Sunday, November 16, 2008

Festival Reflections

Just got back from the Red Rock Film Festival in Springdale, Utah ("gateway to Zion National Park") and really enjoyed the long weekend. Part of my festival selection strategy is whether I want to visit the festival's location. This is probably the worst sort of promotional strategy - ranking location over prestige. But you know what, some of the best festivals I've been to have been smaller festivals in smaller towns. More on this in a minute.

Our 10th and last scheduled film festival is next weekend - the Paso Robles Digital Film Festival. As with Springdale, I am looking forward to visiting this beautiful location in Central California, near San Luis Obispo.

Now that my film festival run is almost over, here's a few observations.
1. The locals in small towns are generally more likely to attend film screenings, possibly because the nearest multiplex is at least 30 miles away. Or maybe it takes a true independent spirit to move to a remote location like Springdale, Utah. Even with local attendees, the most people I have ever had attend a screening, not related to me or a cast member, was about 20. This was at the Fallbrook Film Festival, and did not include the students I bribed with extra credit to attend. The smallest audience we ever had was at a film festival in Pasadena - zero. Probably because there are a million multiplexes within a 10 mile radius, and our screening time was something like 10:00 a.m. on a Thursday. We were also competing with three other festival films screening at the exact same time.
2. Some festivals will notify you well in advance (by email, possibly by phone) of your acceptance or rejection. Some are a little more belated than others. We did not find out til last week that we were accepted to Paso Robles. Some festivals do not notify you at all, such as the Temecula Valley Film Festival and the Malibu Film Festival. You just have to keep checking their website to see if they've posted their schedule. And when they don't get around to this until way after their official "notify" date (again, Temecula), you are clinging to hope for months and months. In my opinion, it is the epitome of rudeness to not take the time to notify a filmmaker whether they have been accepted or rejected. We have paid good money to enter their festival.
3. The festival that took the longest time to notify entrants was GirlFest in Hawaii. I believe they went 4 weeks past their official notify date. The West Hollywood Film Festival took a close second - 3 weeks.
4. Most rejection letters are polite and encouraging. "Thank you for your entry. We had so many wonderful entries this year that it was difficult to choose. Unfortunately, we did not choose yours. However, congratulations in the completion of your film, and good luck in the future." The tersest rejection came from the Mt. Shasta Film Festival: "Your film will not be screening at our festival this year." Maybe I read too much into this brief statement. But combined with the fact that this was the only festival to RETURN MY DVD, it seemed like they were so offended that they didn't even want the DVD to sully their trash can. Like an unwanted oijii board.
5. Festivals will charge filmmakers between $0-$150 to attend the award ceremony. Thank you Red Rock for not only providing a free award ceremony, but a free breakfast buffet.
6. Most festivals give participating filmmakers goodie bags, which are usually small gift bags with promotional items with the film festival logo (pens, pins, etc.) and small items donated by local merchants. I love goodie bags and even more, I love the FILMMAKER NAME BADGES. I have a whole collection of these. I would wear them every day if I could.
7. Some film festivals will only give out a few awards - Best Documentary Short, Best Documentary Feature, Best Narrative Short, Best Narrative Feature. When a festival screens over a hundred films over the course of a week (like the Riverside International Film Festival) , they should give out more awards than that . They're free to give out (we're perfectly happy with 8x10 certificates) and make the filmmakers very, very happy. The festivals that give out the most awards are the Digital Video & High Def Festival and the AOF Film Festival. Further, I enjoyed their awards ceremonies not only because I won an award, but because they showed clips of the nominated films, just like the Oscars. So fellow filmmakers - do a little research. Go to the festival's website and check out how many films they accepted the previous year (as well as the type), and how many awards they gave out. Also, if a festival only runs 2 days, chances are you won't even get accepted.
8. Don't limit yourself to the festival listings on There are several international film festivals with NO entry fee.
9. Don't get discouraged when you get rejected. Some people will love your movie, others will not. It's hard to second guess why you get rejected. Was the quality of the film production poor? Did the script suck? Was the content and/or dialogue offensive? Who knows, because 99% of the film festivals will not give you personalized feedback with your rejection letter. So don't try to second guess.
10. If you've been rejected by 100 festivals and accepted to none, then maybe you should try to second guess.
11. Do not shy away from 1st year festivals. Some of the best organized and executed festivals I attended were 1st or 2nd year festivals. You have a greater chance of getting in (because they will only get a few hundred entries, as opposed to a few thousand), and the enthusiasm level of the organizers is high.
12. Defying Gravity has screened in everything from small hotel conference rooms to large multiplex theaters. So don't expect a red carpet and searchlights. I am grateful for every opportunity I've had to share my movie, and I'm still amazed and grateful that people show up.
13. Every audience laughs at different lines. Sometimes they laugh at lines that I never intended to be funny, but more often than not they will not laugh at lines I do intend to be funny. However the three most consistent laugh-getters are (a) when Shore gets hit in the face with a water balloon, (b) when Jorge says, "That's an awful lot of energy. Do you need protective gear?" and (c) when Lola says, "Let's pick a font." Which is totally brilliant, because Willam ad-libbed that line.

1 comment:

Rob said...

Re "the most people I have ever had attend a screening, not related to me or a cast member": Do I count as someone related to you? ;-)

Festivals charge you to go to the awards ceremony after they charge you to enter? That's not right.

Re "Some people will love your movie, others will not. It's hard to second guess why you get rejected": Shouldn't you test your film at various stages with your loving-but-critical friends and coworkers? If you've finished it and you really don't know if it's good or not, I'd say something's wrong.

P.S. It's ouija, not "oijii."