG / Computer Generated (such as all Pixar films)

  • Stop-Motion / Claymation (such as Coraline, Wallace & Grommet or Isle of Dogs)

Recent examples of animated films are: Ralph Breaks the Internet 2 (CG), The Incredibles 2 (CG), Early Man (Stop-Motion Claymation) and Isle of Dogs (Stop-Motion puppets) 

Here is an example of a very simple, Claymation animated short film called “Butterfly”. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdXve1HSXPE


As you watch, take careful note of:

  • The quality of the animation

  • The composition of the shots (where everything is placed and how they move around inside the frame)

  • The quality of all production values (sound, music, character design etc.)

  • The story

  • How it makes you FEEL.

Did you notice that the animation is very crude? It’s not smooth and still appears rather “jerky” or “choppy” as the story plays out. 

The composition of each shot is good, but also very simple. Did you notice that there’s very little depth or movement on the screen? 

The production values are, again, very crude. Did you notice how the music does not blend terribly well, and how the voiceover snippets are also fragmented/choppy and that the character designs are also so simple that they’re crude looking? Even the script itself is not very polished and seems to be missing some dialogue to better explain the caterpillar’s transformation. Suddenly, the narrator states “He was a beautiful butterfly!”  

Did you notice just how simple this story is? Arguably, the story is at risk of being TOO simple, but the comedic twist at the end (having our freshly revealed butterfly eaten by a passing chameleon) gives it a surprising twist and elevates the entire experience. It makes the film FUNNY. Without that twist, all of the films flaws may have made it difficult to enjoy, but with that, the experience works to positive effect. 

LESSON: Even if your production values are low (crude, unpolished), you can still create an enjoyable film to watch by surprising your audience. This film also succeeds by delivering the one thing all filmmakers MUST deliver: an emotional response (laughter/humour) from their audience. Without that, your audience will be indifferent and bored. They will forget the film instantly and won’t be able to appreciate all of your effort as the filmmaker. 


 Category #2: NARRATIVE (2 – 5 minutes)


The definition of an Narrative Film is: 

A film that tells a fictional or fictionalized story, event or narrative. I this style of film, believable narratives and characters help convince the audience that the story shown is real. 

This is by far the most popular type of movie. Most movies at the Cineplex or on Netflix are narrative. Again, you can tell almost ANY kind of story and can choose from all of the popular genres (genre is another word to describe categories or styles of films): 

  • Comedy

  • Horror

  • Drama

  • Musical

  • Action

  • Mystery

  • Thriller

  • And many, many more. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: Each genre has a very distinct and unique set of attributes/rules called “conventions”. Horror movies are scary. Comedies are funny. Dramas are heartfelt. But each genre’s “conventions” are much more complicated than that. The style of acting, the music you choose, the compositions of each shot, how the story unfolds are all different for each genre. Make sure you are using details and techniques that HELP you tell that type of story/genre you choose, so that you can elicit the emotional response you want. Consider what would happen if you took a great horror movie and replaced the creepy/scary music with goofy circus music. The experience would be completely different. Watch a few movies from the genre you want to make for inspiration and make note of HOW they tell the story and what kind of techniques they use.   

Here is an example of a short, narrative, student film called “Memories”. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85HDu87TGy0

As you watch, take careful note of:

  • The quality of the performances

  • The composition of the shots (where everything is placed and how they move around inside the frame)

  • The quality of all production values (sound, music, editing etc.)

  • The story / concept

  • How it makes you FEEL. 

The actors in this film are quite good. Did you notice how that makes it easy to believe in them? It helps us believe that their characters are real people. Did you take note of how these performances made you feel?

Did you take note of how each shot is composed/framed? There are some more sophisticated compositions in this film, making it seem like we are actually watching someone move through their home town. We – the audience – are voyeurs, like “flies on the wall” witnessing this story play out in a “real”/realistic world, without being noticed by the people living in that world. Did this act of spying on this man make you FEEL anything? 

Did you notice how the music made you FEEL? How the use of some editing/filmmaking techniques (the strips of film that represent the main character’s memories, watching him enjoy remembering special events from his younger life, the fading photographs, the fade to black at the end, and the sustained beep of an EKG machine at the end communicating to the audience that the man has died of old age) helped support the movie and helped very effectively make the audience feel sorrow or sadness for the old man that we just got to know and then witness pass away? 

