This afternoon at 3pm Pacific time, Sundance Film Festival Director John Cooper will take questions from the general public in Reddit’s “AMA” (“Ask Me Anything”) format. AMA is an interesting way to hold a mass Q&A with the general public, and if you’ve ever had questions about the inner workings of Sundance, this is a rare opportunity to get some answers. Sundance has held public Q&As before (like a live video chat back in 2010), but the AMA format is well-suited to the task of getting the most sought-after answers to an audience. (Reddit members can “up-vote” questions from other members to indicate common curiosity.)
From Cooper’s announcement on the Sundance site:
On Wednesday, Nov. 28 at 3:00 p.m. PT, on the heels of our announcement of the first 60 or so films selected for the 2013 Festival, I’ll be taking questions about just about anything — why we’re excited for this Festival, how we watch more than 10,000 films each year and narrow it down to 200, what it’s like to work for a festival that has launched the careers of many great artists, and why we love Park City, Utah!
There are plenty of filmmakers who rush to finish their film for Sundance, fill out the paperwork, send off the DVD, and then… stop. There’s nothing wrong with waiting anxiously to hear from what is arguably the world’s most famous film festival, but if you’re not submitting to other festivals while you wait you could miss out on the entire Spring season. Break out your list of target festivals (see chapter one of Film Festival Secrets for more on this) and get cracking. Here’s a handy (but by no means complete) list of festivals with upcoming deadlines. Check each festival’s web site for their late deadlines, submission rules, etc.
“Filmmaking isn’t something you need to learn in school; it’s about imagination,” [Wakamatsu] said. “The best place to learn about it is on a set, not by studying. If a person has got no talent, it doesn’t matter what you teach them. It’s the same for stuff like crafting things with your hands, cooking or architecture: you either have a sense for it or not.”
Initially made as a short film that found impressive success on the festival circuit, the full-length Gayby features the same lead actors (who are real-life friends) and elaborates on the three scenes in the short, which laid the groundwork for their joint baby-making decision but left the rest quite open ended. “For a short, it’s okay to not answer questions,” Lisecki says. “I’m not big on answering questions.” This attribute, surely, is what helped him craft the feature version with a similar restraint.
Too often shorts are made as promotional versions of a director’s dream feature project, which makes the short feel unfinished. Alternately, a feature version of a really good short often feels stretched, like a Saturday Night Live sketch that should have ended minutes ago. Gayby is one of the few short-to-feature translations in which both the short and the feature are fully-formed, satisfying films in and of themselves. When Gayby comes to theaters near you, go see it. You can rent the short for $2 (cheap!) on YouTube.
The Producers Guild of America has added SXSW, the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and the AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Festival to its list of official festivals for awards-qualifying films. Among other exhibition methods, theatrically released documentaries that have screened in competition at these festivals will now be eligible for the Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Picture award.
Ted Hope, an independent film master from New York who has produced nearly 70 feature films, has been appointed the new executive director of the San Francisco Film Society. He succeeds Bingham Ray, who passed away in January after only 10 weeks in the position, and will take the reins from interim Executive Director Melanie Blum on Sept. 1.
The SF Film Society is the parent organization of the San Francisco International Film Festival. This is a smart move for both parties. Best of luck, Ted.
Milos Stehlik, writing for The BEZ about a provocative open letter written by French feminist group “La Barbe”:
In presenting only films by male filmmakers, the writers said, the festival “show(s) once again that men love depth in women, but only in their cleavage.” Festival Director Thierry Fremaux responded by saying he agrees women lack opportunities to make films; however, he said, the problem exists year-round, not just during the ten days of the festival. Cannes could not, he said, start choosing films based strictly on the gender of the filmmaker. Undoubtedly this will not be the last word on the issue.
in emails Withoutabox threatened participating Indee.tv festivals to “deactivate all third party submission services in order to avoid disruption to your Withoutabox service.” And 10 festivals dropped the new service.
Reddy calls Withoutabox’s exclusivity claims “ridiculous.” “The tech industry would NEVER stand for this,” he said, in an email. “Imagine Hotmail threatening to block access to your emails if you tried Gmail. The tech world will chew them to bits. Amazon knows this, but somehow feel like they can get away with bullying small festivals outside the tech world. They have a lousy product and rather than work on building a better one they stoop to these exclusivity clauses.”
There are some interesting quotes from festival directors here about the problems they have with Withoutabox (WAB), the automated submissions system for filmmakers sending their films to film festivals.
As DC Shorts director Jon Gann points out in the article, this situation is unlikely to change until someone steps up to “challenge the goliaths.” In this case, I think that means that a handful of prominent festivals (with typical annual submissions numbers upwards of 2000) would have to commit to using a different system. This will be accompanied by a blow to the number of submissions they receive, but introducing competition to the world of festival submissions might be worth it to them in the long run. The hard part of WAB’s business to copy is its access to a large number of filmmakers with films ready to submit to fests. But if the only way to submit to some of the larger festivals were through an alternative solution, even that database of filmmaker prospects could be replicated over time.
(As an aside, I suspect that number of “400,000″ filmmakers is mostly bogus. There may be 400,000 registered emails in the WAB system, but the chances that all – or even most – of those people are still actively submitting films to festivals is, in my humble estimation, pretty unlikely. It would have been nice to hear from a filmmaker or two in this article, since they are the people ultimately paying the bills.)
I think it’s important to say here that, other than those emails enforcing the exclusivity clause, Withoutabox (WAB) isn’t behaving in a particularly evil way. The people who work there are generally terrific and the service is the backbone of the film judging process. Unfortunately, WAB is a cog in the great Amazon/IMDb machine. Amazon is perfectly content to let that cog continue spinning as it has always spun, feeding other parts of Amazon’s business. And without competition to threaten the way that cog spins, there is very little incentive to devote development resources to improving WAB’s software, service, or pricing.
Regardless, festival staffers will likely continue their love/hate relationship with Withoutabox for some years to come. Here’s one of my favorite rants from the festival perspective: the criminally under-watched “Bitch Fest” from Project Twenty1.
Chris now puts his expertise in movies and film festivals to use at B-Side Entertainment as the Director of Festival Operations. He writes this blog as well as Blue Glow and contributes to Slackerwood.