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Thread: Short Action/Thriller film "PREY" (My biggest project so far)

  1. Lightbulb Short Action/Thriller film "PREY" (My biggest project so far)

    Hey everyone! After a year of insane work, I finally finished my 20 minute Action/Thriller short film PREY. This is the biggest project I've done so far and it really means a lot to me. This forum's advice really helped a lot on making this happen, so I just wanted to thank everyone for that. So please take some time to watch it and let me know your honest opinion. Every review means the world to us.
    Thanks again FOR EVERYTHING!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8r8xDjqFeRQ

  2. #2

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    I think this is technically excellent. You have obviously studied film and film making and applied your knowledge well. All aspects both visual and audio are very well presented. The down side for me is the whispering throaty voice along with the strong accent made it hard to understand all the dialogue but I don't think you could really do anything about that except to hire natural English speaking actors which wasn't really an option for you.

    As regards the story, I think the pace of the piece was right along with the rest of the editing which all seemed very well done but having to deal with the constant mean and moody emotional level did make it hard on this viewer. If you watch something like the Bourne Identity, there is lots of action but it is broken up by lighter points with human interaction. This human interaction was missing in your movie. I don't think one piece of dialogue was actually spoken by any of the actors on screen, was this because of the language problem ?

    What I'm trying to say is that I think you need some light among the constant shade that you have painted here. The one lighter moment in this film, when remembering being with his friends, was refreshing. So try to take the viewer on an emotional rollercoaster ride lift them up and then drop them down, don't just keep it on one level.

    If you can master that point you will become a great film maker as apposed to just being a good one.

    Very well done with this. It is a master class of action movie making.

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    As is usually the case, Midnight is bang on the button. It looked absolutely fantastic. Great attention to detail. Even the titles were superb. There was some good imagery and the choices of some of the shot and the timing of the editing, combined with the heavy music & sound FX were really dramatic.

    There is plenty to be positive about in this film, but little that needs to be said about the positive so please read the following whilst realising that I thought it was very good.

    I'm afraid I lost interest in the story very early on. Partly this was down to the difficult to understand dialogue (just reducing the background sound/music would have helped) but there was more to it than that.

    The exposition is all covered in dialogue - we are "told" the background rather than shown it. As such it is all just a set-up for the action sequences. But because we are told rather than shown, we are immediately distanced from the characters, rather than involved in them.
    Having said that, it is very hard to be involved in the characters when all we are presented with is facts. There is nothing which even tells us, let alone shows us, what makes the characters tick, so I had no idea who I was supposed to be supporting, whcih side I was meant to be on.

    What's more, the characters all looked pretty much the same: Middle Eastern appearance. Short to mid length dark har. Some facial hair. They were all also dressed pretty identically. Given that we didn't hear them speak whilst on camera, there was very little to identify who was who. Confusing.

    OK You can't do much about the first of these unless you have a pool of actors from different cultures, but you could do something with the rest - get them to grow hair differently. Give each character a particular mannerism. Dress them differently.

    So, I neither cared who won each exchange, nor did I know!

    This is all very easy for me to say as an outsider, watching the film from cold, and with the benefit of hindsight but easily overlooked when you are intimately involved in making the film.

    In a nutshell, I thought this was a great example of directing cinematography, but not a great example of writing the characters or directing the story & characters.

    So, with Midnight's comments above we can begin to develop a list of things to improve upon in your next epic:

    1. Create light and shade within scenes and within the film overall
    2. Develop the characters so the viewer has empathy with the protagonist (and a reason to dislike the antagonist) and can easily distinguish between characters.
    Tim

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    Quote Originally Posted by TimStannard View Post
    What's more, the characters all looked pretty much the same: Middle Eastern appearance. Short to mid length dark har. Some facial hair. They were all also dressed pretty identically. Given that we didn't hear them speak whilst on camera, there was very little to identify who was who. Confusing.
    That is something that caught my eye too. Not the middle-eastern part (I take it you are hispanic?), but I did have some hard time telling apart the characters. A bit different clothing might have helped, especially the parts where two characters are fighting each others; both had dark t-shirt and jeans. I understand very well the problem of not having too many actors at your disposal (cardinal sin of my films), but simply giving the other one different set of clothing would have made it easier to follow who is who in action scenes. I'm afraid Midnight and Tim are right about the vocals being hard to understand at times. I had to consentrate a bit harder than usually while listening and at few spots actually looked at subtitles (finally! Three years of studying the language pays off). It's not so much about pronunciation as it is about sound levels. A bit louder speech and bit less loud music/background noises would have helped.

