Judge Katie Herrell thinks Flip's not ready to sit at the big table just yet.
"Keep your inner monologue inner."
Take Britney Spears's quickie wedding in Vegas, add some tryouts for American Idol, then some copious amounts of time and belief in your "craft" and you have Flip.
Facts of the Case
Flip-A New Short Film is a 15-minute short about two co-workers who get drunk and married in Vegas while on a business trip. Flip is also a how-to guide for novice filmmakers. The writer and director, Carleton Torpin, hosts "Featurettes" on writing, budgeting, creating props, and shooting an authentic non-home-movie-style short film. In regards to time, the special features on this DVD far surpass the actual film.
Full disclosure: I do not make short films. I have no aspirations to make short films. I hope to never see any of my work, in any capacity, on YouTube. Thus, I am not amongst the target audience for this film. That said, I do enjoy short films. I appreciate the art form and respect the difficulty in making a movie with a small budget—less than $3,000 in this film's case.
The Flip DVD is really two entities in one: Flip: The Movie and Flip: The Process. Of course, one wouldn't exist without the other, but I think Flip: The Movie is an unfortunate result of Flip: The Process, which also happens to be a more entertaining endeavor.
Flip: The Movie is trite. The story is not original. The acting is amateur. And that's OK for a student film or home movie, but this has ambitions that are never realized. It's looking to hit the film fest circuit (it recently made its debut at The Dam Short Film Festival in Nevada), and it's attempting to teach other aspiring filmmakers the ropes. Now that's just scary.
The male lead, Aldo (Jarrod Weintraub) appears devoid of authentic facial expressions. Sure, there's the occasional raising of the eyebrows, and inward folding of the face to indicate pain or disgust, but these movements are contrived; they're not involuntary movement that's associated with real emotion. Aldo, in his ill-fitting clothing and slouching haircut, is scammed by a female co-worker. She gets him drunk then convinces him to marry her, all with the absurd logic that second marriages are better than the first. Though this reasoning should turn Aldo's face inside-out, he just stares blankly.
The female lead, Jennifer (Rebecca Seubert), is a shrill, giggling brunette with a heaving bosom. She is disgustingly coy, with wide eyes and fluttering lashes. Sadly, the production diary shows a much more natural and relaxed actress in rehearsal. She's having fun; she's playing with her victim and relishing every moment. She is confident and less coy, and this brings more reality to the character. Apparently, she's also a natural blonde, which came as a shocking revelation.
However, I do cut the actors some slack, as they did not write the screenplay. Carleton Torpin (who, in addition to screenwriter, is also director, prop creator, and marketer) exposes the pitfalls of a do-it-all-yourself-for-very-little-money production. For every good writer/actor/director out there, there's dozens of mediocre writer/actor/directors. These "triple threats" might be talented at one or even two of their three crafts but, for whatever reason, be it boredom, grandiose sense of self, or necessity, they overextend themselves.
As Flip: The Process shows, Torpin is an excellent budgeter, prop creator, and director. I was intrigued when he talked about padding the bathroom with pillows to get the sound just right; I was impressed by his PhotoShop prowess, and his use of a 35mm camera for a viewfinder. Torpin is a good all-around maestro of the filmmaking process, but he is not a screenwriter (as evidenced by this film).
Flip: The Process is an interesting conglomeration of stills, production diaries, and tips on making a short film. The production diary itself has a few too many forearm close-ups and candid shots of the cast screwing around, but it also shows their 4:00 a.m. wake-up calls and attention to detail.
The "Featurettes" show exactly how professional and serious Torpin was about producing his film. He created a detailed budget, made all his own posters and props (including an uncanny "Carlboro" cover for a cigarette box), and made adjustment after adjustment to get a shallow depth of field that gave the film an authentic look.
I gained a new respect for Flip: The Movie's video quality after watching Flip: The Process. The shots that I originally thought were too fuzzy, a little dark, or a slightly off-centered were deliberate; Torpin had control of these aspects the entire time. He used multiple screens, angles, and lenses to get each shot just the way he wanted.
Unfortunately, the special features didn't address the audio problems. I had to turn up the volume to understand the actors, as Aldo talks under his breath and Jennifer has a high-pitched voice. There was a bit of a soundtrack, but it didn't stand out.
The packaging and marketing for this film are also excellent. The website, Flipmovie.net, and the DVD packaging and graphics are artistic and professional; they singlehandedly double the credibility of this film.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I overextend. We all do. All the old adages about trying and failing and learning apply to this movie. All the adages about age apply to this film too. This is a youthful production carried out by a young cast and crew. In this respect it is surprisingly professional, thorough, and well executed. Kudos to all for putting themselves out there. That takes guts and passion and confidence. And that's half the battle in anything.
The U.S. of A. is teeming with the notion that anyone can be a celebrity. Everyday someone is plucked from obscurity and shoved onto center stage. They are given hair and makeup and clothes and coaching and record deals and they're becoming stars, real stars. But these real stars are spawning more and more wannabe stars, people that believe their mother when she says they're the best there is. And these wannabe stars are running, skipping, sliding onto center stage. They're bypassing all the little stages along the way—school plays, church choir, writing workshops. They're ignoring the lessons and teaching and critics that say maybe they're not ready for the big stage yet. And then they're getting to the big stage and…wham! There's criticism and embarrassment and then the tears. They learn the hard way that their mother isn't always right, and maybe that's what Flip is doing. Or maybe this—festivals, online reviews—is their little stage and in no time at all they'll be ready, really ready, for the big stage.
Guilty. This isn't a film that should be seen by the general public. While the directing and production skills are there, the story and acting need more polish and depth.
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