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 asked about my short films and especially when someone request me to screen it for them in a privet settings, I become a little hesitant, to a degree, that I end up not showing it at all with a lame excuse. This is mostly not because I worry about the response of the audience after the screening (Although I see many flaws in my work, that can trigger criticization ) but because I am super sensitive about “The Experience of watching films” in general. From what I’ve gathered, this sensitivity is common among artists when displaying their works, but I hereby would like to coin a term so we can all at least refer to our misery in clarified terminology! Which I coin as SFSAD, which stands for Short Film Screening Anxiety Disorder.
The disorder even intensifies when it comes down to a shorter projects, 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 and are made by others, when people watch those with me.
So after being consumed with enormous amount of rage on several occasions when 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 it on their heads! As a result I recounted all those reactionary moments and came up with a list of certain things that one should carefully refrain from, when watching a film, specially if the maker of the film is present during the screening. Here is my list but please feel free to add your own points if you are suffering from SFSAD yourself.
1. Ask your filmmaker friend to screen their film ONLY if you really want to see it. If you are rushing, if you are not really interested at his work, if you are not in the mode, then avoid the whole process or postpone it to a later time.
2. Before requesting the screening, ask them about the running length of the film and especially if it’s less than 15 minutes, then prepare to NOT to do anything throughout the screening other than staring at the screen within that time frame.
3. Zip your mouth throughout entire screening! It doesn’t matter if you get it or not, don’t ask questions as it plays. Ask them later or think for yourself.
4. If it’s playing on your device, make sure the volume is right in the beginning and you get to hear everything so you won’t have to stop and fix the audio settings in the middle.
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. (Silence not vibration) And face the lighting 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 dark 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 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!