Short of the Week

Greatness—Why Good, Isn’t Good Enough

Article / August 15, 2012

You made a good film. You followed all the right rules, but nothing came of it. What happened? Well, the world of online content isn’t what you think it is. To grab the world’s attention takes more than just rising above the bad. You have to be great. And that means letting go of a few common notions we used to rely on.

 

Quest for Greatness

The democratization of film we’ve experienced on the web over the past decade with services like YouTube and Vimeo has put home videos side-by-side with professional content and consequently opened up the floodgates to a lot of bad films. From that ocean of awfulness, Short of the Week was born, and we’ve spent the past 5+ years searching for the greatest stories to hold up in front of the world because we’re naive enough to think it just might change your life.

 

The Rise of Good

If you think being GREAT simply means rising above the BAD, you’re ignoring your biggest obstacle of all—the GOOD.

Over the past five years, we’ve gotten really good at avoiding the BAD. So much that we don’t bother with it. We spend most of our time searching for GREATNESS among the GOOD. It is, after all, the GOOD where most filmmakers fall flat. Cat videos and bad web series are not your competition. Your real competition is the 5,000 other dramas shot with shallow depth-of-field and digital effects that go up every week.

Much of the content we come across falls into this vague category that is neither terrible nor amazing—it’s just GOOD. And to us, GOOD isn’t good enough.

 

Don’t Settle for Good

Okay, so to most, GOOD and GREAT may seem like a matter of semantics. But to us, the two are worlds apart. A GOOD film has nice cinematography, a story that would make Robert McKee proud, and believable acting. In short, GOOD follows all the right rules. And that’s exactly why it’s not GREAT.

  • GOOD makes sense. GREAT makes you think.
  • GOOD is familiar. GREAT offers a new perspective on the world.
  • GOOD is timeless. GREAT is now.
  • GOOD feels right. GREAT makes you feel something new.

Ultimately, GOOD is forgettable, while GREAT has you thinking for days.

 

Be Great

Today, it’s not enough to be GOOD. Only the GREAT will capture the world’s attention.

The latest DSLR cameras and editing software may have made our films look better, but they haven’t made us better storytellers. So before you splurge on that new RED camera, think not just about crafting the film’s story but the larger story surrounding the film. Ask yourself what a curator may say about your film—why it rises above the multitude of others out there. We curators need a hook—something new and noteworthy that can be summed up in 140 characters.

It can be a twist on a familiar concept (The Employment). A compelling idea for technology that shifts our world view (Sight). A ground-breaking technique (A Family Portrait). A modern take on an old idea (Bruce). A hidden experience woven throughout the story (The Thomas Beale Cipher).

Your real competition is the 5,000 other dramas shot with shallow depth-of-field and digital effects that go up every week.

Weeks before my high school graduation, a great English teacher of mine dropped a bombshell assignment on us. Throughout his career he continually challenged us to think bigger, and weeks before heading out on our own, left us with the biggest question of all—what is greatness?

Now, that question falls on you.

~
Andrew makes no attempt to hide his love for the magic art of animation. He appreciates compelling visuals but never forgets that in this modern age, a strong story always reigns supreme. You can see his work at andrewsallen.com or his latest film The Thomas Beale Cipher.
  • ivan kander

    Yup. Which is precisely why all my stuff is only “good.” Haven’t yet achieved greatness–greatness is tough.

  • http://twitter.com/toscreenshots James McNally

    Even more interesting is to define great as a community of curators here at SOTW. Each of us has individual quirks of taste, but figuring out what truly rises above is a constant challenge. Great piece, Andrew!

  • http://twitter.com/kung_fuelvis kung_fuelvis

    Great article.

    Also loving the infographic – love it when the articles get stylish like this.

  • Rob

    I’m not a film maker… Nor do I know the first thing about it. In fact, I don’t even know how I found this site…! But I read every newsletter, and watch all the videos because they are selected by a team of incredibly talented people who act as the ‘guardian angel filter’ for punters like me. Can’t thank you enough for finding these inspiring videos and I here’s to more greatness!!

    A big fan of YOUR work!

    X

  • http://twitter.com/MarBelle MarBelle

    Great great piece. You eloquently summed up the sentiment behind every “Thanks, but no thanks” email I’ve ever had to send for DN. I may well start linking to this piece instead.

  • Kerry

    wow spot on.. I won’t be able to sleep now for the next week without letting go of the thought of greatness. I believe it comes partly from understanding the world around us, taking an active interest in various opinions, being open minded and READ a lot. The guys who made I, Pet Goat II show a lof of these characteristics while having strong critique on the world. Good article. Close to great ;)

  • Kerry

    I don’t get the Stars system. It went to -10 :S

  • Noodlehead

    Here is a great video to help explain… http://vimeo.com/32341585

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasondhi Jason Sondhi

    It’s often difficult to pinpoint the difference between Great and Good. Short films really are quite accomplished nowadays, and I’ll watch film after film and wonder why I’m not being moved. I feel like I’m just jaded, and question myself. But then a “great” film comes along and I go, “Ohhhhhhhh. Yes, that’s what I was waiting for”. I think Andrew does a great job here of dissecting what some of those elements are that cause that kind of reaction.

  • bolivia man

    GREAT offers a new perspective on the world. you said that man, and i tell you, if you need another perspective of the world choose short films from all around the world man, come to Bolivia will show you another perspective

  • Max Gron

    I hate altruism but I don’t hate the person, however I snipped an alturist’s whinging by making it 1000 times shorter his whinging. I shut him up when he was on the way to work, I continually said “good bye”, I didn’t say a positive or a negative, I gave him nothing, I forced my existence not to start wars, I outsmarted him. It’s better without his existence, and I got rid of him and forced him to stop whinging, I forced him to be nice and he shut up, left and hated talking to me and said nothing, I’m great, no one mistreats me and I didn’t let him get away with it!

  • William Tungadi

    THank u for make this web for us……so all people can watch my shortfilms and fell my film. I respect of it. Thank U

  • michael

    unfortunately, you can’t be concerned with being great. you just have to follow your intuition. it doesn’t matter that much. it’s great enough that we are here on this earth! what else are you asking for?

  • http://www.andrewsallen.com Andrew S Allen

    Intuition is a great thing. You can’t create greatness by simply following the rules.

  • aisis

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • aisis

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Mercutio

    Shouldn’t it be, “GOOD is now. GREAT is timeless?”

  • varava

    I agree with this person.

  • Anonymous

    The repercussions of a more technologically liberated society.

  • http://www.marksandusky.com/ Mark

    This is a “great” article. I think the same concept of ‘getting lost in the good’ can certainly be applied to music, and a lot of other creative fields. Thank you for the simple yet unique advice.

  • http://www.andrewsallen.com Andrew S Allen

    My point is that GREAT reflects the feelings of culture today and defines the here and now while GOOD is often generic. GREAT art tends to give voice to specific ideas which arise out of key moments in time. We see many GOOD films that are well made and tell a solid story but could’ve been made 40 years ago—they simply don’t offer anything new for us today and therefore become forgettable.

    When we screen films, we ask the same question that many venture capitalists ask of early startups, “Why now?”

    Though I probably could use a better word than “timeless” to reflect this.