Judging Bleedingham: What I Learned

I recently had the opportunity to judge a bunch of short films vying for awards at the Northwest Horror Short Film Fest  Bleedingham, and it turned out to be even cooler than I thought it would be. Here’s why:

As I embarked on my marathon viewing of 26-short amateur films, I wondered about the time commitment, as I am on deadline to finish my next book, Princess Assassin, for my friends at Random House-Germany. Nevertheless, I settled in to watch….and at first I thought, “Oh wow! Some of these are respectable, but some of these are not so great!”

I shared my opinions with my family. I gave them examples. We shook our heads. We laughed – who wouldn’t get a chuckle out of the title “Bearzooka”? Shockingly, it’s about a rampaging bear with a bazooka. And then I went back to my study to watch the rest.

Next came the numerical judging. I evaluated each film on the following categories: Cinematography, Editing, Sound Design, Story, Special Effects, and Scary Factor. Here is where I had an epiphany. As I assigned ratings, I really started to see what each films’ creators had in mind–what they were trying to do. Sometimes they nailed it, sometimes they got close, sometimes they missed. It reminded me how very difficult it is to get all of the pieces just right to communicate an original idea on screen (which I’ve tried to do myself…and nailed, got close, and missed). I had to respect the teams who worked on the films whether they nailed it this time or not. 

My wife asked me if the process taught me anything about my own work. I thought for a moment and nodded. The film making process takes time and collaboration, and it’s incredibly difficult to get things just right. Those of us with stories to tell who actually do this sort of creative work know this and have respect for those who try, fail, or succeed. Judging Bleedingham was a perfect reminder. 

To all of the writers, directors, camera crews, sound, actors who did the work to get to Bleedingham, congratulations! For those who nailed it…double congrats. For those who didn’t, good job learning and keep at it. That’s the process.

P.S. For local peeps that want to check out the winning films, there will be a showing this Sunday, October 30 starting at 7:15pm at The Pickford Film Center in Bellingham, WA.


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