    Other than that, this looked very professional for a short film. You have obviously spent gigantic amount of time making it and it has not gone to waste. There were many small things I liked and have used myself in my prior films (small flashbacks of better times, symbolism with the dogtags, three vs. many, friendship turned into vengeance etc). You can be proud of yourselves and I'd like to see what more you can do. Prey and the Abduction before it had very dark visual tones, I'm wondering how you could handle different styles.

  5. #5

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    Not much for me to ass as I agree to the previous comments. The monologue was too long for me. You better unlock it by some (short) dialogues between characters. One single sentence once in a while spoken by a different character would already be an improvement. It gets better at around 5:00.

    It has already been mentioned but give each (important) character something special. This might be some unusual jewelry or (what I prefer) a handycap (scars, eye patch, hardness of hearing, fear of height, bias for sweets, being baldy, ...). Have maybe a look at pen and paper role playing games which force you to put handycaps on your characters (I recommend something like the Savage Worlds rule set which rewards players for acting according to their "unfavorable" attributes) to get inspired.

    The scene at 3:10 could have profited from a close-up on the shoes.

    The whole film could have used some more color for me. I don't think it did not profit in all parts from being greyscale. In my opinion the action scene could have profited from (modified) colors - perhaps Sin City style. I can imagine that it was supposed to represent the past but did not work for me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Midnight Blue View Post
    As regards the story, I think the pace of the piece was right along with the rest of the editing which all seemed very well done but having to deal with the constant mean and moody emotional level did make it hard on this viewer. If you watch something like the Bourne Identity, there is lots of action but it is broken up by lighter points with human interaction. This human interaction was missing in your movie. I don't think one piece of dialogue was actually spoken by any of the actors on screen, was this because of the language problem ?
    First of all, as always thank you very much for your wise advice. It means a lot... and yes It was mostly a language issue with some of the actors, as a matter of fact two of my characters' "voices" were performed by different actors. Besides making an effort to keep the on screen dialogue pronunciaction right might have killed their overall performance. I originally thought about doing this film in our native language, but because of the current situation of violence in my country... I thought it was a better idea to take it as far away of there as I possibly could.
    So we design the story in a way that character interaction wasn't really "necessary" ( I know it is, but it was worth giving it a shot). Also that's were we came with that middle eastern "athmosphere" which includes the characters' accents (believe it or not most of them were partly intentional). Now I see that I might have took them too far... I'm honestly curious of how much you couldn't understand. Like none of it? or just a couple of words? or sentences? which part?

    I honestly never thought about the break points, well I thought about it once... in the scene you mentioned. But I guess I was too focused on "preserving the pacing and athmosphere" that the opposite never came to my mind. It's an amazing advice and it's for sure that i'll take it in count for my next project. I'll let you know the minute I have something new.

    THANKS AGAIN FOR EVERYTHING

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    Quote Originally Posted by TimStannard View Post
    The exposition is all covered in dialogue - we are "told" the background rather than shown it. As such it is all just a set-up for the action sequences. But because we are told rather than shown, we are immediately distanced from the characters, rather than involved in them.
    Having said that, it is very hard to be involved in the characters when all we are presented with is facts. There is nothing which even tells us, let alone shows us, what makes the characters tick, so I had no idea who I was supposed to be supporting, whcih side I was meant to be on.
    As always thank you very much for your critical advice. It always helps me improve as a filmmaker. I agree with you maybe it was not very attached to the characters, I really tried to break this on the funeral scene but I guess it ended up being exposition. I think that the film needs more character background. I tried to add some of that in some scenes (the funeral, the "all being friends" memory) but was not even close to enough. The truth is that it was mostly because the language limitations of some actors. This was all I could come up with without using on screen dialogue. By the way I'm honestly curious of how much you couldn't understand. Like none of it? or just a couple of words? or sentences? which part?

