Thursday, December 18, 2008

Distribution & Consumption in 2009

The face of yesterdayRoger Erik Tinch (art & online director at CineVegas) pens a few thoughts on the future of how we will consume films in the next year and how they'll be delivered to us. Most interesting to me were his thoughts on physical media:

Most recently THE DARK KNIGHT, selling 10 million units, and MAMMA MIA! THE MOVIE, selling 2 million units in it’s first day, have done huge blockbuster sales amidst a grim economic backdrop. The fact that these films exist in HD on iTunes hasn’t slowed down their plastic disc counterparts. Now I’m not saying online distribution won’t succeed, I’m just saying it will succeed, but only in the rental realm. Instead of popping on down to your local Blockbuster you’ll instead power up your Xbox or TiVo and order something while in your pajamas.

While this makes sense from a certain perspective, I have become completely disenchanted with the idea of owning a DVD library. Maybe it's just the fact that this panoply of DVDs overwhelms my smallish living space or that being a new parent has made movie-watching time a rare and precious thing, but I'm looking forward to the day when these shiny plastic discs can be housed completely on a vast (and cheap) hard disk or, better yet, hosted in "the cloud" for quick and easy retrieval on command.

Read Distribution and Consumption in 2009 on the CineVegas Blog.

BTW, that's not Roger in the picture, that's my former college roommate Scott -- but the fact that movies were once stored on laserdiscs bigger than the human head always makes me laugh.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Why didn't I get into Sundance/Slamdance?

HeidiFilmmaker and author Heidi van Lier has a new blog over at Film Independent and her first subject to tackle, naturally, is the immortal question: "Why didn't I get into Sundance/Slamdance?"

There are a lot of hurt feelings out there this week, some people are actually questioning if they should ever even attempt another film, others are pissed and shouting how much they despise the programmers of either festival (I’m included as one of those programmers), and still others are just depressed, feeling defeated, and not sure what to do next.

You should certainly read Heidi's answer (and check out her book), but I have to turn the question around. With thousands of films submitted each year (about 8000 to Sundance alone, according to a recent estimate) and only a few hundred programmed (even if you include Slamdance's 100+ titles), fewer than 1% of the films received by these festivals are programmed. In what other kind of competition do contestants enter knowing that they have less than one chance in a hundred of getting in (based solely on the judgment of other human beings) and then get sore -- in some cases even violently angry -- when they don't win?

This is meant more as a reality check than a lecture, though there are certainly Sundance rejects who could use the lecture. Those, however, are the people who will not pick themselves up and move on to the next thing. Those are the people who won't look at the year's worth of worthy festivals laid out before them and decide that there are exciting and prosperous days ahead. Those are the people who will fail to buckle down, create a festival strategy for themselves, and apply accordingly.

And guess what? Those are the people whose films you won't see at SXSW or IFF Boston or Oxford or Seattle or Austin or Ann Arbor or the multitude of other deserving festivals that kick ass each year. Sure, it would be nice to play Sundance or Slamdance and take part in the madness that is January in Park City. It would also be nice to win the lottery or find yourself at a dinner party seated across from Scarlett Johansson. The difference is that with talent and persistence you can work your way up to Park City. Persistence applied to the other dreams will net you an empty wallet and a restraining order, respectively.

Sorry, Scarlett.

Creating reminders for film festival deadlines (screencast)

Creating Reminders for Film Festival Deadlines from Film Festival Secrets on Vimeo.

The first of a series of video tutorials on useful tools you can use to make your life on the festival circuit easier. With Sundance and Slamdance announcing their slates, a number of filmmakers are looking into their festival options for the rest of the year -- only to find that the deadlines for many Spring festivals have already gone by.

Don't miss any more deadlines! Use these free web tools to send yourself automated reminders when the dates approach.

This video is available to share on Vimeo and YouTube.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Rant on The Death of Indie Film as a Business Model

HD for Indies founder Mike Curtis:

I’m not saying it isn’t possible to make a good, worthy, financially successful independent film.

I’m just saying there’s no proven, valid, viable business model where it makes sense for investors to put money into it.

And in this wretched crashing economy, I think the days of the vanity, ego-driven, support-the-arts investor support of indie films are OVER.

My friend wondered what this would mean for moviemaking in the future - would this kill off future generations of talent?

In a way, I kind of hope so. A lot of movies are being made that, frankly, shouldn’t be. We can count on the talented and committed making the effort to get their stories told. Bravo. But probably 80+% of film school grads are going to be moths to the flame - poof - nobody saw that tiny flash of color, weren’t looking, and it is gone forever.

I'm going to pass this one on without comment, except to say that Mike must have had one helluva bad day.

Read Mike's entire rant.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tomorrow is the final postmark deadline for submitting to SXSW

The details are here, but the basic info is that you need to fill out the form online and get your DVD in the mail by tomorrow, December 12 2008.

Tom Hall on The 2008 International Film Festival Summit

I left the IFFS wishing I could stay and do more. I have already made plans to attend in 2009 and would recommend the experience to any film festival worker; It is a terrific opportunity to talk about nuts and bolts away from the pressure of film markets and festival screening schedules.

This is exactly the way I feel about IFFS in general. Though I and many others have thoughts regarding the panels and general format of the annual conference, this year's event proved invaluable as a chance to touch base with old friends, forge new contacts, and put faces to the personalities I only meet by phone or e-mail. I hope everyone else finds it as useful, and that they'll keep coming back even as the conference struggles towards the ultimate goal of making all of its component events relevant to a wildly diverse set of attendees.

For the rest of Tom's thoughts click here. I have more detailed notes (including the notes on my own panel about new media and marketing) that I'll be posting later this week and early next.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Film Panel Notetaker: top panels of 2008

If you're unfamiliar with the Film Panel Notetaker, it's time to fire up the bookmark machine and get yourself a cup of coffee. With coverage of film-related panels from festivals and conferences across the country, this site will keep you reading for a while.

