I am halfway through the book now which is a collection of short conversations with and essays by a variety of producers, directors, and distributors currently working in the industry today. The essays are categorized by "swimming lesson", from "Learning to Float: The Buyers" to "How I Learned to Swim: Filmmaker Survival Stories", with interludes from Badal which introduce and tie the chapters together.
Although I wasn't sure going in whether or not I would learn anything new, I am happy to say that the essays explore a wide range of experiences and points of view - words of wisdom and words of warning. Swimming Upstream recognizes that everyone has an opinion, and fortunately, there's still plenty to learn directly from the experts and the independents, without a textbook editor as a middle man. The essays as a collective cover the wide range of distribution options for short films, from festivals to the Internet, and from getting an agent to dealing with distributors.
As one of the two official short film programmers of the Tribeca Film Festival and a film professor at NYU, Sharon Badal is worth listening to as well, and at the end of the book she shares her own experiences and warns against some of the cliches that are best to avoid in short films, including:
- beginning with a quote by a famous person
- first shot of an alarm going off and someone waking up
- pan-across-a-mantle of photographs under the opening credits
- shorts guided completely by voice-over narration
- use of repetitive/montage sequences