Three minutes can go by quickly, often times too quickly. The three minutes following a morning tap on the snooze button can seem like a blink of an eye. If you go to a water park and hop on a three-minute winding tube ride, I bet you'll wish it were twice as long. And if you're shooting for a night of romance with a cutie pie, three minutes is not a favorable duration. As a parameter for short films, three minutes can either be the perfect length or 180 long and tedious seconds -- similar to brushing your teeth for three minutes.
The Best of the Three-Minute Film Festival features top films from previous festivals, made within a span of 30 days, all of which are approximately three minutes long. The festival has been running since 2001 and organizers of the event encourage all filmmakers to participate, regardless of skill level and production value. It's important that films of all genres and lengths are accessible and kudos to the Three-Minute Film Festival for providing an outlet. This particular event showcases what they view as the best of the best from previous festivals.
Some of the winning films from the past few years are viewable on the Three-Minute Film Festival website. I watched all eight films and was sincerely disappointed in the quality and ambition of the work. It wasn't a complete wash, there were two that held my attention and didn't provoke that nervous jitter I get while watching something uncomfortable or embarrassing. Maybe there just weren't that many submissions in total. But I have the notion that there are many talented filmmakers, especially in the Bay Area, who could use the exposure.
The film I AM: A Proclamation of Self tied for second place in 2008 and will be screened as part of The Best of the Three-Minute Film Festival. The film features several people saying their name with vigor and authority, sometimes over and over again. The description explains how, "Hearing and speaking your own name produces a reaction in the brain which stimulates self confidence and ego." This may be true, but it's hard to believe that the people shown in the film responded honestly. What I saw was an uneasy montage of people reciting their first and last names, much aware of the camera and the person hitting the record button. The film didn't reveal any inner truths to me but left me wondering why this is being screened in front of an audience.
In 2006, the True Story won third place at the Three-Minute Film Festival and was pick of the litter from those I viewed online. It consists of a black and white photo slideshow with a narrator telling the tale of a most unfortunate hitchhiking experience. The film doesn't come across as contrived as the rest; it's not the greatest quality but it has a nice rhythm. It doesn't lag and while watching it, I didn't think twice about the time issue. It was one of those three minutes that goes by without lingering.
I like the idea of the Three-Minute Film Festival and The Best of the Three-Minute Film Festival, respectively, but there is room for growth. Despite my distaste for some of their noteworthy films, I don't want to see ordinary people stop making movies or be hindered by technical constraints. If the organizers of the festival enact better criteria for judging and actively seek more filmmakers, the results would be much better. But as they say on their website, "Make the best movie that you can. But remember that none of us knows what we're doing and anything you do will be great." Really? Anything?
It's not the medium that matters; people should create with whatever they can get their hands on, no matter the cost or popularity of their recording device. What it boils down to is good ideas and clever execution. That's what I would like to see more of at Three-Minute Film Festivals to come.
The Best of the Three-Minute Film Festival is playing at the Madrone Lounge on Thursday, April 16, 2009. Madrone Lounge, 500 Divisadero St., San Francisco, CA 94117. Screening at 8pm. FREE! Hosted by Jeff Cleary with additional music by DJ DeadLover.