This week Chief Notetaker Brian Geldin reflects on the what happened on the site in 2008 and on his favorite panel discussions. It's well worth clicking over, so long as you're prepared to lose a few hours looking over the notes.

Monday, December 8, 2008

International Film Festival Summit Day 1

If what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, then we're all wasting our time.

If, on the other hand, we all retain memories of these three days, then a lot of good could come out of the Film Festival Summit held in Vegas this week. The Summit, positioned in early December when very few festivals are held and just about anyone in the film fest industry could participate, is a chance for festival staffers and other industry types to get together and talk shop. Though there are occasional grumbles about the location, programming, or expense of attending, no one denies that the chance to be in a room with a 200+ other festival directors -- from the smallest startup to the biggest of the big boys -- is invaluable.

The first day was technically only a half day but when it bleeds into the late night you can definitely say you've put in a full day's work. The keynote speech by Rick Allen of Snagfilms was followed by a panel about the relationship between panels and distribution. These, however, felt secondary to the networking marathon that took place immediately afterwards on the exhibit floor and then migrated to a nearby restaurant.

I'm going to spare you the gory details in favor of getting down to the show in time for the morning panel with programmers Trevor Groth (Sundance, Cinevegas) and Gary Meyer (Telluride) speaking on "The Art and Philosophy of Curating a Film Festival." I'm guessing that those of you reading will care more about that than about "Board Development for Your Festival" or "Creating Value for Festival Sponsors."

Ultimately, however, this is good for filmmakers. Smaller festivals will definitely benefit from learning about the conventions created by their larger counterparts (even if they decide to flaunt those conventions) and the larger fests will be reminded that filmmakers have a world of choices (large and small) outside their own events. More to come.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Live in or near Vegas? Volunteer for the International Film Festival Summit

The International Film Festival Summit (IFFS) is currently seeking volunteers for its upcoming 5th annual edition taking place December 7-9 in Las Vegas. Volunteers at the IFFS will be engaged in a working atmosphere that exudes passion for the promotion and advancement of film and, in particular, film festivals. And, this is an opportunity to work at a one-of-a-kind Summit geared specifically towards film festival professionals – actually it’s the ONLY event of its kind! To learn more please visit their website.

Volunteers will also have some of the same opportunities as the IFFS attendees, which includes being able to sit in on various educational and inspirational keynotes, presentations and panel sessions designed specifically for film festivals. The overall experience will allow participants the chance to meet numerous professionals in the independent film, entertainment and film festival community. Truly a unique opportunity to hear insights on an industry that one might not normally have the privilege of having access to. If interested in being a valuable member of the 2008 IFFS, please contact: Lori Douglass at 702-430-6113 or

I will be in attendance at the Summit this year; this will be my third year returning to the Summit and I can vouch for the fact that it is a one-of-a-kind event.

[via the Cinevegas newsletter]

Monday, November 24, 2008

Frequently asked questions about film fests - Understanding Film Festivals part 3

Parts one and two of Understanding Film Festivals covered the annual festival cycle and the benefits of film festivals -- part three wraps it up with some often-asked questions and a summary of the essays.

What does "festival circuit" mean?

When a filmmaker talks about "doing the festival circuit," it generally means showing your film at a series of film festivals. There's no prescribed order of these festivals except by their arrangement on the calendar; you can submit to whichever festivals you want, whenever you want. Some festivals will refuse to show a film based on the other festivals that film has played. See Film Festival Secrets the book for more discussion on this.

Slamdance by jeffrey95112

What's the difference between a film festival and a film market?

A film festival generally has its origins in the celebration of film as an art form, while a film market is explicitly created as a marketplace for filmmakers to sell their films to distributors. Some festivals have become de facto markets (like Sundance) and others now have markets attached (like Cannes), but in general there's not a lot of buying and selling going on at film festivals.

So why shouldn't I just bypass the festivals and go straight to a film market?

Film markets are less discriminating when it comes to the films they accept, but they charge much bigger fees. The market model is really designed to foster interaction between distribution companies and the production companies or agencies representing groups of films. The market typically rents out booths on a trade show floor, arranges screenings on site, and provides meeting space. The American Film Market (AFM) is probably the most well-known event of its kind in the U.S. Held in October or November each year, AFM has many of the trappings of a film festival (screenings, parties, red-carpet premieres) but has no competitive aspects. Anyone can exhibit -- provided they can pay $7500 or more for the privilege.

As an individual filmmaker, it's unlikely you have the spare cash and experience to take your film to market yourself and sell it successfully. Even if you could, you'd be cheating yourself of all the cool things that festivals have to offer. Beyond the personal rewards that festivals provide, a successful run on the festival circuit with accompanying reviews and awards will make your movie that much more appealing to prospective buyers. In the process you might even find an agency willing to represent your film at market -- saving you the money and trouble of doing it on your own.


How can I learn more about the way a film festival works?

Volunteer. Film festivals always need volunteer help, both during the event and in the months leading up to it. Filmmakers have been volunteering at film festivals for decades in order to learn the festival ropes, make local film connections, and earn free festival badges. Volunteering can give you some highly useful perspective when it comes time to submit your own picture.

So all festivals work like this?

Well, no. Now that there are more than a thousand film festivals in existence (some say as many as 2500 -- it's difficult to say for sure), festivals are trying a lot of new things to distinguish themselves from the rest of the herd. Such efforts include diverging from the model described above in every way imaginable. There are festivals held exclusively online, festivals that accept only films in certain formats, and festivals that cater to every demographic, no matter how small. That means nearly unlimited opportunity for filmmakers, but also exceptions to every rule. For that reason, think of the advice in this book & blog as relevant to the nucleus of independent film festivals but not necessarily applicable to every individual case. Every film festival is different, but they all exist to provide the same basic things: a venue for independent filmmakers to find an audience, and a place for moviegoers to see new and exciting work outside the mainstream.

Professionals waiting by bigarnex


• Film festivals are year-round efforts that often require a full staff of people (often filmmakers themselves) to work for little or no pay. Respecting that fact is one of the single greatest things you can do to advance your film and your career on the festival circuit.

