“COST OF LIVING” AND THE STATE OF SHORT FILMS

LET’S TALK ABOUT THE STATE OF SHORT FILMS.

HULK GETS TO SEE A FAIR SHARE OF THEM NOWADAYS, AND… WELL… THEY MOSTLY SUCK. AND NOT FOR THE USUAL REASONS YOU MIGHT EXPECT. IT ISN’T SOME MATTER OF TECHNICALITY. THE REAL PROBLEM IS THAT IT SEEMS SHORT FILMMAKERS HAVE FORGONE ANY EFFORT TO ESTABLISH A VOICE. AND AS A RESULT, THEY’VE BECOME HOLLOW EXERCISES IN “PRODUCT RELATION.” YOU KNOW WHAT HULK TALKING ABOUT HERE. FAN FILMS. MASH-UPS. CROSS-OVERS. UNAUTHORIZED SEQUELS. EVEN BASIC USURPING OF POPULAR MOTIFS (VAMPIRES! HARRY POTTER! WHATEVER THE FUCK!).

LOOK, FOR YEARS FILMMAKERS HAVE USED TOUCHSTONES TO ESTABLISH THE KINDS OF STORIES THEY WANTED TO TELL, BUT THEY USED AMALGAMATIONS. THESE TOUCHSTONES JUST MERE INFLUENCES IN CREATING YOUR OWN UNIQUE STORIES AND WORLDS.  BUT NOW WE JUST USE THE THINGS THEMSELVES. DREW MCWEENEY AND THE FELLAS OVER AT HITFIX APTLY CALLED IT “THE AGE OF FAN-FICTION” AND IT IS 100% TRUE. INSTEAD OF AMALGAMATING WE JUST TAKE THE THINGS WE LIKE AND FUCK WITH THEM, SEEMINGLY JUST IN AN EFFORT TO GET EYEBALLS OR SHOW WE KNOW HOW TO POINT AND SHOOT AT THINGS. AND QUITE FRANKLY, HULK THINKS IT SUCKS. MOSTLY BECAUSE SOME PEOPLE ARE ACTUALLY FALLING FOR IT. BUT JUST AS LUCKILY, MOST HOLLYWOOD EXECUTIVES ARE NOT. THEY ARE LOOKING FOR A SENSE OF STORYTELLING. THEY ARE LOOKING FOR A VOICE. AND AS SUCH, THEY KNOW WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ABOUT SHORT FILMS.

OH AND DON’T GET HULK WRONG EITHER, SHORTS TODAY SUCK FOR THE USUAL TECHNICAL REASONS TOO. BUT LET’S NOT PRETEND THIS IS SOME EXCLUSIVE PROBLEM TO LOOK DOWN OUR NOSES AT. HULK’S MADE SOME SUCKY SHORTS WHEN HULK WAS STARTING OUT TOO. THINGS TAKE TIME TO FIGURE OUT AND WHAT IS SOMEWHAT UNFORTUNATE IS THAT THIS IS ALSO A DAMN EXPENSIVE MEDIUM TO WORK WITH. GIVEN THAT EXPENSE, HULK FINDS IT SO RIDICULOUS HOW OFTEN NO ONE DOES THE PREP WORK FOR THE EQUIPMENT THEY’RE USING. THAT EVERYONE EDITS LONGER INSTEAD OF TIGHTER. THAT NOBODY IS REALLY WANTING TO DO SOMETHING THAT HAS THE AIRS OF PROFESSIONALISM.  THEY JUST WANT TO BE SURE IT BASICALLY “LOOKS RIGHT.” BUT WON’T SPEND THE NEEDED HOURS ON COLOR CORRECTION, GRAIN APPLICATION IN POST, THE SOUND IS USUALLY BUTCHERED TO THE POINT OF BEING AWFUL (HIRE SOUND EDITORS EVERYONE). EVEN WITH ALL THIS, HULK IS FAR MORE FORGIVING OF TECHNICAL ISSUES. THOSE CAN BE FLESHED OUT IN TIME IF IT’S CLEAR THE PERSON AT LEAST HAS A SENSE OF IT. BUT ULTIMATELY, THESE ISSUES ARE NOTHING COMPARED TO HULK JUST WANTING TO HEAR WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY.

SO CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING:

HERE IS A SHORT FILM.

