Colleen Curtis, writing for the White House blog:
First Lady Michelle Obama today welcomed 80 middle and high school students to an interactive workshop with the cast and crew of the film Beasts of the Southern Wild, in the State Dining Room. The students, who were from Washington, DC and New Orleans, LA, got to talk with director Benh Zeitlin, actor Dwight Henry and the movie’s 9-year-old star, Oscar-nominated actress Quvenzhané Wallis, who stars as Hushpuppy.
You can see the entire workshop, moderated by Rachel Goslins, Executive Director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, on YouTube.
…a reality check seems in order; in almost all cases, there is no profit to share and the loss of revenue from ticketing would create another economic disadvantage in an already difficult environment. That said, festivals must work with filmmakers to help create real value for their films, value that capitalizes on the rapidly changing marketplace without repeating the failed models of the past.
I didn’t link to Farnel’s original piece because, frankly, it is an argument which surfaces all the time. “Festivals spend all that money on plane tickets and parties,” goes the thinking, “so why can’t they kick some of that ticketing revenue back to the filmmakers?” I’ve written rebuttals before (here’s one from 2008), but the bottom line is, as Hall points out, that there is very little revenue to share. (Never mind that the accounting would be nightmarish.)
I like Hall’s attempt to shift the focus from potential monetary compensation to the value that festivals should bring to filmmakers and their films in other ways. Hopefully we can put this idea to rest for another few months.
For the last few months I’ve been managing submissions (and a host of other things) at the Atlanta Film Festival. The experience has been a re-education in the seemingly simple things that have the power to puzzle the uninitiated, and it puts me back where I was when I first started taking the notes that became Film Festival Secrets.
One particularly surprising point of confusion is the concept of a film’s category. When submitting your film to a festival, it’s important to tick the right box so your film will be routed to the correct programming department. Otherwise you run the risk of delaying your film’s evaluation or even its disqualification from consideration. Here’s a quick guide to the different categories you’ll encounter as your submit your film.
Feature vs short
Traditionally, anything over 60 minutes is considered a feature film, and anything under is a short. Different festivals draw the line in different places, however, so pay attention to each festival’s definition. If you have a film that falls into that weird gray area between 30 and 60 minutes, be aware that your film faces greater challenges in being programmed than more traditional shorts (under 20 minutes) and features (over 70).
Narrative = fiction. In general, if there’s an element of fiction to your work, it belongs in this category. Don’t get cute by submitting your documentary-style fiction film in the doc category.
Documentary films, while inherently biased through editing, purport to represent their subjects in a factual way. There can be a lot of blurring of this line, but if you have a doc on your hands you tend to know it.
Animated features and shorts get lumped into the animated category regardless of content.
Experimental is kind of a catch-all category for films that push the envelope of filmmaking: the weird, the off-kilter, the not-quite-narrative. Many festivals include a category for experimental shorts where they showcase films at the cinematic frontier.
If it’s about 3 minutes long and it’s set to a song, it’s a music video.
These are generally narrative shorts, sequestered in their own category to allow for the “emerging” nature of the filmmakers. Each festival has its own definition of “student film” – some insist on films from students at film schools, others simply accept films made by students of all kinds. Consult the festival’s policy.
You should now be able to place your film in the correct category when you submit. Good luck.
Scott Macaulay, writing for Filmmaker Magazine:
“The secret magic of film festivals is that they offer audiences direct communication with the artist,” says Sundance Film Festival Director of Programming Trevor Groth. “You can definitely elevate the impact of your screening by the way you introduce the film and handle the Q&A.” Explains True/False Co-Director and Co-Founder David Wilson, “A great Q&A can really guide your audience, making them feel better about your film and have a clearer understanding of your intentions in making it. And a bad one can hurt that initial buzz that all films depend on at festivals.” “Having access to you, the director, is what makes festivals special for audiences,” agrees SXSW Film Festival Producer Janet Pierson. “And the Q&A will affect how audiences interact with your work and how they’ll talk about it later.”
I agree with some of these points and disagree with others, but overall it’s a pretty good tip sheet for handling a festival Q&A.
For my take on the topic, see How to Nail Your Post-Screening Q&A.
Jason Guerrasio, writing for Indiewire:
Since 2008, a string of film/screenwriting competition events, or events that call themselves film festivals but do not screen films to the public, have popped up on Withoutabox that are misleading filmmakers into thinking that they are submitting to regional festivals set in beautiful locales when in fact they are sending their work to mere online competitions that may or may not have an event to celebrate the award winners.
What is impressive about this article is not so much the number of scam festivals outed here, but the fact that it still just scratches the surface of the questionable events that take money from credulous filmmakers. Scam fests are a relative rarity in terms of their percentage of the festival populace, but many filmmakers adopt a shotgun submission strategy. The result is many a wasted submission fee – sometimes on scams, sometimes on festivals that just aren’t appropriate for your film.
Tatiana Siegel, writing for SThe Hollywood Reporter:
As the flu wreaks havoc nationwide, the Park City Medical Center is trying to keep the pesky virus from crashing the party by handing out 5,000 free bottles of hand sanitizer.
[Festivalgoers are encouraged to] Get plenty of sleep and exercise, drink lots of water, and eat healthy foods.
As one commenter points out, these are three things that are basically impossible to do at a film festival.
(Hat tip to Lisa Vandever at Cinekink.)
As for Sundance, the PCMC is urging fest-goers to:
Tom Roston, writing for the New York Times:
Career highlights may await filmmakers whose movies have been accepted at the Sundance Film Festival, which begins Thursday in Park City, Utah. But more common is the hurt, frustration and fallback strategizing that occupies the thousands of directors whose dreams have been dashed. Of more than 12,000 films submitted to this year’s Sundance, only 193 landed slots.
This is further compounded by the perception that there are only a handful of festivals that “matter” – as if anything but the most stellar of festival runs invalidates one’s existence as a filmmaker.
No question, it’s great to play Sundance. Or Tribeca. Or South by Southwest. But plenty of filmmakers have has fulfilling festival runs playing smaller festivals like Sidewalk and Newport Beach and IFF Boston. Some made incredible careers for themselves without playing a single festival. It’s a big world of moving pictures out there, and festivals represent one corner of it.
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!
The AMA section of Reddit is here – if you don’t have a Reddit account already, go ahead and register for one ahead of time. Get familiar with how reading, posting, and up-voting works so you’ll be ready to participate when the AMA begins. To see the AMA format in action, check out this AMA with animator Don Hertzfeldt, or this one with documentarian Eugene Jarecki.