• The festival cycle begins with the call for entries, continues with the screening process, and culminates in final programming and of course the festival exhibition itself.

• Festivals often appear glamorous and crammed with willing moviegoers, but in reality the organizations are often starved for funding and audiences for some screenings can be difficult to find. Don’t be discouraged; take advantage of what the festival has to offer and be sure to seek out the other filmmakers in attendance.

Friday, November 21, 2008

AFI Fest Report from Austin Film Festival programmer Jesse Trussell

Special guest post by film competition programmer Jesse Trussell of the Austin Film Festival.

afi fest
AFI Red Carpet - photo shamelessly ripped from Shaz Bennett's Facebook album.

A pimp is out searching for a kidnapper in a crowded neighborhood. He comes to an intersection, and his Jaguar slams into the car of an agitated young man, covered in blood. Is this the kidnapper, or just another disaffected member of Beijing’s claustrophobic sprawl? We want our hero to find his man, but even if his gets the girl back she will just return to a life of prostitution. What can be called justice here?

All this happens in Hong-jin Na’s The Chaser, an intriguing and often disturbing South Korean take on the thriller genre which screened during the annual AFI Fest that wrapped up after the first week of November. A keen and incisive take on current world cinema is really the hallmark of the annual Los Angeles based festival. The 11 day event, thrown by the American Film Institute, had special sidebars this year on recent films from such far flung places as Argentina and Kazakhstan, as well as a look at the recent production from 6th generation Chinese auteur Jia Ziang Ke’s company XStream. Internationalism is also felt in AFI main competitions, where Uruguian Frederico Veiroj's Acne and the Ugandan shot Kassim the Dream won the jury prizes for narrative and documentary features, respectively.

In addition to the diverse world cinema programming, AFI screened some of the year’s best American independent films. A real highlight was writer/director Mike Gibbiser’s moving Finally, Lillian and Dan. In an American indie scene dominated by the solipsistic bent of mumblecore, Gibbiser’s small tale of love between the two most awkward people in the world aims for a lyricism and feeling far beyond the character dramas that litter the festival world. Shot on gorgeous and grainy 16mm, and understanding brilliantly the use of silence, Finally, Lillian and Dan marks an auspicious debut from a director still in his 20s.

afi fest
Filmmaker Trevor Anderson, Sundance programming coordinator Landon Zakheim, and AFI Fest's Associate Director for Programming Shaz Bennett. Photo shamelessly ripped from Shaz Bennett's Facebook album.

Another facet of AFI Fest greatly beneficial to their filmmakers is the Connect program. Now in its 8th year, AFI sets a one-on-one meetings between its filmmakers and over 100 industry professionals, in addition to a series of more informal cocktail hours and gatherings. This invaluable face time and advice is a fantastic bonus for any filmmaker, especially due to the caliber of industry participants the AFI is able to attract.

Overall, 2008 was an incredibly strong year for AFI Fest. From bold programming to a fun and friendly community, it is one of the real gems in the fall festival calendar.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cinekink's "Final-Final" deadline approaches

I mentioned Cinekink before but wanted to give them another bump as their no-kidding deadline approaches. If your film has some sexiness to it or a sex-positive message, this could be a great NYC screening for you.

CineKink NYC - "the really alternative film festival" - is seeking films and videos, of any length and genre, that explore and celebrate the wide diversity of sexuality. Dedicated to the recognition and encouragement of sex-positive and kink-friendly depictions in film and television, we're looking to blur some boundaries and will be considering offerings drawn from both Hollywood and beyond, with works ranging from documentary to drama, camp comedy to hot porn, mildly spicy to quite explicit - and everything in between.

The final-final(!) postmarked deadline for entries is November 29th.

For more information and to download an entry form, visit

NewFest artistic director departs, reflects on state of film festivals

Basil Tsiokos in indieWIRE:

Over the past several months, even before news of the financial crisis broke, it's been an open secret that many film festivals around the U.S. have been suffering - while some have managed to secure enough funding to stay in operation, others (like the recently shuttered Jackson Hole Film Festival) haven't been so lucky. While I leave NewFest in the capable hands of my Board of Directors and on good terms, chiefly out of a desire to move on to new challenges elsewhere (yet to be determined), it would be disingenuous to not acknowledge that the difficult realities of non-profit funding had some role in my decision. Running a film festival, in my experience, is hardly a standard full-time job - it's an all-the-time job.

Monday, November 17, 2008

10 Benefits of Playing Film Festivals - Understanding Film Festivals Part 2

In the previous section of this article (rescued from an earlier draft of Film Festival Secrets the book) we covered what a typical festival year looks like. Now we'll delve into ten benefits of playing the film festival circuit.

1. Distribution. The possibility of finding a distributor by participating in the festival process is real. Festivals are one of the main sources that distributors tap when looking for films to acquire. However, even for filmmakers whose films are outstanding enough to play in the top-tier festivals, finding a distributor -- especially a distributor whose vision for the picture matches yours -- can be a struggle. The good news is that the festival circuit's usefulness in finding distribution isn't limited to the big festivals like Sundance, Toronto, and Cannes. A successful tour of well-established, respected festivals will build critical buzz for your film through audience word of mouth and reviews in the press.

2. Networking. This goes hand in hand with distribution. Though you may not find distribution for your movie as a direct result of playing at a particular event, festivals provide an unparalleled opportunity to make those critical connections that may eventually sell your film. This is also a chance to meet your contemporaries -- some of who may be able to help you in the future. Sometimes even festival staff members will take a shine to particular film and do their best to push it in the right direction. People who work at festivals are often the most well-connected people in the film industry. Why wouldn't you want to know as many of them as possible?


3. Exhibition. You didn't make your film to hide it in a closet -- you wanted it to be seen! Festival audiences contain the most appreciative and knowledgeable viewers out there. Not only do they love independent film enough to show up to the screening of an unknown filmmaker, but some of them will fall in love with your movie and ask you endless questions about it afterwards. It's your big chance to bask in the appreciation for all your hard work.

