short film review

Reviews and news about short films, short film festivals, reviews, links and guides to short films online,images from short films,directors,writers,cinemaphotographers. Copyright 2005, 2006 by Allan Maurer. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Presley Films at AOL's Short Film Fest

We're talking David Presley, here, not Elvis, in case you came looking for the King instead of the director of short films and film technician (that's Presley, center, in the photo). You can find his films at AOL's Moviefone.

David, who has an impressive IMBD page, also has the unusual distinction of winning a place in the 1984 Guineess book of world records for his score on the video game, "Timepilot," has made two shorts available on AOL's

They are "Face of the Enemy," which won well deserved attention at numerous film festivals and "Rule Number One," which we found equally effective technically, but much less cohesive despite more than twice the length (10 minutes for Enemy vs. 25 for Rule) of his earlier film.

"Rule Number One" shifts from fiction and a character to documetary and that character interviewing other girls about whether or not "Guys only want one thing." Danielle Panabaker's flawless acting and girl-next-door looks bring a grounded feelign of reality to the enterprise.

I do like the whole film within a film idea as a structural device and the recursive nature of the film. Our minds work through recursive means, everything falling back on itself, everything referring back to other things in this endless procession of linked ideas and images. Watching this film is a little like watching someone think.

"Face the Enemy" benefits from our long exposure to quick cutting in war films or those dealing with violence and upheaval from "Potemkin" on. It works on your nerves with its rapid fire machine gun of images and explosive battlefield simulations.

"Rule Number One," (Men only want one thing...guess what that is?)on the other hand, loses us with quick cutting without transitions. Co-conceived with star Danielle Panabaker, who carries her role off with panache and talent, it has touching moments. But it's a short with a feature agenda.
(That's Danielle in the photo)

Short films such as Presley's show considerable technical mastery. The cinematography is impressive and accomplished, the lighting expert, the acting believable and without jarring wrong notes. But they suffer, even the best of them, from trying to say too much or suggest too much, or not having anything at all to say, or not getting across what they're trying to say. They have muddled plots, present characters we do not care about and feed only our image addiction without engaging our minds or hearts.

Presley's films do not suffer from all of these faults by any means and their technical mastery raises them well above the average on all counts. You just feel the cinematic sense underlying these shorts, the feel for the language of movies. Yet they suffer from script weaknesses that impair their impact. I want to see the loving attention paid to technical expertise applied to telling a coherent and powerful, affecting story.

Many of these short films are meant as technical ability showcases intended to land the directors and others involved jobs in the industry. They often succeed on that level. I'd hire Presley and company based on these films. I'd hire Panabaker.

The question I always ask on top of looking at their sales reel qualities, is whether or not these short films succeed as films. Presley's do better than many. With more attention to telling a moving story, they could do better than all but a very few.

Presley has managed to get lots of feature film work ("Starship Troopers,", "The Insider," "Gone in 60 Seconds," among many others in crew roles as video assist operator and other slots. He'll need to sharpen his story sense to move on to directing larger projects successfully.

Presley's "Face the Enemy" works because it is focused on more than camera angles and rapid cutting. It emotionally engages us. His second fails to engage the viewer as viscerally, because it does not find its emotional connection, despite Panabaker's winsome qualities.

But you could not call either of these short films failures compared to the morass of half-thought-out, simplistic and derivative efforts out there in shortfilmland.

If I could place a bet, I'd say Presley and company will showing up on everyone's radar (and movie, computer, tv screens) in the future. Panabaker as well, and I'll be looking for both of them.


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