IT LOOKS PROFESSIONAL. ACTUALLY IT’S BETTER THAN PROFESSIONAL LOOKING, IT CAN FIT IN WITH TOP FLIGHT PRODUCTION WORK TODAY. IT LOOKS LIKE IT HAS AN INSANE BUDGET, BUT IT DOESN’T AT ALL. IT IS TOLD WITH COMPLETE ECONOMY. IT IS ONLY 9 MINUTES AND IT DOESN’T WASTE A SECOND OF IT. IT IS FUNNY. IT HAS EXCELLENT PERFORMANCES. IT TELLS A CAREFUL LITTLE SLIGHT OF HAND STORY AND NEVER TRIES TO DO MORE THAN THAT. IT NEVER INSULTS THE AUDIENCE. IT NEVER FEELS OUT OF CONTROL OR HAPHAZARD. IT NEVER FEELS LIKE IT’S TRYING SHOW OFF. AND ABOVE ALL ELSE, THIS SHORT HAS A VOICE. IN JUST 9 MINUTES IT CAPTURES A BAD NIGHT FOR TWO LOW-GRADE SECURITY DUO IN AN EVIL SCIENCE LAB. IT HAS TOUCHSTONES, BUT THEY ARE AMALGAMATIONS. THE FILMMAKER IS CLEARLY INFLUENCED BY CAMERON AESTHETIC AND CARPENTER’S DISAFFECTED ANTI-HEROES. IT EVEN PLAY’S WITH WRIGHT’S MODERN, GENRE-INVERTING SENSE OF HUMOR WHILE STILL KEEPING AN EVEN KEEL. QUITE SIMPLY, IT IS GOOD.

AND IT IS CALLED COST OF LIVING.

HULK SAW THIS SHORT A FEW MONTHS AGO AND SHORTLY AFTERWARDS HULK MET THE DIRECTOR BENDAVID GRABINKSI. WE IMMEDIATELY BEGAN TALKING ABOUT EVERY SINGLE THING HULK HAS MENTIONED SO FAR INCLUDING THE CRAP STATE OF SHORT FILMMAKING. SINCE THEN WE’VE BECOME FRIENDLY, OFTEN TALKING AT LENGTH ABOUT THE YEAR IN FILM, THE PRATFALLS OF DIGITAL CINEMATOGRAPHY, LENS MANIPULATION, AND THE DIRECTION OF THE INDUSTRY. SO HULK GUESS THIS IS ONE OF THOSE FULL-DISCLOSURE TYPE-DEALS WHERE A CRITIC SAYS “HULK KNOW AND RESPECT THIS GUY.” WHETHER YOU MIGHT THINK THIS ALL COLORED HULK’S OPINION HERE, IT NOT FOR HULK TO SAY. HOPEFULLY, YOU’VE COME TO REALIZE HULK IS NOT SOME UNTRUSTWORTHY SLUG AT THIS POINT, BUT IF THAT NOT ENOUGH THEN JUST REMEMBER THAT EVERY SINGLE THING SAID HERE WAS SAID IN OUR VERY FIRST CONVERSATION. AND EVEN THEN, IF HULK DIDN’T FEEL THIS WAY THAN HULK WOULDN’T BE UP AT 5 IN THE MORNING TO WRITE IT…. MAKE OF IT WHAT YOU WILL.

HULK IMAGINE THAT MOST OF YOU WILL LIKE OR RESPECT THE SHORT, BUT ALSO HULK IMAGINE THAT SOME OF YOU MIGHT HAVE OTHER REACTIONS. PERHAPS IT HARD TO CONSIDER AGAINST OTHER SHORTS BECAUSE “IT HAS STARS AND STUFF.” WELL, HULK HAS SEEN MORE SHORTS THAT YOU CAN IMAGINE WITH STARS IN THEM AND THEY ARE OFTEN GARBAGE (STARS HAVE FRIENDS THEY WANT TO HELP EVERYWHERE. MOST OF THIS STUFF NEVER SEES THE LIGHT OF DAY). SO THE REAL ANSWER IS THAT IT THIS FILM DOESN’T HAVE STARS, IT HAS ACTORS WHO HAPPEN TO BE STARS. AND BEING ACTORS IS WHAT MAKES FOR A GOOD SHORT. SO WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR WORK, JUST KNOW YOU CAN FIND ACTORS ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, BUT YOU HAVE TO WORK HARD TO FIND THEM, PAY THEM, AND THEN ACTUALLY KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH THEM. TRUST HULK. FINDING A STAR IS NOT THE SOLUTION TO YOUR PROBLEMS.

OR PERHAPS, YOU WILL THINK THE SHORT SEEMS “SLIGHT.” WELL HULK AIN’T GONNA LIE. THERE WAS A LITTLE PERIOD WHERE HULK THOUGHT THE SAME THING, BUT IT TURNS OUT THE FILM IS JUST PLAYING YOU LIKE A FIDDLE. IT EVENTUALLY COME AROUND TO REVEAL THIS GREAT, RESONANT BIT STORYTELLING THAT IT KEPT SLOW BURNING THE WHOLE WHILE. IT’S IN THE BEST TRADITION OF GENRE FILMMAKING, TAKING THIS FUNNY CONCEPT ABOUT A SECURITY TEAM IN A MONSTER LAB AND TURNS IT IN A LITTLE COMMENTARY ON MALAISE AND REGIONAL ECONOMICS.

