Something to ponder over the summer

Following my latest blog – where I wondered why all the graduation doc films from The Danish Film School had to be exactly 30 min., and thus (in my opinion) were not as good as they could have been – I was tempted to go a step further:

Why do us documentary film makers still submit to the fact that our films need to be exactly 28:30, 58 or whatever minutes long when working with TV?

Oh, you say, it’s so they can fit into the schedule where there are regular programs like news or… well, mostly news… at fixed times, say at 9 o’clock.

Oh, I say, so you’re telling me that the programmers of TV can only manage fixed program lengths because… because what? Because their software can only handle specific numbers?


I know it’s a lot easier to fill a program slot if you more or less know what is coming in, but last time I looked we don’t have a new slot starting every full hour like the TV networks in the US do. We can start a program at 7:55 PM if we like… and even if you have a full hour, you can have a 34 minute film and a 21 min. film and still have time for commercials and PR-spots and whatever you need on your TV channel.

I know that there is a lot on TV besides documentaries (really, there is, check it out sometime), i.e. formats which have a fixed number of minutes, but as we more and more see our films being placed on new – and slightly more obscure – channels and at late hours; why do we still put up with it?

The reason we maybe shouldn’t is the “fact” that our works of filmmaking rarely gets better bye spending the last week in the editing room by changing the entire thing from just the right amount of minutes to the fixed amount that you are obligated to deliver.

Agreed, sometimes an obstruction – like a precise number of minutes – can be creatively stimulating, but surely a ballpark figure gives better results. Is that just me?

And are there other reasons I don’t know about? People with TV programming insights are urged to come forward and enlighten me.

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