4. Cash prizes. A lot of festivals offer cash prizes for the best work of the season. Use those well-earned festival checks to make some token payments to your credit cards.

5. Other awards. Even if there's no cash involved, festival awards are a nice way to draw attention to your film. More media coverage is given to award winners and you can draw future festival audiences to your film with some laurel wreaths on your poster. Some awards are better than others, true, but even an award from the Podunk International Film Festival is better than none. And hey, that festival trophy can warm the bench for your future Oscar.

6. Learn something at panels and seminars. Lots of festivals are adding panels to increase the appeal of their events. Sitting in on panels is a great way to add to your filmmaking knowledge, and later on at the party you'll be able to identify the visiting industry reps by sight. Some festivals have full-blown conferences in addition to film screenings; make sure your filmmaker badge gets you into the conference as well.


7. Reviews. Festivals are covered by local and industry press alike -- the amount of coverage is naturally proportional to the size and prestige of the festival, but with the right strategy and persistence you can build a nice portfolio of press clippings. Reviews can make or break a film, but as a filmmaker you definitely want as many reviews as you can get.

8. Parties. It's the nature of the beast. In terms of networking, parties are where the action is at any film festival. Maybe it's the free booze, maybe it's the well-dressed people who never go to screenings but magically materialize at the parties, or maybe it's just the fact that everyone seems more confident when they're shouting to be heard over the music. Whatever it is, the parties are the place to hook up, career-wise and... otherwise. Try not to stay out too late.

9. Cool movies. You're a filmmaker -- you love movies! Film festivals are the place to see the new, the independent, the weird, and those guilty pleasures known as the pre-release studio pictures. As a participating filmmaker, you should be able to see as many as you want for free.


10. Free travel. Not every festival can afford to fly in their participating filmmakers, but you should make sure you apply to a few that do. You've always wanted to see Kentucky, right? Just don't trash the hotel room -- you want to be invited back.

11. Swag. Some festivals put together nice little goody bags (contents usually provided by sponsors) for their VIPs. Yes, participating filmmaker -- you're a VIP now. Feels nice, doesn't it? Maybe you don't even drink tequila but it's nice to get a bag of free stuff anyway.

Later this week I will post part three of this article, which will present the answers to some common filmmaker questions about festivals.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Susan Buice's "Smothered"

Nice to see that Susan is making movies again after all of the effort that went into selling and promoting Four-Eyed Monsters.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Understanding Film Festivals - an overview of the festival year

[An incorrect link from a recent e-mail newsletter may have brought you to this article – please use this link to visit the correct article! Thanks.] 

When I started writing Film Festival Secrets, I envisioned it as a much longer tome with a lot of in-depth background about the evolution of festivals, day-to-day life behind the scenes, and many more case studies than are actually in the book as it stands today. When it became apparent that filmmakers didn't need that sort of book half as much as I wanted to write it, I abandoned those plans and created the leaner, more useful manual to the film fest world. I expect that later editions of Film Festival Secrets will include some of those things but for now I want to share some of the "cutting room floor" material with you here on the blog.

This piece was initially written to be an introductory essay or perhaps a section of the first chapter.

State Theater at Night by farlane on Flickr

One of the most useful weapons in an independent filmmaker's arsenal is a general understanding of the way film festivals work. Few things will gain you more favor in the eyes of a festival director than a familiarity with the annual cycle most festivals go through and your attention to detail when it comes to the peculiarities of that festival. The less time you spend asking questions whose answers are readily available on the festival web site and the more you present yourself as an easygoing soul who is happy to make the festival's job as trouble-free as possible, the smoother the entire process will be for all involved. This is not to say that you should surrender all dignity at the festival door, but the books of festival lore are replete with stories of filmmakers who pestered festival staff with inane queries, displayed a sense of entitlement when their film was accepted, and then complained about the experience afterward. Those stories rarely end with the festival programming that filmmaker's next picture. A little knowledge and a bit of graciousness go a long way.

From the perspective of a filmmaker, the festival process begins with the call for entries. In reality there have been months of preparation leading up to the call -- analysis of the previous festival's successes and failures, reworking of the festival procedures and format, the courting of sponsors, and more. The period between the end of one year's festival and the call for entries of the next is also when staff turnover is likeliest. If you're submitting to a festival for the second (or third or fourth) time, be mindful of the fact that the relationships you established with last year's staff may need to be rebuilt with someone new. By the time they put out the call for entries, this year's staff has already put a lot of thought and work into the upcoming event.

Filmmakers responding to the call for entries fill out the festival's submission form, pay a submission fee (at this writing, anywhere from $20 - $50 and sometimes more), and send one or more copies of their film to the festival for consideration. There are often two deadlines: one "early" deadline with a reduced entry fee and one "final" or "late" deadline, after which no more films are accepted for review. (Though there are sometimes exceptions -- see the chapter on submissions for more.)

As the entries come into the festival, they are sorted by category and catalogued for review. The screening process usually begins as soon as the first films start to trickle in and really gets going as the deadlines approach. Depending on the size of the festival staff and the volume of submissions every film may be viewed by either a staff member or a team of screeners (usually volunteers) may be employed. Each film is viewed by one or more of these screeners (the better festivals make sure each film is viewed at least twice) and evaluated by a standard set of criteria. As the festival dates draw near, the programming team sets aside the best-reviewed films for deliberation and after much internal agonizing, lobbying, and the occasional cage match final decisions are made.

Once the festival decides which films to show the programming team notifies each filmmaker of their acceptance or rejection. As with so many other things in life, the happy news for those films accepted is often delivered first and by personal contact; rejections are usually sent en masse and by form letter. After this comes a flurry of communication and negotiations as filmmakers accept their placement at the film festival or, more rarely, withdraw from the festival. (Believe it or not, there are legitimate reasons not to show your film at a festival after you've been accepted. That's covered that in the chapter on submissions.)

