A Night at the Video Gong Show

I missed out on last month’s Video Gong Show since I was in Pennsylvania and unfortunately, I’ll miss next month’s VGS because I’ll be in Florida (I know… I’m practically a member of the jet-set), so last night was my only chance to experience it first-hand (the finals excepted).

For those who don’t know, VGS is basically like the real Gong Show, but with videos instead of live people.  Oh, there are live people there (including the filmmakers), but they aren’t dancing around like monkeys for your entertainment (though after enough drinks, maybe the would).  Anyone can submit their films, be it professionally made or found footage, for the chance to win a $1000 prize package from Picture This Productions.

Last night’s event was at the Woods, which is an awesome venue for anything (which should be said about any building that was once a funeral home).  There was much merriment at the start and a band (sadly I forget their name, though it had something to do with “Twins”) setting the mood off right.  Also, the dolphin screen saver for the projector was pretty boss.

There were somewhere between 15-20 films, though it’s hard to say with some last minute submissions and one technical difficulty.  It’s made tougher because some films were only shown for mere seconds before getting gonged off screen.

What was most striking to me about the experience was how tough it is to break through the politeness that’s been beaten into us since birth (not that it’s a bad thing that we are polite).  It’s hard to get oneself worked up enough to yell and “boo” and deride something to get it gonged, especially when the creators could be in attendance.  This is doubly so with film/video because the medium doesn’t lend itself to audience participation (Rocky Horror aside).  One typically waits to see what the payoff will be then makes a judgment.  There’s an old saying that goes something like “The most important part of a screenplay are the first ten pages.  The most important part of a film is the last ten minutes.” Well here, you need to hook them early or they will turn.

Fortunately, the night started off with a most ridiculous video that was, admittedly, very amusing, but desperately needed gonging.  With the crowd now in the correct mindset, the night was a blast.  In between shouts of “Gong!” and drinks, there were a few top-notch, highly entertaining shorts and one shout-off between dueling opinions.  There was no malice in the event and no personal attacks.  The filmmaker’s efforts were greatly appreciated.  It’s hard to put your work out there, especially in an environment designed to breed light-hearted hostility.

What was most surprising about the whole experience is how much I learned about filmmaking and maintaining the audience’s attention.  If you blow up a head early in the film, the audience will hang on until the end to see it happen again (however, if you don’t deliver, the audience will turn on you).  Also, in an event such as VGS, there is no time for dawdling.  Establish your premise and get moving!  Don’t beat jokes into the ground.  We have Saturday Night Live for that.  Finally, creativity and silliness are never bad things.

There are two more Video Gong Show rounds.  A qualifier at Beulahland on September 29 at 8 PM and a grand finale where the prizes will be distributed at the Hollywood Theatre on October 21 at 8 PM.  Round up your friends, submit your own videos, grab a drink, and have a great time!

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