    Quote Originally Posted by TimStannard View Post
    What's more, the characters all looked pretty much the same: Middle Eastern appearance. Short to mid length dark har. Some facial hair. They were all also dressed pretty identically. Given that we didn't hear them speak whilst on camera, there was very little to identify who was who. Confusing.

    OK You can't do much about the first of these unless you have a pool of actors from different cultures, but you could do something with the rest - get them to grow hair differently. Give each character a particular mannerism. Dress them differently.

    So, I neither cared who won each exchange, nor did I know!

    This is all very easy for me to say as an outsider, watching the film from cold, and with the benefit of hindsight but easily overlooked when you are intimately involved in making the film.
    I couldn't agreee with you more, I actually notice this in the last stages of post production, but it was way to late for me to do something. This is something I will for sure improve in my next film. I'll let you know the minute I come out with something new.

    As always... THANKS FOR EVERYTHING TIM

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    Quote Originally Posted by SSCinema View Post
    That is something that caught my eye too. Not the middle-eastern part (I take it you are hispanic?), but I did have some hard time telling apart the characters. A bit different clothing might have helped, especially the parts where two characters are fighting each others; both had dark t-shirt and jeans. I understand very well the problem of not having too many actors at your disposal (cardinal sin of my films), but simply giving the other one different set of clothing would have made it easier to follow who is who in action scenes. I'm afraid Midnight and Tim are right about the vocals being hard to understand at times. I had to consentrate a bit harder than usually while listening and at few spots actually looked at subtitles (finally! Three years of studying the language pays off). It's not so much about pronunciation as it is about sound levels. A bit louder speech and bit less loud music/background noises would have helped.

    Other than that, this looked very professional for a short film. You have obviously spent gigantic amount of time making it and it has not gone to waste. There were many small things I liked and have used myself in my prior films (small flashbacks of better times, symbolism with the dogtags, three vs. many, friendship turned into vengeance etc). You can be proud of yourselves and I'd like to see what more you can do. Prey and the Abduction before it had very dark visual tones, I'm wondering how you could handle different styles.
    Thank you very much I really appreciate the time you took watching it and reviewing it. I agree with you and Tim, the characters are very similar, I noticed this during that last stages of post production, but it was too late. I'll take it in count for my next short for sure. As I have asked the other ones, I'm curious of how much you couldn't understand. Like none of it? or just a couple of words? or sentences? which part? By the way we are Hispanic, but we were kind of trying to give it a middle eastern feel
    I'll let you know the minute I have something new to show. I'm glad that you liked it overall.

    Thanks for everything!

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    Quote Originally Posted by XXLRay View Post
    It has already been mentioned but give each (important) character something special. This might be some unusual jewelry or (what I prefer) a handycap (scars, eye patch, hardness of hearing, fear of height, bias for sweets, being baldy, ...). The scene at 3:10 could have profited from a close-up on the shoes.
    Never thought of that, it's actually a pretty good idea I'll for sure take it in count for my next project. I'll let you know when i have something new. Thanks for the review and advice

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Skylight Studios View Post
    As I have asked the other ones, I'm curious of how much you couldn't understand. Like none of it? or just a couple of words? or sentences? which part?
    It was not that bad, I did understand pretty much everything, but couple of times I had to pause and click it back a few seconds to hear something again. Alternatively I took a quick glance at subtitles if I recognise the words from there. I can't remember the exact parts that caused trouble, but from the beginning I just felt I had to "focus" on hearing a bit more. Like when you're talking with someone in a crowded bar. So, it's not that bad for someone who already has decided to watch the film, but in Youtube-like environment many random viewers might just click away if they feel they need to "pay extra" effort when they could just click on to other films.

    No, wait, one was actually in the very beginning when they were called "Vanishers". I heard them as "punishers" first, then noticed the "vanishers" in subtitles as they were mentioned again. But then again I'm an old fan of Punisher comics...

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