I don’t know if its just me or other filmmakers do kind of have the same neurotic approach when the time comes to screen their work, but sometimes when I’m asked to screen my short films I become a little hesitant and it’s not because I worry about the quality or content of my films (Although I see a lot of flaws in it as I screen them) but because I am super sensitive about “The Experience of watching films” in general. The feeling even intensifies when it comes down to a shorter narratives, because in a short film the story is told within a compressed time frame and hence it requires deeper focus throughout the sitting. Nonetheless, I recently sensed that my sensitivity is not only applied to films that I’ve made, but also to films that I love when people watch those with me.
So after being consumed with rage on so many occasions during sittings where a film was screened and my audience was causing irritation, I came to discover that people might not really know that what they do could lead to other person’s sudden desire to bang their heads to the wall or to pick up the monitor and crash on their heads so I recounted all those occasions and came up with a list of certain things that one should carefully abide by when watching a film, specially if the maker of the film is present during screening. Here is my list but please feel free to add your own points in the comments.
1. Ask your filmmaker friend to screen their film ONLY if you really want to see it. If you are rushing, if you think he’s shit, if you are not in a mode or if you expect a distraction sometimes along the way then avoid the whole process or postpone to a later time.
2. Ask them how long the film is and prepare to NOT to do anything throughout the screening other than staring at the screen within the said time frame.
3. Shut the fuck up throughout entire screening. It doesn’t matter if you get it or not, don’t ask questions. Ask them later or use your brain. Just keep your mouth shut within the time that the film is screened.
4. If it’s your device playing, make sure the volume is right in the beginning and you get to hear everything so you won’t have to stop and go back in the middle, because of missing a conversation.
5. Again if it’s your device, make sure there is no window glare or light bulb reflection on your screen before hitting the play button.
6. DON’T LOOK AT YOUR WATCH! (Seriously chances are good that you might be stabbed by your Kubrick wanna be friend if not on first but on your second attempt.)
7. Make sure that you have a decent seat. Whether it’s a chair or a couch it needs to be silent and in the right distance from display. If you are going to change your seat or if your chair is going to make loud crunching sounds every time you move around then prepare to follow the chair as it travels down in the air on it’s way out of the window.
8. Put your phone on silence. (Again silence not vibration) And face the screen of your phone down to the surface. Its really distracting when in the middle of a conversation of a short film, which is also the most dramatic moment, your phone flashes in a hardly darkened room.
9. Look at the display screen at all times. Sometimes in a tense/funny moment people tend to look around to see other people’s reaction. You may do that watching a Hollywood movie, because they have a “Rule of three” where they re-estate every major point three times so that even the dumbest of the audience gets it and leaves the theater satisfied, but short filmmakers trust to the intelligence of their audience and therefore they sometimes place some subtle touches here and there that might only last half a second without reiterating their point later, so while you turn around to check on your peers reaction or to pick up that cheeps your body can easily survive without, you might just as well miss the carefully placed glance of the protagonist which opens a whole new dimension to the character, about which you will never really know.