OR PERHAPS YOU DIDN’T FIND IT FUNNY. THAT’S FINE AND STUFF. THERE IS SUCH A THING AS TASTE AND REFERENCE POINTS, BUT IF EVEN OF THESE ARE YOUR LONE DISMISSAL, THEN HULK JUST WANT TO SUGGEST AN IDEA THAT MIGHT BE BEHIND ALL OF THESE FEELINGS.

IN DEALING WITH SHORTS (AND A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO WATCH SHORTS WITHOUT MUCH CONSIDERATION OF WHAT IS DIFFERENT ABOUT THEM) THERE IS OFTEN THIS THING THAT HAPPENS WHERE PEOPLE EXPECT A SHORT FILM TO INGRAIN ITSELF INTO YOUR CONSCIOUSNESS AND AFFECT YOU THE SAME WAY A FEATURE WOULD. THAT’S JUST NOT POSSIBLE. MOST OF THE TIME PEOPLE DON’T SETTLE THEIR BRAINS DOWN UNTIL ABOUT 15-30 MINUTES GO BY. SO BELIEVE IT OR NOT, PEOPLE WHO EVALUATE SHORTS AREN’T LOOKING FOR YOU TO TELL THESE COMPLETE, EPIC STORIES, BUT TO SIMPLY THAT WORK WITH ECONOMY AND DO ONLY WHAT YOU NEED TO DO. AND SHOW THAT IN THAT CONDENSED TIME YOU CAN YOUR ESTABLISH YOUR VOICE

PEOPLE ASK HULK ALL THE TIME, WHAT IS HOLLYWOOD LOOKING FOR IN A SHORT?

IN SHORT, WE’RE LOOKING FOR STUFF LIKE THIS.

TAKE A GANDER YOURSELF AT BENDAVID GRABINSKI’S COST OF LIVING.

AND LET’S CELEBRATE PEOPLE DOING IT RIGHT.

HULK QUICK THOUGHTS: JOHN SINGLETON DIRECTED ABDUCTION? AND WHAT IS THIS SAYING?

HULK JUST FOUND OUT THAT JOHN SINGLETON DIRECTED ABDUCTION LIKE 5 SECONDS AGO.

THIS IS CONFUSING. WHY?

BECAUSE JOHN SINGLETON DIRECTED A WHOLE BUNCH CULTURALLY IMPORTANT FILMS OF THE 90’S, FILMS ON THE SUBJECT MODERN AFRICAN-AMERICANS AND THEIR PLACE IN AMERICAN CULTURE: THE INCREDIBLE BOYZ IN THE HOOD IS THE STANDOUT, BUT EVEN POETIC JUSTICE, HIGHER LEARNING, AND THE PERIOD PIECE ROSEWOOD ARE DRIPPING WITH TOPICALITY. AFTER THAT HE SHIFTED AWAY FROM BEING DIRECTLY TOPICAL TOWARD “BIGGER” MORE GENRE-INCLINED FILMS LIKE SHAFT, BABY BOY, AND THE (WONDERFULLY HOMOEROTIC) 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS. WHILE THEY MIGHT NOT BE AS “IMPORTANT” FILMS AIMING FOR HIGHER-BROW IDEAS, THERE IS STILL A CLEAR PRESENCE OF THE “AFRICAN-AMERICAN VOICE” OR “REPRESENTATION” IN THESE FILMS. HECK, EVEN IN FOUR BROTHERS IT STILL COMES ACROSS.

AND THEN THERE IS ABDUCTION…. ONE OF THESE THINGS IS NOT LIKE THE OTHER.

TO BE VERY,VERY FAIR, HULK HASN’T SEEN IT. BUT BASED ON TRAILERS AND THE FILM’S CLEAR CULTURAL IDENTITY (TEEN ACTION VEHICLE STARING LEAD FROM POPULAR TWEEN GIRL MOVIE SERIES) IT IS CLEAR THAT THE FILM IS ABOUT AS LILY-WHITE AND NOT-CULTURALLY-SIGNIFICANT AS IT GETS (NOTE: HULK CHOSE THE WORDS “LILY-WHITE” KNOWING THE STRONG IMPLICATION OF THE LANGUAGE).

BUT HERE’S HULK’S QUESTION: DOES THIS EVEN MATTER?

