View Full Version : Common Effect - A Short Film

11-18-2005, 11:03 PM
Hey everyone,

I recently finished editing my debut short film, "Common Effect."


Rob and Mark, two contract killers in their early twenties, share a hotel room on the verge of their next kill. Mark is ready and eager to do it, but Rob doesn't feel the same.

In another hotel room, Bill, a 40-something police officer, has trouble putting his violent past into words for the woman he loves. What the woman, Jessica, will do with this information, puts everyone at stake -- even herself.


You can see a pretty recent version online at ( Note that the file is 110 MB, and encoded for QT 7. Sounds big, but the length is 15 minutes and the resolution is pretty high.

Another option; I'm temporarily giving out DVDs of the film for free, if anyone's interested. If you are, just let me know, and we'll take it from there.

* Note * If you don't check out the movie for the story, watch it for the music - a fellow IndieTalk member was generous enough to donate a free score to the film - and I hear he's looking for more projects!

Let me know what you think!



11-19-2005, 12:05 PM
So I watched your movie and it has potential to be good.

The Acting is a little ackward at times. The female cop rushes through her lines like she's nevervous and it seems like the cop with the mustache in particular is reading his lines from a cue card.

I liked the lighting but you need to do some color correction to help match the brightness from one scene to the next. If it's a stylistic thing then it needs to be something other than just lighter are darker between to shots otherwise it looks like a mistake.

You may also want to watch through your entire piece before you waste time posting it becasue there are several parts that were unrendered or your media went off-line line. I see your using FCP nice work.

The beginning was a little awkward too when it looked like someone didn't realize the camera was rolling. I got the fact that it was supposed to look like bad home movies but it runs a little long and is a bit confusing, not in a good way.

I like your editng style and camera work. It looks good just needs to be tightened up a bit with pacing and color correction.

11-19-2005, 08:08 PM

Thanks a lot for watching and your feedback. I've had this on various websites for a month, and only got two other replies that match the level of help you provided.

My biggest concern over audio inaccuracies, color correction, or camera movement is if the story is understood. The female in the film wasn't actually a police officer - instead, she was Bill's mistress (Bill being the older man).

As far as his acting, Bill's actually my uncle, and did it in 24 hours notice, so in some ways, I'm most proud of how his role turned out. Jessica (the only woman) is my sister, who in reality, is the least nervous person you could meet - but it's good to know how you saw it.

Again, the best option for seeing this is letting me send you a DVD - it's the latest, and official version. I apologize for the two times "MEDIA OFFLINE" pops up. I'm not at my editing machine now, so I can't begin rendering another version to correct that, but I will get on it when I can.

The final version also addresses some of the color continuity, audio, and pacing issues - but the pacing I kept slow because it needs to be slow. I'm trying to jam a feature story into 15 minutes, so the best thing I can do is make you feel like you had time to digest the information - even when in reality, it was just an extra 20 seconds, if that makes sense.

Anyway, thank you for watching and your feedback. I appreciate all your comments, they all help immensely.

If you're interested in a DVD, it's no big deal for me. I'm happy to send one - especially to a fellow Michigander.

Thanks again,


11-19-2005, 10:33 PM
I am in no way an expert, but I have read a fair amount on short films, and one rule that always comes up is to keep your short , short. If you have a 15 minute film it had better be fast paced, otherwise you need to cut it down quite a bit. No one ever walked out on a film for being too short, or. A lot of industry pros suggest a film 4-6 minutes for a short film, unless your sound, picture, dialouge and content are amazing. If every element is flawless, go for a little more length if you think it needs it.

But sometimes scripts are too long. Quality is more important and is a reason most spec scripts are rewritten many times before a movie is ever made.

11-19-2005, 10:55 PM
Hi wattersk,

That's probably true for some, but from what I've read on short films, they seem to always over-glorify the 4-6 minute "spoof" films, which are simple to tell in a short matter of time. To me, I very rarely see new ideas, or ingenuity there. And when I do, I'm happy to sit through as long as they need me to. Afterall, our ultimate goal is to make a roughly 100 minute movie, and I've been hapilly sitting through movies that long for many years.

In my case, I had the story told in 8 pages. I worked on the script for 9 months, and every other day was a new revision. By the time it was done, the script pushed 13 pages. I don't know if you had a chance to watch it yet, but 13 pages/15 minutes doesn't seem to be enough. Like I mentioned earlier, my biggest concern is that the story won't be understood, or even worse, no effort or motivation will be put into figuring it out. But, this was the only way I could do it, and the only way I could tell it, in trying to keep it as short as possible, yet as long as necessary.

