Here's a PSA for you fledgling movie makers out there: I have found an instructional DVD that gives the watcher step-by-step instructions on how NOT to make a movie. It instructs the viewer on the art of movie making in a highly effective manner: by presenting the viewer with the most negative examples that one could possibly imagine. The result is that anyone viewing these examples who has ambitions of making a movie will avoid repeating them like a vampire avoids garlic.
But you won't find this DVD in the documentary section, because it's not marketed as a documentary. The title on the case is BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR.
The blurbs on the DVD case try to pass this movie off as a cult classic along the lines of Plan 9 From Outer Space, a movie that, while undeniably bad, is still entertaining. I beg to differ. In my opinion, while Ed Wood (writer and director of Plan 9) had an ear for dialogue, emotion, and action like Van Gogh had an ear for his girlfriend, and he didn't care if the sets he constructed were obviously cardboard, his talent for shooting a movie, while unimaginative, was at least competent. BIRDEMIC was made by a man who had no clue how to make a movie.
To give you some of the aforementioned negative examples:
1) Watching your lead character as he goes through his entire uneventful commute to work is NOT a riveting movie-watching experience. The opening credits were rolling during this commute, but it's nevertheless imperative to MAKE THINGS HAPPEN during the movie, or at least give the impression that something is going to happen (this latter is called suspense).
2) It does NOT take five minutes to establish that a character is, say, a model. The lead actress in this movie, one Whitney Moore, is indeed easy on the eyes, but watching her just stand there as a photographer takes pictures of her will cause the eye to wander (because NOTHING'S HAPPENING). Just have the camera click once, maybe twice, and move on.
3) Do NOT have your characters talk endlessly about their personal lives with their coworkers or with their frumpy aunt Mabel (or whatever the hell her name was). The male lead is a corporate drone, the female lead is a model, and they're interested in each other. Once you've established that, MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN.
4) If your movie is going to have a romantic angle, then get a pair of actors who can actually act. Whitney Moore's acting ability is merely unremarkable. But as for the male lead, Alan Bagh...(sigh) Charlie McCarthy was never this wooden. When Ms. Moore enters the bedroom in a bikini and says, "What do you think?", you know intellectually that Bagh is supposed to be looking her up and down before exclaiming enthusiastically. Instead, it looks for all the world like he's reading through his cue card: Ah, there's my line..."You look great!"
The movie's director, James Nguyen, has styled himself a "romantic horror" director. I state to you categorically: No.
5) Do NOT have your monsters suddenly show up when the movie is already half over with absolutely no previous setup. Yes, our heroes come across one dead bird on the beach a short time beforehand. She reaches toward it, and he warns her: "Don't touch it! It could be infectious!" This is not enough. Dead birds are found on the beach all the time. This does not constitute an ecological disaster. You need to set things up, to give the audience an inkling that SOMETHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN. Again, suspense.
(The monsters themselves, crazed birds that dive-bomb hapless victims and inexplicably explode on impact, or slash throats, are extremely cheesy, looking like cardboard cutouts despite being computer-animated, but this can be forgiven. Bad special effects are no guarantee of a bad movie, any more than good special effects guarantee a good movie.)
6) And this is the greatest sin of all: DO. NOT. PREACH. At one point in the movie before the hammer falls, Alan and Whitney go to see a movie with a pair of friends. That movie, as fate (or the director) would have it, is "An Inconvenient Truth." And when they emerge from the theater, one character exclaims, "Boy, I'm going to buy a hybrid car right now!" Later on, after the birds have launched their apocalyptic assault, our heroes come across a scientist who says this whole disaster is the fault of mankind and their incessant raping of the environment, etc., etc., etc. And there are numerous other examples. Now I'm not saying that saving the planet is not a good thing. I'm saying that this kind of incessant, bludgeon-you-over-the head type preaching
can result in Joan Baez boarding a leaky oil tanker, sailing to the Amazon rain forest, chopping down a tree, whittling it into a baseball bat, then sailing up to the Arctic to use said baseball bat to club a harp seal to death. In short, it has an adverse effect on your audience. (Truth to tell, I recently read an article about a scientific experiment that proved this very phenomenon.) If you have a message that you want to get across in a positive way, then you must employ SUBTLETY.