Ann Arbor Film Festival

With a program set, the festival staff locks down screening times and puts the finishing touches on the thousands of details that go into a film festival: venues, travel arrangements, the technicalities of projection, print trafficking, party logistics, transportation, the creation of printed and online program guides, volunteers, ticketing, marketing, catering, media relations, and more. Film festivals have branched out from the mere exhibition of movies, offering a bewildering array of parties, panels, speakers, trade shows, seminars, concerts, live animal acts, and other associated events at a multitude of venues. The larger festivals often have a halo of unofficial proceedings during the event, organized by companies and individuals looking to capitalize on the festival's prestige -- and of course the influx of moviegoers and filmmakers.

In the weeks leading up to the festival, the festival staff and filmmakers ramp up their marketing efforts, publishing press releases and sending screeners to local and industry media. Larger festivals often receive preview and on-site coverage from industry publications, but even small festivals will get some coverage from the local press. At this point it's all about selling tickets and putting butts in seats, so the marketing department works overtime to promote the festival program. Savvy filmmakers will start their own marketing campaigns in the festival city, distributing posters and handbills at establishments near the festival venue and seeking coverage from community media to lure film fans to their screenings. This is often the most nerve-wracking time for both filmmakers and festival staff -- making sure everything is going to go off without a hitch (it rarely does) and hollering at the top of their metaphorical and actual lungs to be heard in a world whose collective attention is perpetually fleeting.


Eventually those final days tick down, however, and it's time for the opening night curtain. (Though sadly, few are the festivals fortunate enough to host their opening nights at theaters which employ actual curtains.) Filmmakers fly in with their marketing materials in hand, business cards in their pockets, and stars in their eyes. And why shouldn't they? Years of work led up to this moment, little of it glamorous, and for many of these no-longer-aspiring cast and crew-members, this is the first significant recognition of the merit of their work from someone other than their family and friends.
This is the point at which filmmaker expectations of a film festival meet reality and disappointment is bound to occur. Relatively few films actually play the well-funded festivals that can afford to fly their contestants in and put them up in lavish hotels; even fewer have the cachet to sell out every film they program. The anticipation of a world premiere with a packed house and an smiling acquisition exec in the crowd, checkbook at the ready, collides with the truth: audiences can be maddeningly elusive, acquisition execs even more so, and film festivals are filled with filmmakers just like you -- hungry, talented, and willing to work, but playing in an ever more crowded field.

This is not to say that film festivals aren't worth your time. Quite the opposite! In the case of many independent films, festivals act as a de facto theatrical tour for those films not destined to achieve theatrical distribution. Film festivals are also the front lines of quality control on the massive glut of independent movies made each year. Without the teams of film festival screeners wading through the sub-standard pictures and heralding the gems that appear, distributors and audiences would have an even harder time finding those unknown filmmakers whose work deserves to be seen. Filmmakers benefit from the festival process even more than the audiences. Not only do they get to see the amazing work of their peers, but they also have a place to showcase their own movies, find their audiences, garner publicity, and -- every so often -- get a real lead on some financial remuneration for their work.

On Monday I'll post part two of this essay, which covers more of the benefits of playing film festivals and some frequently-asked filmmaker questions.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

That Media Show features "Film Festival Secrets"

That Media Show gave a nice plug to the web site and book on November 10th. That reminds me, I need to do a roundup of all the media mentions of the book so far. Many thanks to the TMS folks who gave me the shout-out, even if I am a little afraid of my own face blown up to that size. I wish I knew where the original of that photo is.

Read That Media Show - Nov 10, 2008 - That Media Show on

Interview with Fred Andrews of Kansas City FilmFest (formerly KC Jubilee)

Unveiled with very little fanfare, the first episode of the Film Festival Secrets podcast. In it I talk with Fred Andrews of the new Kansas City FilmFest, the joint creation of the festivals formerly known as KC FilmFest and KC Filmmakers Jubilee. You can listen to it on the web with this player:

You can subscribe to get future episodes with this URL:

(If you don't know how to subscribe to a podcast in iTunes, you can follow these instructions.) I have submitted it to the iTunes store, hopefully you'll be able to subscribe directly through iTunes soon.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I Heart Global Warming - November 12 10 p.m. e/p on Current

Current is establishing itself as a combination web/TV documentary powerhouse, and films like I Heart Global Warming are cementing that reputation. If you're a doc filmmaker and you haven't considered Current as an outlet for your material, tune in to I Heart Global Warming and see what Current is up to now.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Two new "no-fee" festivals

Reader Isabelle Vossart brings two new fee-free festivals to my attention:
The Blue November Micro Film Festival and the Flyway Film Festival. As with most such "no fee" festivals these look like small start-up fests, but if you're looking to rack up some additional festival screenings on the cheap this could be the way to go.
See the (always growing) list of no-fee festivals here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

On a brief hiatus

I'm still here but on a bit of a break as I move out of my old apartment and into a new place with my family. The book launch at the Austin Film Festival went well and I've been getting lots of good reactions from filmmakers and festival directors, but there's a lot of work to be done getting the word out. Once this move is over (the end of the week) I'll be working to get back on track with new blog entries and a write up of the press mentions the book has received so far.

Until then . . . .

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cinekink wants your sex-positive films.

CinekinkCinekink is precisely the kind of niche festival that can provide your film with much-needed exposure if you're having trouble getting traction on the mainstream festival circuit. (Of course, that's only if your film fits into its particular niche.) While niche festivals like Cinekink often find themselves curating their programs from other festivals, most of them would far prefer to discover new talent and to present content not yet seen elsewhere. If you have a sex-positive film that needs to be seen, submit to Cinekink.

Call for Entries - CineKink NYC/2009

CineKink NYC - "the really alternative film festival" - is seeking films and videos, of any length and genre, that explore and celebrate the wide diversity of sexuality. Dedicated to the recognition and encouragement of sex-positive and kink-friendly depictions in film and television, we're looking to blur some boundaries and will be considering offerings drawn from both Hollywood and beyond, with works ranging from documentary to drama, camp comedy to hot porn, mildly spicy to quite explicit - and everything in between.