Short films are new. We still have no idea what to do with them, and only a vague sense of hope as to what they'll do for us. I'm happy and excited to push the boundaries a little further than what's considered conventional, and see how far these "Shorts" can take us.

Thanks for the comments. Keep the tips comin'!

- Steve

11-20-2005, 12:04 AM
I was not referring to spoof movies. There are many good short movies out there, for instance "The right Hook". I watched your movie before I posted. I will give you some feedback if you want, but not all of it may be good. I can point out what I think was wrong with it if you like. I will also tell you what I thought was done well, but no one like getting an unwelcomed bad review from someone who "knows nothing". :)

11-20-2005, 12:19 AM
Like you, I wasn't solely referring to spoof movies either. I'll take a look at "The Right Hook" next chance I get.

Feedback is what I posted for, so whatever feedback you can give is exactly what I'm looking for. I don't specialize in short films or fully understand the craft of filmmaking in any of the specific areas (writing, directing, acting, editing, sound design, cinematography, etc.). I've only been doing this for a year, and like I mentioned in my first post, this is my first short film. I expect there to be obvious mistakes, that I will do my best to avoid next time. I can point out several of my own, but it's always more helpful to see my movie how someone else sees it.

And the last thing I think about anyone here is that they "know nothing." I came to the major online DV forums knowing less than nothing a little over one year ago, and continue learning everyday just by reading posts from people like you. Anyone who takes the time out of their day to watch a movie and post honest feedback is exactly the kind of member that keeps these forums running.

11-20-2005, 02:08 AM
1 - The lighting was good in a lot of the scenes. The scenes with the cop were shot better than the scenes with the killers.

- It seemed that two different styles were at work in the film. Two different directors? I so, limit it to one. One Director, one DP. The continuity was thrown because of the difference.

- The lighting change between scenes to many times. Easy fixed but some scenes looked great, while others were hard to make out.

2 - Were the actors paid? I would expect better if they were. The contract killers were not believable. They should be bad asses. And they weren't. If someone was on my bed and didn't get off I would give them a Sam Jackson style verbal bitch slap and tell them to "get off my bed before I choke you with the fucking sheets".

- The cop was obviously reading from cue cards. He looked down. Read his lines, and then looked up(every time), though in some areas, it was dealt with using camera movement.

- Characters need development. A man with a girlfriend of 3 years would atleast touch her, especially in the setting. The contract killers were not serious enough. They were too nonchalant about it and were not believeable.

- I was unaware what significance each person had and what role they played in the bigger picture. The "couple" seemed more like partners and not lovers.

3 - Story was a bit unclear. What exactly was the story? What role did they all play and why were they connected. The two guys killed someone and taped it.(not really believeable for professional killers) And the cop was not a cop? and he was involved? His son was a killer?

- Anytime the audience is unsure about key elements, there is something missing. (not good)

4 - I thought there were some great shots, but the sound and lighting changed too much throughout the film. The zoom is a big no no in indie films. I don't see why, its just a little sophmoric and seen as imiation of people like Tarantino.

When rewriting the script, try not to make it longer. Always shorter. When writing essays you want to cut out what you can cut out without losing your point. Same should apply. Edit the scenes that have no dialouge unless they convey something, like the frustration of the girl ( which was a little misplaced... She didn't seem like she was that tormented by the whole situation when acting )

It was your first short, and it was good for that. You will get better and there will be fewer problem areas each time. You jumped a hurdle, atleast you are filming, some never get that far. If you can fine tune your style (which I liked) and work on dialouge, I think you will be in good shape.

11-20-2005, 09:22 AM
Thank you. It's safe to say I can see the movie as you see it now, and can appreciate how you read it.

The story is, Bill (older man) and Robby (killer not wanting to do it) are father and son. Bill's story happened before Robby's ever took place. The note Robby read through the movie was the note that Bill wrote before he was killed. Bill found out that day that Robby was following in his footsteps, and Bill wasn't actually a cop - he was a contract killer as well. It was that note that convinced Robby to not continue a lifestyle of a killer. At the beginning, with the shaky camera work, they had a sheet that told them how and where to find the next guy they needed to kill. The sheet was brought up again at the end, except this time was for the woman of the story, Jessica. In other words, they were going to kill Jessica for turning in his dad, and getting him killed. "Alias" on the sheet: "The SNITCH."

The "Common Effect" was the common effect they had on each other. Because of Robby, Bill chose to come clean to Jessica - and we see what happens because of that. Because of Bill, Robby wants to change the life he would have held had he continued killing people.

Thanks again for the feedback, I appreciate it all greatly.

- Steve

11-20-2005, 11:37 AM
I think wattersk filled in all the things I left out. Good conversation here.

I think one of the biggest things that separates good short films from bad ones is the casting and acting.

