Directed by: Reed Clare, Mike Donis
Written by: Reed Clare
Genre: Short, Action
VALOR'S DAWN ( 2015 )
Reed Clare's "Valor's Dawn" is an ambitious short film built on simple emotions like love, loss and forgiveness. Completely absent are indie/low/no budget giveaways like bad sound and horrendous acting. If anyone reading remembers the short films that at one point acted as filler between movies, on channels such as "First Choice" and "Super Channel", before they merged and changed, "Valor's Dawn" would have been right at home and in good company filling those spots. I miss those showcased segments and this title brought me right back to those golden days.
What people are going to remember from this film are the battle scenes, which are frequent, frenzied and violent. From a technical point of view, "Valor's Dawn" does a brilliant job massing a large amount of people and capturing a great battle. As this was done on almost no budget, the awe level is raised even more. Reed Clare and Mike Donis manage a full scale war, and yet the battle sequences don't turn into a crowded mess: We understand what is happening, and fully enjoy watching. Binding these scenes together is some decent costuming, for an independent film. It would have been great to see some of the outfits a little more beaten up and battered, but that's just splitting hairs.
Ambiorix's (Reed Clare) son, who plays the catalyst in this little adventure shines brightly, drawing on some clearly natural acting ability. Although not dialog heavy, his character is an easy fit into the dark era we are plunged into. Perhaps it's better to write an "uneasy" fit, as that would make things a little clearer. These characters come from a hard world, and for a child to display traits fitting of that time period, and still manage to pull off some form of innocence, makes for some great entertainment. Reed Clare himself manages to pull an ace as he seems warrior-like yet nurturing at the same time. A real treat to behold in the independent scene. Watching these two actors play off of each other was quite fun to watch. A real pleasure.
Sometimes it can be viewed as egotistical when actors direct themselves. The truth is, in this case, I don't think anyone else could have done it better. Clare and Donis rally their small army of actors and crew, in a way that really hits home resulting in a production that feels much bigger than it actually is.
It's with that shiny, happy note that I bring up some post production flaws that really stood out in an otherwise great film. The constant fading to black being the most prominent of these issues. At times, the decision to fade fits perfectly with the story and onscreen action. Much to my dismay however, these times were rare. It seems a natural thing for new-ish directors to utilize this technique as a filler in between scenes; the fact is, that this technique should be used to conclude a film, or in some instances show the viewer that a major plot point has been reached. Fades are both very common yet seldom used, even in studio features, because they represent the end, or the conclusion of a major story element. They simply shouldn't be used all the time! The result here, with "Valor's Dawn" is an implied conclusion every few minutes, slowing the pace considerably: Especially during the first quarter of the film. Most times a hard cut is all you need to keep things moving along. When teaching I always imply that: A "fade out" is a hard "period", a cold cut equals a "semicolon" and a "dissolve" is equal to a "comma", mainly used to show the passage of time, but not conclude a story. The other slight grey area of the film is some of the sound design. I'm not talking about the score so much, as it was used quite well for the majority of the movie. I'm talking about some of the audio stabs, or lack of them. This may seem like nothing to some people but for me, proper use of stabs and drones can really enhance certain visual elements of a film. Mainly during cuts and scene changes. Without going into specific scene by scene details, let me just write that more than a few occasions would simply have been better with the inclusion of some of these sounds. It's safe to say that most people however, won't even notice.
Not many seasoned filmmakers can pull off this kind of production with no money. A lot of times even if they do, they seldom end up with a good film. "Valor's Dawn" manages to keep our head in the film and our mind entertained at the same time, reminding us that: Yes! Independent and low budget films can be entertaining! If done with some imagination and heart. Easily one of the better indie short's I've watched so far this year, hell, maybe even last year as well.