Working on the festival jury from 17 to 19 July 2018 in Bludenz in Austria was a hot time, both in terms of temperatures and the volume of work with the evaluation of 63 films in three days.
It requires a great empathy for the medium of amateur film, to rise to such a challenge. In addition the task requires extensive general knowledge, and so far as possible, professional qualifications in the field of film design; plus acquired experience in judging on previous competitions.
The team that awarded the points in Bludenz and provided the authors with honest and critical comments for the additional "The jury said," remarks handed over with the certificates, did a good job. That’s how I felt as the head of the jury.
A jury, if it is to be successful, needs a harmonious atmosphere between the jurors and the organisers. We had that, not least due to the attentive care of Werner Scheﬀknecht, his wife Gaby and her team.
The procedure is basically always the same, and yet every time there are differences. Good organisation is important.
The first day of the judging was from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. – of course with breaks. After each film 10 minutes were available for recording the points on the evaluation sheet, reading the points, updating an Excel table and noting the comments for "The jury said". In a preliminary discussion before the beginning of the jury meeting, it was emphatically pointed out once again, that we must refrain from making comments not directly related to the film in question.
This generally works quite well, but must be recalled again and again during a three-day session. The jury in Bludenz had at most a 15-minute overrun, which had to be offset again and again by reducing the breaks.
The evaluations according to our point system are not homogeneous, they clearly show the different perceptions, which lie behind the personality of each juror and which are also due to the complexity of our medium.
But very important is the fundamental agreement of all jurors with regard to the question which evaluation is the most appropriate for a film in the end: gold, silver, bronze or a diploma? Experience has shown that this does not require much effort, unless a film is at the borderline between two categories. Then it will be difficult, and films that are included in these sensitive zones cannot be extensively critiqued in the short time frame of the judging. They are deferred, and discussed in detail after the end of the judging process.
This takes time, reasoning skills and, above all, the flexibility and willingness of each juror to question himself and, if necessary, correct himself. It is the most exciting phase of such an extensive adjudication as we had this year with 63 films to consider.
Experience has shown that 20 to 25% of the submitted films are always borderline cases. Detached from the pressure of time, the discussion is fierce, heated and controversial, but in Bludenz, was done as usual in a friendly atmosphere.
The result may mean an increase, or a decrease of the preliminary judgement. For this purpose, point scores have to be corrected by one juror or another. The end of such a determination process after the best possible fair evaluation of a film is always a vote, which then takes place as unanimously as possible. That happened in Bludenz in every case. If this careful and reliable procedure is practiced, there may be a difference of opinion between the jurors but nothing more.
At the end of the judging days, the exhaustion of participants is clear. They are not half-dead, they are happy to have done their job, hopefully to the satisfaction of authors. But this hope is never fulfilled. The quite understandable affection of some authors for their works occasionally takes the forms of deep motherly love: "My child doesn't squint; it has to look like this!" This makes it difficult for a jury member to survive undamaged or, perhaps, to go joyfully into a new battle for the evaluation of films.
It would be nice if more EAK members would decide to participate as jurors and spend a few days in a friendly and responsible cooperation with other enthusiastic filmmakers, to take the day off. Res Gnehm from Switzerland offers courses for jurors, and also in the north there will certainly be opportunities to train jurors. By the way: there is no better training for your own film work than the work of a juror.