Cutting across orientations, topics covered at CineKink have included - but are by no means limited to - BDSM, leather and fetish, swinging, non-monogamy and polyamory, roleplay and gender bending. Or, frankly, given the current moral climate, as long as it involves consenting adults, just about anything celebrating sex as a right of self expression is fair game. (Far be it from us to define "kink" - if you think your work might make sense in this context, please send it along!)

Scheduled for its sixth annual appearance February 24-March 1, 2009, the specially-curated CineKink NYC will also feature a short film competition, audience choice awards, presentations, parties and a gala kick-off, with a national screening tour to follow.

The postmarked deadline for entries is November 15th.

For more information and to download an entry form, visit

Monday, October 20, 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Catch me this weekend on two panels at the Austin Film Festival

picAustin's premiere film event of the fall begins tomorrow, and with the Austin Film Festival come throngs of filmmaking and screenwriting talent, both emerging and established. It is a sublime mix of the experienced and the impressionable sharing stories, drinks, and a love of cinema. I got my start "on the inside" at the Austin Film Festival; that means it will always hold a special place in my heart. It also means they'll let me do wacky things like launch a book at their fest and moderate a couple of panels in the process. They are:

DIY Independent Film

Facebook event | AFF page

Write it, Direct it, Produce it. Do it. Independent filmmakers take the reins, executing the creation of a film from the concept to the big screen. If you have a script and need motivation to do it yourself, this session will tell you what it takes.


Cole Selix
Mark Potts
PJ Raval
Spenser Parsons

The Film Festival Circuit

Facebook event | AFF page

Are film festivals the new distribution? How do you navigate this world, anyway? How do you write a festival plan? What is the best way to utilize festivals to get attention for yourself and your film? In this in-depth panel, you will learn from people inside the festival world and successful fest filmmakers about making the relationship mutually beneficial and getting the most out of a festival experience.

James Faust (AFI Dallas)
Kelly Williams (Austin Film Festival)
Michelle Emanuel (Oxford FF)

I'll be giving a few copies of the book away at these panels and just generally enjoying the fest itself. If you're at the Festival this week, do stop by one of these panels and introduce yourself. I'll post some notes from the panels themselves here on the blog next week or possibly the week after that.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Embed "Film Festival Secrets" on your own site!

OK, this is nifty. Not only can you read the entire text of Film Festival Secrets online, but you can share it with your own readers by embedding the book on your own site or blog in this cool little flash reader from Issuu. The book is now available for sale at Createspace and Amazon (two faces of the same entity, but I get a better cut of the proceeds if you direct people to Createspace). On the other hand, you can earn a commission if you direct people to Amazon with your own affiliate code, so do whatever works best for you.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Austin Film Festival preview on Slackerwood podcast #4.

In Slackerwood podcast #4, Jette and yours truly spend a pastoral evening outdoors with Austin Film Festival programming director Kelly Williams, who shares news about some of the must-see events from the upcoming film festival and conference. We also reminisce about Fantastic Fest and talk about some upcoming events, like Home Movie Day. That's Kelly in the photo that accompanies the article below.

Listen to Slackerwood podcast #4 now.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

2008 Winner Jeff Wadlow Directs Feature Film

3/15/2008 Former DIY Film Festival winner Jeff Wadlow has his first theatrically-released film debuting this weekend.

Wadlow, who won the first short film award at the inaugural DIY Film Festival, will see his film “Never Back Down” hit theatres nationwide.

“Today is one of the days I've been working my whole life towards,” said Wadlow. “I've got to be honest, there were times, like when I was a PA on “Law and Order” and my only job was keeping the homeless people from eating off the snack table, that I doubted a day like today would ever come. But it's here -- at last!”

The film stars two-time Academy Award nominees Djimon Hounsou, who has appeared in “Blood Diamond,” “Amistad” and “Gladiator.” The initial reviews have been positive, with the Hollywood Reporter noting, “Never Back Down” is “energetic and warm-hearted enough to become a word-of-mouth hit.”


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A coffee with ... Kelly Williams of the Austin Film Festival

No Evil
The Austin Film Festival film programming team. From left to right: Jesse Trussell, Kelly Williams, John Merriman.

The Austin American-Statesman sits down with Kelly Williams, the film programming director for the upcoming Austin Film Festival. Apart from just being a nice profile of a friend (I used to work at AFF), the piece reveals the sorts of things programmers look for and the ways festivals might differ from one another.

"It's a long process. Thousands of entries come in, and it takes a good portion of the year to just get it down to a small group. I sort of look at it like a pyramid. You start at the bottom and figure out how to get to the top. Since the festival focuses on screenwriters, the main question we ask is how well is the story told. That's the No. 1 thing. The same goes for documentaries. We look for ones that are very narrative-driven."

Read A coffee with ... Kelly Williams of the Austin Film Festival.

Crawford's premiere: on Hulu

Rather than spend a lot of money on a theatrical release that would almost certainly leave him further in debt, Crawford director David Modigliani and indie distribution company B-Side (my employer) has released the film on Hulu, betting that the exposure of free views on the web (combined with the timing of the upcoming election and the publicity of being the first film ever to debut on Hulu) will drive DVD sales. I'm hoping he's right, because I'll be following a similar model with my book, Film Festival Secrets: you'll be able to download the book as a "try before you buy" PDF version and if you find it useful you can donate directly or purchase the print edition.

More to the point, however, is the fact that Crawford is a very, very good movie. No matter how timely the topic or novel the distribution strategy, a quality film is an inescapable prerequisite to success (unless you're making a movie that involves zombies or vampires, in which a sub-par picture can be part of the fun). Please take some time to watch Crawford on Hulu, and if you like what you see consider buying the DVD for yourself or a friend.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Chris Jones chronicles his short film's road to the Oscars

Chris Jones (author of The Guerilla Film Makers Movie Blueprint, among other things) has done a great job of taking his blog readers along for the ride on his latest film's journey. The movie, a narrative short entitled Gone Fishing, has played a number of festivals and Jones has posted video blog entries for many of them on Vimeo.