LESSON: Every detail of your production should work together to help your audience feel a very specific emotion. In a short film, it can be very effective to start by making your audience feel one emotion, and then end the film with a new and dramatically different emotion.


In the first short called “Butterfly”, the first feeling is not clear because the production values are so low – perhaps it is simple curiosity – because we are not sure what the film is about yet or where the story is going, but the film ends strong with sudden humour, making the audience feel happy.

In the second film, “Memories” we quickly develop a bond with and feel some care/concern for the old man as he revisits the memories from earlier in his life. This is called “building rapport” between your characters and the audience. Your movie makes the audience care about your characters by allowing us to get to know them and understand who they are and where they are in their life. This technique makes your characters relatable. Once we understand the man and where he is in his life – reflecting on his long life and struggling to hold onto his memories – we care about him and we then feel sadness when he starts losing his memories (as he enters his home) and as the old photos fade away. Finally, we feel even more sadness when the man passes away, which is illustrated cinematically by the fade to black and the sustained beep. That is a nice, heartfelt journey for the audience. 

In the next example, you will see similar techniques used to great effect for the documentary film category. 


 Category #3: DOCUMENTARY (2 – 5 minutes)


The definition of an Documentary Film is: 

A factual motion picture intended to document some aspect of reality, primarily for the purposes of education or maintaining a historical record.

In previous categories, the filmmakers do their best, using numerous filmmaking techniques, to convince the audience that the situations and characters in their movies are “real”. In the documentary category, everything is, in fact real, and you are showing the audience something that is actually from the world we all live in: 

  • CHOOSE ANY SUBJECT – Choose something important to you or that you have great interest in

  • EXPLORE THAT SUBJECT – Educate the audience and do your best to share your feelings on the subject

  • CALL TO ACTION (optional) – In some cases, a documentary film will encourage people to mobilize and actually participate in some way, such as donating time or money, joining a group, or to simply share the film with as many people as possible to increase the impact of its message.  

Recent Examples: Supersize Me (exploring the effects of extreme amounts of fast food on an average person), Man On Wire (documenting a man’s successful attempt to tightrope walk between the twin towers in New York City), Spellbound (on a major spelling bee competition), Grizzly Man (on a man’s obsession with and eventual demise at the hand of wild bears), Metallica: Some Kind of Monsters (exploring the legacy of one of the biggest metal bands in history)

Here is an example of a short documentary with a “call to action” called ”Happy Heart Mission for James Rice”. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rj5xCFkIDbM

As you watch, take careful note of:

  • The shift in mood when Archie is introduced

  • The composition of the shots (where everything is placed and how they move around inside the frame)

  • The quality of all production values (sound, music, editing etc.)
    The mix of archival footage and freshly shot footage

  • The story / concept

  • How all of these elements make you FEEL. 

When we are first introduced to the life of James Rice, things feel sombre. The details of his situation are dire: he has been diagnosed with end-stage kidney failure, he has lost his job, he can’t afford his car and can’t make his house payments. Did you notice the music used in this section of the movie? It supports the feeling of despair with music that is also sombre and “down”. But as soon as we are introduced to the “hero” character – Archie Brindleton – the music changes and becomes much more upbeat and hopeful. It increases again when we see Archie interacting with his fans who are also supporting the mission to raise money for James and his family. In the end, the filmmaker addresses the camera directly with a “call to action” and requests the audience get involved and donate and/or share the video. The combination of all these things make an effective movie that helped raise twenty thousand dollars for someone in need. 

This movie is a great example of starting your audience in one place emotionally (sadness, concern, despair etc.) and – through the narrative journey built into the film’s story – taking them to a very different place emotionally (happiness, hopefulness, determination to contribute etc.).  


 Category #4: PITCHING (1 – 2 minutes)


The definition of a Pitch (in respect to filmmaking) is: 

A concise verbal presentation of an idea for a film or TV series in the hope of selling the screenplay based on the idea or being offered work to write a screenplay. 