HULK HAS HAD A COLUMN IDEA LONG-GESTATING ON THIS VERY SUBJECT, SO HULK GUESS A QUICK EVALUATION THAT POSITS A QUESTION INSTEAD OF AN ANSWER IS WAY BETTER FOR WHAT WE WANT TO DO HERE.

SO WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH JOHN SINGLETON DIRECTING ABDUCTION?

IS HE  SELLING OUT? IS IT THAT IT JUST LOOKS LIKE A TERRIBLE MOVIE? SHOULD HE HAVE TO MAKE THE FILMS WE WANT HIM TO MAKE? IS HE “LETTING DOWN” AFRICAN-AMERICAN CULTURE?

IT’S NOT LIKE RACIAL PROBLEMS HAVE JUST GONE AWAY IN OUR SOCIETY AND WE SHOULD IGNORE THE SUBJECT. IF ANYTHING, THIS “POST-RACIAL” GLOSS OF THE WHOLE SUBJECT IS VERY PROBLEMATIC IN ITS OWN WAY. IT IS THIS REASON (AMONG MANY) THAT HULK STILL ADORES SPIKE LEE BECAUSE ALL HIS FILMS ARE STILL HEAVILY IMBUED WITH THE LANGUAGE AND AESTHETICS OF RACE. EVEN A GREAT HEIST MOVIE LIKE INSIDE MAN HAS ALL THESE WONDERFUL, COMPLEX THINGS TO SAY ABOUT THE CULTURAL MELTING POT OF NEW YORK AND IT DOES IT IN AN ENTERTAINING AND FUNNY WAY.

BUT WHY SHOULD HULK REQUIRE THIS SAME THING OF SINGLETON? AND BY EXTENSION ALL AFRICAN AMERICAN FILMMAKERS?

AWHILE AGO, HULK HAD A GREAT CONVERSATION WITH AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN FRIEND/FILM-MAJOR (AND YES HULK AWARE THAT CALLING SOMEONE THEIR “AFRICAN-AMERICAN FRIEND” IS PATRONIZING, BUT IT’S DIRECTLY RELATED TO THE SUBJECT) ON THE VERY TOPIC OF WHAT HE CALLED “THE CULTURAL DUTY AND RESPONSIBILITY OF A BLACK FILMMAKER” AND SPECIFICALLY IF HE FELT THAT RESPONSIBILITY.

HE DIDN’T AT ALL.

FRIEND: “Hulk. I love Spike Lee. But I don’t think that’s what Spike Lee was arguing that everyone should be making these films about the cultural state of Black America. That’s what he was interested in and that’s what he’s amazing at. But for what he might want for me? Or more importantly, what I want for me? I want to make WOLVERINE (this was way before even X2). I love genre stuff. I want to make, and be allowed to make films that I love that have nothing to do with the fact that I’m black. And if they do have to do have that affectation? It will just be a natural thing because of my life and perspective. It won’t be overt.”

MEANING JOHN SINGLETON SHOULD HAVE EVERY FUCKING RIGHT IN THE WORLD TO MAKE ABDUCTION AND EVERYTHING IT MAY COUNTER-INTUITIVELY REPRESENT. IT’S AS SIMPLE AS “HE SHOULD HAVE THE RIGHT BECAUSE HE IS A GOOD DIRECTOR.”

THERE IS A WAY THAT THIS IS ALL OBVIOUS, BUT IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE JUST HOW OFTEN THIS OBVIOUSNESS DOES NOT COME TO FRUITION. PARTIALLY BECAUSE THE IMPLIED SOLUTION IS THAT THERE SHOULD BE LARGE GROUPS OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN FILMMAKERS MAKING BIG BUDGET HOLLYWOOD FARE, AND JUST AS MANY MAKING PROVOCATIVE FILMS ABOUT RACE… AND RIGHT NOW THERE IS NEITHER. THUS WE LOOK TO PEOPLE LIKE SINGLETON AND LEE TO SOMEHOW SATISFY BOTH RESPONSIBILITIES AT ONCE.

THE “SHOULD BE” CUTS TO THE HEART OF A YOUNG AFRICAN-AMERICAN FILMMAKER BOTH WAYS: AS ODDLY DANGEROUS AS GLOSSING OVER RACIAL TOPICALITY IN THE NAME OF “POST-RACIAL” SOCIETY IS, YOU RUN THE EQUALLY DANGEROUS POSSIBILITY OF CONFINING THEM TO FEEL DUTY BOUND TO “TALK” RACE.

IT’S A PARADOX. WHAT DO YOU ALL THINK?

PERHAPS HULK’S BIGGEST/ONLY POINT IS THAT IF YOU LEAVE IT TO WHITE PEOPLE TO MAKE FILMS ABOUT RACE THEN WE GET PAUL HAGGIS’S CRASH.

YOUR MOVE SOCIETY!