The Power of Silence

Have you ever seen a film where the characters just talk…too much? I know I have, and it can get on your nerves. It can be most annoying when characters just start saying the most obvious things. I think that this can be a challenge for many first time filmmakers and screenwriters. They try to tell the audience too much instead of simply just showing them.

I believe that there can be a healthy balance between exposition and silence. You don’t want too much of either because then the film becomes unbalanced. However, the exception to this rule could be if you’re making a silent film…you simple can’t talk in that scenario (unless you decide to use too many intertitles).

In any case, silence can be a very powerful aspect of a film. In a horror film, silence builds anxiety and can create a very tense feeling in the audience. They will be expecting some big scare (it is up to you if you want to scare them). In a drama film, silence can make the audience think a little bit more about a certain situation, or even about a character’s mindset. One film which comes to mind is Bela Tarr’s 2011 film “The Turin Horse”. There is very little dialogue in that nearly two and a half hour film, but it definitely keeps you engaged (although I will admit it is not for everyone).

Sometimes we worry that the audience won’t understand what we are trying to convey in a particular scene so we decide to explain it to them through the character’s speech, but I think we need to give our audiences more credit. I like to write my films with the thought that my audience is smart and will figure it out on their own. And if they don’t? That’s okay too. That is what art is all about; we don’t have to answer all the questions we raise.

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The Art of Rejection

Getting rejected can be a rotten feeling. Getting told that the work you have done is bad. Getting told that you’re no good. Sometimes, they don’t say anything at all and their silence is what kills you. Now, the kind of rejection I am talking about is the kind of rejection that comes with being a filmmaker, or an artist in general. It is going to happen, but you can’t let it get you down. It comes with the territory.

Nobody ever got anywhere by being great all the time. The only way to learn in this industry is to fail. By failing we call attention to our weaknesses. Once we realize a weakness we are then able to make it better. In short: we learn from our mistakes (as cliché as that is to say). Of course it is going to suck when you get rejected, but you have to take it in stride. This can apply to any aspect of life, not just film or art. Take each rejection, each failure, and turn it around. It will be easy to point out every negative aspect of the rejection, but it is far harder, and more beneficial, to point out all the good that a rejection can have. Rejection is not 100% bad.

For example, you submit a film which you think is your best work to a film festival but they reject it. Instead of getting down on yourself try looking at your film in a different light. Maybe there is something you can change around in it. You could be just a few quick edits away from greatness, and that acceptance you are craving. Maybe there is something else glaringly wrong with it that you just didn’t know or see before. Sometimes it takes a rejection to help us see things more clearly.

Rejection never gets easier to swallow, but we can lessen the blow each time by being productive with the result we have been given. The first thing you can do is submit it somewhere else. Maybe that festival, or that publisher, or that agent, or that company wasn’t the right fit for you, but someone else will get what you are trying to say. This happens all the time. If you find that you just can’t get it accepted anywhere you could try changing it a little bit. Just be sure not to sacrifice your artistic vision. That is something that you should never give up. Rejection is an art form in itself. You can let it take a hold of you and crush you beneath its weight, or you can take control of it and bend it any which way you choose. The choice is yours.