The word “pitch” comes from the term “sales pitch” and any successful pitch must prove two things about your movie idea: 

  • That your movie idea has ARTISTIC MERIT - meaning it has a clear purpose, that it has something fresh to “say”, that your ideas are interesting to most people, that you understand how to tell a story through film and that it is in some way unique from all other movies. 

  • That your movie idea has COMMERCIAL MERIT - meaning it has the ability to draw a large audience. Movies take a great deal of effort and most cost an incredible amount of money to produce, so there is no reason to create a film no-one wants to see. In a traditional pitch, you would be trying to sell your screenplay based on your idea and before any producer or executive will spend millions of dollars on your movie idea, they have to be SURE that they can make their money back and that many people will want to pay for it. 

Do NOT attempt to tell the whole story. Just give us the most important details. A pitch is very similar to the kind of short synopsis that you would read on the back of a DVD box or in the Netflix description of a movie or TV show. Short, concise, and very to-the-point. 

Here is one list of the details that are important to write into your pitch:

  • Identify the GENRE

  • Identify the HERO

  • Show us a glimpse of their REGULAR LIFE & WHY WE CARE about them

  • Identify the VILLAIN or the obstacle they face

  • Identify the STAKES (what will go wrong/what terrible thing will happen if the hero doesn’t achieve their goal) and the CENTRAL CONFLICT

  • Hint at the CLIMAX and the ENDING, but don’t give it all away 

To enter this category, you will create a one to two-minute video of you, looking directly at the camera, making your “pitch” and then upload it to the Forest City Film Festival website using a platform called FilmFreeway (all the instructions are available on the Forest City Youth Film Festival page on the FCFF website). You can take your time writing it, practice it as often as you want, and reshoot as many times as you need until you can deliver it the way you want it to sound. 

REMEMBER: If you are not comfortable on camera, then you can get someone else to “pitch” it to the camera on your behalf as well. Use TEAMWORK if you need to. 

Here are two examples of a short pitches sponsored by the Tribeca Film Festival: 

Jac Schaeffer pitching her Sci-Fi/Comedy called “Timer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5NTwMRjPA8&t=4s

Julian Kemp pitching his “dramedy” called “My Last Five Girlfriends
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1uj2X2DdWs&t=3s

As you watch, take careful note of:

  • The pitcher’s enthusiasm

  • Which details they focus on

  • How they communicate what the experience of watching the film would be like

  • Why their films will succeed 

IMPORTANT NOTE:

Coaching is available if you need it. You WILL be supported if you ask for help!

PITCHES ARE SUBMITTED AS VIDEOS

  • The quality of the video is NOT important

  • Your PERFORMANCE is not important

  • All we want to see is how you communicate your pitch - and how you make us want to see your movie idea on the big screen! 


 Category #5: CREATIVE ARTS (1 -2 minutes) 


The definition of a Creative Arts film (aka an ABSTRACT FILM or ART FILM) is: 

A surreal visual/sound experience with no story and no acting. They rely on the unique qualities of motion, rhythm, light and composition to create emotional experiences.

There are even fewer rules when creating a Creative Arts film. This will become a very abstract and interpretive experience for your audience, and despite not having any actors or dialogue or any obvious “story” to work with, your goal remains the same: elicit an emotional response from your audience – make them FEEL something.  

THERE ARE ALMOST NO RULES – You are creating an EXPERIENCE for your audience

Here is an example of a short Creative Arts film called ”Light”. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZBN8FuBD7s&t=2s

As you watch, take careful note of:

  • The choice and composition of the shots (where everything is placed and how they move around inside the frame)

  • The quality of all production values (sound, music, editing etc.)

  • The lack of a traditional story 

  • How all of these elements make you FEEL. 

This movie is an interesting example because of its use of “bookend” shots. Did you notice that the very first shot and the very last shot are very similar? These are called a “bookend” shots and help give the movie symmetry and a sense of a clear start and finish. 

Did you get a sense of a story? Although there is no traditional story apparent, the first shot introduces us to the featured character (light), and the clever final shot – which is almost identical to the first – works effectively as an “end” to the story, by showing us the light slowly disappearing. Even in an abstract project like this one, you can use traditional techniques to help create a more satisfying experience for your audience.