- I love submitting films and I love to get them in front of audiences. I'm never the guy that makes something and then sits on it. I make something and I throw it out in the world as quickly as I can because I don't mind people saying "I liked this but I didn't like that." It just makes me better and it makes me think about how I can communicate these ideas to more people in an easier way but the film festival circuit itself is a tricky one because it's not, it's not creative.
It's selling and you have to be a salesman as well as a filmmaker. - You need to have an audience in mind before you even make a film. It can't just be a film for yourself and so if you have a audience in mind then you're gonna be thinking about when you're applying to festivals, what festival is this gonna be receptive? Look at the website of that festival. What films have done well? Are you wasting your time? You're wasting your money applying to a festival.
Is there a place that your film fits best and then apply to those. It's like applying to college. You have those reach ones, the middle ones and then the safe ones. And the first thing is to make it as short as possible. If you're a film festival director or programmer, you have the choice between, say, four 15 minute films and two 30 minute films. You'd much rather have four 15 minuted films 'cause your audience, if they don't like this, they'll like that.
So make it short. - I know that most film festivals have a harder time showing longer short films. You're gonna have a much better chance at landing a slot if you're making a short film that's eight minutes or under. 10 minutes, it better be pretty good. 12 minutes, it better be really good. But then you have my short films and they're 17 minutes long so I understand if they don't get programmed.
They have been programmed in a lot of film festivals. But that being said, I could probably get into some bigger festivals with some smaller shorts. - Make it tight. Be ruthless about every shot counting and then have an opening that's really intriguing. I mean, some festivals, they'll say they'll watch the film but they don't say they're gonna watch all the film. So if the first two or three minutes isn't really compelling, it might not get past that. So you might have this great ending but maybe no one will see it.
Obviously, back in the day, there weren't things like FilmFreeway or Withoutabox but with these websites, it's a lot easier. But it's also a lot easier for then anyone to send a film. So even the smallest festival is inundated with people applying so you've gotta make your film stand out. Also think there's this sort of rolling admission thing for festivals. There's the early bird, then there's the regular, and then there's the late deadline.
Well, I think it makes sense to be the early bird rather than the late deadline. They don't look at all these things at once. They look at them as they come in, and if some juror really has his heart on your film then someone else is gonna have to push your film out. But if you're late, they're gonna have to say, wow, this thing is amazing. And yes, we'll push this film out to take this film. And plus, applying to festivals can be expensive and the early bird is a cheaper way of doing it.
- With festivals, it's really about meeting the right people and then I think once you get into one major film festival, I think from there, a lot more people will generate more interest. - It's interesting, the parallel you can draw between going for a job and also submitting a film in a festival as if you want to get a job with somebody. Sure, you can email them. You can send them your shutter reel but nothing will be stronger than meeting somebody face to face and actually being somebody that they recognize and maybe that they've had a coffee with.
And in the films that I've worked on that have been into festivals, a lot of the times that's what's happened is maybe we've had the programmer of a festival drop by the edit suite for a chat and just to show what we're working on. Or other times I've met somebody at a party and it turns out they've got a festival that they are working on and I said, "Ah, you should check out this film "I'm thinking about submitting" and they say, "Definitely, send it to me." Just like going for work, there are backwards channels to this kind of thing and it's best that you exploit them rather than take the route that everybody else does.
- There's a strategy to submission and it depends what it is too like are you going with a short film 'cause premiere status and whatnot isn't as important with short films and you can just go and have a good time and because they're booked and blocked with short films 'cause people come to see shorts 'cause shorts are fun. - A lot of students ask me, well, shouldn't I wait til a big festival because it is a premier. And I say that's a real misconception. If it's a feature film, yes that's true. But for a short, the more festivals your film has been in the more successful your film will be.
Applying to those is a way to get some momentum. You might win a prize. Well that prize helps you then get to another festival. There's a lot of strategy that goes into it. It's just not saying "Oh this sounds like a nice festival" and check the box and send it out. - If you're doing it with a feature, you do have to be more careful about where you're premiering because you only get one premier, and distributors and sales reps and things tend to want new stuff, and they tend to look at certain festivals only for the stuff that they look to go to for market, et cetera.
So you really kinda do have to target those first and give yourself that first shot. If you don't get in there, then you know, go to the next round. And it can be hard, it can be really hard if you have another festival that isn't as well known for making sales out of there, but that loves your movie and really wants it and you're waiting on somebody who may say no to you, but would be a big-- I mean it's a hard decision. I have had to make those decisions and I've sometimes made them wrong. (laughs) You know. I passed on the one festival, and the other festival didn't take us and then were like like "Ugh!" and then we have wait a year to play at that festival again.
So it happens, you know, it's tough. - And if you can get accepted into some prestigious festival, you'll actually have agents and people calling you. I mean, I've had the Weinstein company contact me based on a documentary, because it was a slam dance, or Seattle. So it can happen. - And when you finally do get in someplace, then doing your best to get the best sales rep you can get, who can get the best strategy before you start screening, et cetera. So with a movie you're trying to sell for distribution that's a feature that you're coming into first premier festival, yeah that can be stressful, and there's all that.
After you secure some kind of distribution for it and everything, then it's just a good time, I think. (laughs)
- Advice for novice filmmakers entering the industry
- Finding, enhancing, and tweaking your story
- Experimenting in filmmaking
- Solving problems and troubleshooting your film
- Changing your approach or finding new angles
- Communicating and collaborating on set and in the edit room—and with clients
- Working on different genres of film
- Teaching and mentoring new filmmakers