Casting and acting are deffinitely battles that filmmakers will always face. It's hard becasue you want to tell your story but often times it's harder to find the right people to tell that story for you. When the acting is bad or people are cast in roles that don't really fit the part it automatically disconects the audience from the story never giving them a chance to get into it. In your case here, you had friends and family helping you with telling your story and that's great everyone starts that way. Because you already have a good sense of filmic style and telling a story I think the next step is to find some actors for your next film.

I was amazed at the response we got for our first movie when we actually put out a casting call for actors. I was surprised that people actually were interested enough to want to show up and play the parts. I was even more surprised at the fact that we actually ended up finding people that could play the roles and bring them to life.

I would say for your next adventure...try to get people that can play the roles well enough to engage your audience.

11-20-2005, 12:32 PM
See, RunTwo, that story makes sense. I get it now, but it was hard to understand throughout the movie. There were too many elements missing that connect the two stories together. For you I am sure it makes sense. But for someone looking at it without prior notice might not get it. Keep going though. And I would like to give you some advice.

A short film in festivals is 35 minutes or below, but a lot have time limits that are more strict(someone correct me if I am wrong). A well made short film (one that will get you noticed/win awards, and lead to a career) shot on 35mm with a crew and a 3 day shooting timeline could come out costing around $20,000 - $150, 000.. On the low end, you have to have people giving you things for free, such as free processing and equipment. Often the budget for a short film is $2500 for catering alone (if you want to do it right).

Film making is a very expensive hobby. Please take my suggestion into consideration - Don't make a 100 minute movie any time soon. You will spend a lot of your time and money and come out with a product that is not what you would like.
Making smaller movies will provide you with a better learning experience. You can focus more on a small film and make it really great, rather than having a long film and have it below par. I know a long film might make you feel more legitimate, but a few well made shorts can get you more exposure than one feature.

11-20-2005, 02:46 PM
Thank you both for continuing to provide advice.

I believe that regardless of what format a film is shot on, or how much money is spent, the story still only comes out as good as it's told by the script, the acting, and the editing. Other things definitely help and are necessary in making the film feel like a film, but creativity can trump money time after time. And like what you said, liquidrogue, I'm very excited for the day when I hold an audition. I got the technical stuff with this one, and managed to tell a somewhat coherent story*. This will lend a huge hand when the next one comes around.

* Regarding the story not coming out clearly, 50% of those who see it would agree with you, and the other 50% would have a differing view. I went to a one-year film school which got out before the summer began. Back in one of the classes, we were told to bring in a short script, and then we would read it in front of the class, with everyone having a cppy in hand, who would then provide feedback. It's just like now how it was then - out of roughly 13 students and one teacher in the class, a line could be drawn down the middle as far as who didn't need my explanation and who did. If another 14 watched it, I'm willing to bet it would be the same. Of course, I would prefer there be no line at all, and all 14 would understand, but until I can get there, I need to know where the confused half were lost.

I've shown it in front of family, who were distracted the first time around by watching their relatives acting. I've shown it in front of the online DV forums, who would likely be distracted the first time around by looking out for the logistics, technical, and creative aspects of the movie. From the people who've seen it, who have no connection to filmmaking, there's that line again.

My biggest goal with "Common Effect" was making an interesting story. I knew all along it would quickly become a boring story if it wasn't told coherently. I tried several different ways of telling it in the writing phase, and this was the way I thought would be best.

wattersk, I think you're right in advising not to jump into a feature length film any time soon. Like I said, for most of us, that's our ultimate goal, but it is just that - a goal. One that I intend to earn as I continue with these short films, and other projects that will further my education and build up my experience.

Thank you both again, and I don't disagree with any of your points, and don't mean to come off as thinking my film is "a special exception." I understand things were done in a manner that might not necessarily be correct, and am very willing to learn where I could have turned it around.

So, thank you one more time for making everything a little bit clearer for me.

- Steve

11-20-2005, 03:59 PM
I was of the half that didn't get it until your explanations. Here's why:

The only mention of relationship between father and son is when the dad mentions his son by name...which I only knew because the media offline had his name on it.

There was nothing to tell me that these 2 threads weren't simultaneous events. Other than the device of the hand held camera in the young sequences vs. the locked down, smooth motion of the adult sequences.

The mental anguish wasn't really presented in the picture, and the dialog spent too much time hiding what they were doing, that may have been enlightening. I like the interwoven timelines, but it really did seem that he was a cop chasing two killers and once that seed was planted, he never actually came out to say...I used to be a killer, but my son's decision to follow in my footsteps made me look at my situation and choose a new life. Here's a picture...strapping young lad no?

Cinematography is very nice.