Constructively criticise this video

My friends asked me to give him a few tips for improvement on his video, trouble is:

  1. I’m not very good at film making myself (yet)
  2. I’m biased towards him, so will probably pick out less things that are bad.

So I thought I’d get an opinion from the most intelligent people in the world.

The video is a fake trailer he made for a film course he’s doing. Basic idea: Some dude is a killer who wants to repent. The main things I can pick out are the quality of the sound in the voice overs, the quality of the title at the end, and maybe that he goes through the credits a bit too fast. I think it also might be good idea to have onscreen text to accompany the voice overs but not sure about that one.

Be as critical as you like, if the criticism needs to be cut down or fluffed out for him to feel better I’ll do that myself.

Thanks guys, I really appreciate this.

I don’t like the music, it doesn’t seem to fit the story.

In general, the shots are poorly framed. Not close enough or too far away, not the right angles.

If you don’t have a steady cam, put the camera on a tripod. Avoid panning. The motion distracts from the subject. Slow zooms would be okay if done properly.

Obviously the killing scenes are lame, but they seem to be placeholders for now.

The costuming is poor, the clothes are just ordinary and do nothing to highlight the subject and his occupation.

The actors seem to move to fast, but I think that’s a result of the poor framing.

There’s just too much light, not enough shadows, made worse in that scene at the end where the actor’s is too dark to see in detail due to the contrast of lots of sunlight.

Each scene is too quick, not enough dwell on the subject, and no real setup for the end of the scene.

The killer and the victim move too much alike. There’s no contrast between the characters.

Some detailed points:

Buttoning the shirt is a way of depicting the meticulous and methodical nature of a hired killer. The shirt should have been pressed and starched, and the scene should have been a closeup of the hands doing each button slowly and with practised intent. This would lead to a closeup of the killer’s face.

A slow zoom in on the book about forgiveness highlights the topic, and the actor needs to assume a different appearance as a contrast to the killer persona.

The washing the hands scene is heavy handed in theme, and poorly shot. Perfect place for some slo-motion to change the pace of the story, and a close up on the hands.

There’s no build up in the killing scenes. Each shot happens at the same pace, same length of time. And the victim looks more like a killer than the killer does. The victim has to look innocent in some respect, even if he’s a bad guy he has to appear unaware of the danger he’s in.

The killing is the real point of the story up to then, so there should have been some shocking change in the style to highlight the lack of empathy on the part of the killer, and the terror of the victim. Those are the money shots in this kind of story.

The sound quality of the voice over was so bad I had to stop it at 40-seconds in.

The hero who wants out, but is forced to do one last job is really cliche.

This doesn’t make sense as a trailer. A trailer is an advertising tease. It’s got to hook you quick, show you some cool stuff, tease some dramatic moments, and leave you hungry for more.

Think about what this would be like as a full completed film. What would be the most evocative, exciting moments? How would you extract some snippets from that to sell the vision?

Right now it feels like the various scenes exist entirely to serve the needs of the trailer, not the needs of the film that the trailer is supposed to be based on.

(Assigning a trailer to a beginning filmmaker seems like an odd assignment. Faking a trailer like this is like sinking a triple bank shot. You have to imagine a film that doesn’t exist, and then cut up that imaginary film to construct a new work that serves an entirely different purpose. There are multiple levels of abstraction and indirection involved. Not really an appropriate challenge for a beginner … .)

Too many images of the killer’s face. You need to build suspense and intrigue. (For example, why the hood? We already know what he looks like. So keep the face/identity hidden and unimportant until you need to reveal it.)

Longer shots of the buttoning and the shoe tying to set the professionalism
Too many scenes for a trailer- you’ve told the whole movie already (get rid of the phone call- instead show remorse in the protagonist in the other scenes).

I think the last jarring aspect was some of the timing of the voice over: Have him start washing hands (symbolic) before trying to quit/clean his life".

Dunno, that’s the assignment they got, so that’s what he had to do.

Thanks guys for all the tips, there’s some really good stuff here.