Jones' latest set of entries have to do with entering his film for Academy Award nomination consideration -- that's right, once you've qualified to be considered (one such way is to win an award at an Academy-accredited film festival), there's a whole process of campaigning to be included in further rounds of consideration before your film can ultimately be one of the five nominees in its category. Chris lays out the timeline for application here and talks about the voting process here. It's all good stuff for short filmmakers, I definitely advise you to check it out.

Creating video blog entries might feel a bit silly if you're self-conscious about appearing on camera, but if you're not a great writer they can be a simple and fun way to tell your film's story -- and to generate new material for your web site -- without having to turn out reams of text.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Jackson Hole Institute, Film Festival shut down

The Jackson Hole Film Institute closed its doors Tuesday following the nation’s worst single-day points drop of the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Monday.

“Funding dried up pretty quickly because of what’s been going on with the financial markets,” said Todd Rankin, managing director of the Jackson Hole Film Festival, the primary program of the institute. “Even leading up to this summer’s festival, things were tight.”

The film festival had board and staff committed to raising a sizeable percentage of the full festival budget for 2009, estimated at $1.2 million to $1.5 million. To date, sponsors and support were in place for only about $300,000, and with the worsening national financial outlook, board members were not comfortable going forward, Rankin said. Even streamlining the festival to an $800,000 event didn’t seem feasible.

The sad state of the economy seems to be leaking into everything these days, including the film festival circuit. For those filmmakers suspicious of the way festivals seem to be "raking in" the submissions fees, this should be a bit of evidence to the contrary -- for a festival to survive, they need a few more revenue streams.

Read the full story in the Jackson Hole Daily. (Via indieWIRE.)

Why test screenings are important

There are many incompetent people in the world. Dr. David A. Dunning is haunted by the fear that he might be one of them.

Dunning, a professor of psychology at Cornell, worries about this because, according to his research, most incompetent people do not know that they are incompetent.

On the contrary. People who do things badly, Dunning has found in studies conducted with a graduate student, Justin Kruger, are usually supremely confident of their abilities -- more confident, in fact, than people who do things well.

Many filmmakers who face repeated rejection from film festivals don't understand why it's happening to them. I've seen them blame the festivals, blame the economy, blame the weather -- anything but themselves or the quality of their films. Maybe this is why: they honestly can't see that they need to start over and make a better movie.

Private test screenings with objective feedback are a crucial component in evaluating your film’s quality. Test screenings need to happen when changes can still be made and you need to be open to making those changes. Conduct as many of these screenings as you can reasonably hold, and take steps to ensure that the audience’s input is as objective as possible. Don’t take Mom’s word for it! You need to hear some approval of your film from people who don’t know you. You may discover that your picture needs just a few tweaks or that you’re in for a serious re-edit. Either way give yourself time to accomplish what needs to be done.

There are a number of common filmmaking mistakes that will almost guarantee your rejection from the film festivals to whom you submit. Chief among these: an unremarkable story, hackneyed dialogue, poor sound, a lengthy running time, inappropriate style for the festival, and bad acting. Your test screenings should help you determine if your picture needs adjustment in any of these areas.

Read Incompetent People Really Have No Clue, Studies Find / They're blind to own failings, others' skills.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

B-Side presents "Crawford" on Hulu!

Here's a first: an indie film that plays festivals, gets some great buzz, then premieres on Hulu instead of in theaters. That's exactly what's happening with Crawford, one of the hit docs of this past year's South by Southwest film festival, courtesy of distributor B-Side (my employer).

There's a lot of talk about how indie film distribution will work in the future. In my opinion it really boils down to a simple equation: the more people see your movie, the more people will buy it. (Given that the potential of any indie film to saturate the market like a Hollywood film is practically nil, the idea that an indie film can be "overplayed" is laughable.) Congratulations to director David Modigliani for taking some brave first steps in the new world of progressive distribution.

See the indieWIRE blurb on the Crawford acquisition, and check out the trailer below.

Buskers the Movie

Last year's DIY Film Festival winner, "Buskers - For Love Or Money" has put a trailer on line, as well as a list of festivals its currently screening at. Check it out here: "Buskers"

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Film Festival Secrets: the book is finished.

Film Festival Secrets

Has it been quiet around here lately? That's because one cannot complete a book and blog at the same time. At least I can't.

I've been devoting all of my writing resources to completing Film Festival Secrets: A Handbook for Independent Filmmakers and I'm happy to say that it's finally finished. Since I don't want to spend months or years looking for a publisher I'm putting it out myself through Amazon's Createspace print-on-demand service. A downloadable PDF version will be available for free and the print edition will list at $24.95.

There's still the print proof left to approve but I'm confident that I will be able to make the PDF and print versions available simultaneously on October 16th with a launch at the Austin Film Festival.

So now you know what I've been up to and why it's been so quiet around here. I'll be doing more writing on the blog in coming months with excerpts from the book (annotated and expanded to include things that didn't make the print edition) as well as new material, interviews, etc.

More to come.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Catch me this weekend at the Sidewalk Moving Pictures Festival

I'm serving on the narrative shorts jury this weekend at the Sidewalk Moving Pictures Festival in Birmingham Alabama. You should be able to see me on a panel or two during the festival, in particular the "alternative distribution" panel at 4:00 p.m.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Niche Marketing Tools Panel - Independent Film Week

These are my notes on the Niche Marketing Tools panel, including some of my thoughts before the panel and some of the more interesting concepts that came up during the panel. I've listed them below in no particular order and attributed them to the panelists where I could remember where they came from -- apologies to those whom I misremember.

- To speak generally, niche marketing is about identifying special interests in your film, researching that special interest, and contacting those heavily engaged in that interest to spread the word within the existing community. Tapping into existing communities who can spread word of mouth for you is the goal.

