Quick analysis of UNTITLED

I made UNTITLED as my final project at NYU for my 12-week film intensive. The making of the film was an incredible experience and now that I’ve seen it screened, it seemed like the right time to document the learnings.

The good:

  • The concept, by Ramanan Raghavendran, is a good one. The underlying premise and the twist at the end is unexpected.
  • The short was tight. One of the key things that was drilled into me by my excellent editing professor at NYU, Marc DeRossi, is that the audience does not pay to be bored. So, I cut with a vengeance. It is really hard for a director to also be the editor. This is primarily because the director cares so much about some of the shots/scenes that they can’t cut it. I had this problem to start with — I loved a certain shot because I remembered how hard it was to get it. But the line “The audience does not pay $10 to be bored” changed my life. I just detached myself from the shots. What do I need to do to make the best film? In fact, there was a whole scene that I cut. The scene took us hours to shoot. It had complicated camera movement. The actors worked really hard on it. Too bad — the film is better without it, so it got cut. Being in school made this easier since I was able to get feedback from Marc and the course instructor, Gary Gasgarth. If I had been editing alone this would have been much harder.
  • The music works well for the film. It makes it better.

Areas for improvement (you can see that I come from business — it is not “the bad”, but “areas for improvement”!):

  • To me, the biggest issue with the short is that the gallery scenes are too similar to each other. The angles changed, but they seemed static, not taking advantage of the moving medium of film. No excuses here, but without a dolly, there wasn’t much movement going on. Having “motivated” movement would have made the short much better.
  • Some of the shots were not steady. A couple of handheld shots and the one pseudo-dolly shot could have been better. Both of them have some jiggling. I am not sure the one-time viewer can see them, but they yell out at me.
  • My actors worked hard, but there were times I was more focused on getting the shot done within the time limit rather than focusing on getting the best acting. That was a mistake. On my next film, if someone does the job of the AD, I must spend more of my time with the actors and ensure I get the best performance before moving onto the next shot.
  • The sound quality was inconsistent. Different angles let to different sound levels that could not be fixed.
  • There was no sound mix. I did not spend money on this and if I were to submit to more festivals, I should really get this fixed.

Lots of learning. More work will lead to more learning. Excellent.