- The basics of marketing a film still apply -- still photos, well-written supporting material, making a good first impression. (Jon Gerrans)

- Jason Cassidy - On marketing "Blindness" -- speaking to the built-in core audience of people who loved the book was hugely important in marketing that film.

- Larry Fessenden - On creating a film web site: Stills, etc are important but it's also important to use the ability to customize to help draw visitors into the story of your film and the story behind the film. A director's statement (while it may seem corny) can very much influence press and audience perception of the film. Web site preferable to facebook or myspace in this way because you can customize a web site in ways that one cannot with facebook.

- Larry Fessenden - On building community -- your community consists not just of your fans but also of other filmmakers, journalists who cover your genre (including bloggers, etc). Recruit them to your cause and be a partner to them as well. Larry has built a network of horror/genre filmmakers who have their own stories that feed into the larger story of this filmmaking community. Like a mini-studio or unofficial releasing "brand."

- Jason Cassidy - On Facebook: New media like facebook can make marketing more efficient but the social tools only work if people are drawn to them. That can actually take a media/advertising spend to gain critical mass and make maintaining Facebook presence worth it.

- Jon Garrans - On Facebook: Facebook is a great place to store data like trailers, etc, which might otherwise cost you money to store and transmit (outgoing bandwidth fees).

- Aaron Hillis - On bandwidth fees - Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) can also help with storage at low cost.

- Aaron Hillis - Facebook & MySpace can be oversaturated, difficult to attract an audience to any one thing -- get more creative, take steps beyond just setting up a social network page.

- Stephen Raphael, on communities - some communities are stronger than others and distributors make decisions based on that. For example Jewish community networks are very strong and can be relied upon to spread word of mouth but also have strong formal networks (community centers, email lists, etc).

- Stephen Raphael, in answer to question about tapping known niches - Don't self-distribute to a niche if you think you might want to beyond self-distribution. If you tap out a potential revenue source then you're reducing the value of your property to a distributor. Doing the research on that niche, however, is a selling point -- the more supporting evidence you have that there are people out there just waiting to buy your film, the stronger selling advantage you have.

Web sites for panelists:

Jason Cassidy, Miramax -

Larry Fessenden, "The Last Winter" -

Jon Gerrans, Strand Releasing -

Aaron Hillis, Benten Films -

Stephen Raphael, Required Viewing - ???

See also Film Tiki's Eyewitness report of the panel.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Independent Film Week


For the next couple of days I'll be hanging out at Independent Film Week in NYC. Everyone still calls it IFP but they rebranded this year and moved to the Fashion Institute of Technology so I guess I'll do them the favor of using the proper name, but if you want to read about it on Twitter you'd better search for IFP.

Saw the talk on festivals yesterday which was pretty basic but it sounds like a lot of people need the basic info; it only reinforced my feelings that Film Festival Secrets (the upcoming book) is a book that needed to be written. Speaking of which, I'm making rapid progress and on track to release the download version by mid-October; the print version should either be available at the same time or shortly thereafter. If you haven't subscribed to the newsletter I suggest you do so, as I'll be releasing a sneak preview to newsletter members only.

I also stuck around for the Kevin Smith talk, which was a variant of the same Q&A Kevin Smith always gives -- there are only so many questions to ask the guy, and he has answers ready for all of 'em. This might be a bad thing but since he's such a born yarn-spinner it's usually entertaining even if you've heard the story before. When asked to compare his experiences between indie and studio filmmaking, he shot back:

I've made one independent film: Clerks. But I'm labeled as an independent filmmaker forever. I saw in indieWIRE the other day that I'm a "veteran independent filmmaker." That made me feel old. But I guess it's like being gay, right? You suck one cock and you're always gay.

Smith also encouraged filmmakers to make Clerks, as it's the only way he knows to break into the industry.

Nobody's made a convenience store movie in 15 years! You could be that guy.

When asked what the reaction might be if Clerks were released today:

"This guy rips off Judd Apatow!" . . . (smiles) You feel me?

I'll be in New York for the next couple of days and moderating the Tuesday afternoon panel on Niche Marketing Tools. Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Independent Cinema - The Revolution Is Dead, Long Live the Revolution

Manohla Dargis in the New York Times:

INDEPENDENCE in the movies is a cri de coeur and an occasionally profitable branding ploy, but mostly it’s a seductive lie. For much of American movie history it has been shorthand for more aesthetically adventurous films, bolder in form, freer in spirit and at times more overtly political than those churned out by the Hollywood studios. Once we were one nation under the movie screen, indivisible, with liberty and Shirley Temple for all, but independent film gave us new ways of looking, or so the story goes.

Read The Revolution Is Dead, Long Live the Revolution.

(Via DIY Filmmaker Sujewa.)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

indieWIRE: Eating, Drinking, and Shopping in Toronto

Tens of thousands of people are about to converge upon Canada's largest city for one of the world's largest film events, socializing and networking all over town. indieWIRE surveyed a group of Toronto locals and insiders about their favorites places to eat, drink, shop and chill, including some of our own tips from indieWIRE staffer (and former Torontonian) Peter Knegt.

Possibly the most useful thing indieWIRE has published all year. If you're headed to the Toronto International Film Festival, you must read indieWIRE: TORONTO '08 | Eating, Drinking, and Shopping in Toronto: An indieWIRE Insiders Guide.

Past DIY Film Festival Winners

The DIY Film Festival is proud to talk about.. itself! We've had a lot of talented filmmakers in the past 8 years, and we want to brag about a few of them. Early winners from the festival, include Jeff Wadlow, (Tower of Babble, 2002, and Katching Kringle 2004) who won awards in two festivals, once for a comedy short, and another year for an animated short. He went on to win the Million dollar Chrysler Film Festival, and then Jeff went on to direct the feature film Cry Wolf in 2005.
2006 BEST DRAMATIC FEATURE and BEST DIRECTOR for "SELF MEDICATED" filmmaker Monty Lapica went on to release his film theatrically after winning numerous other film festivals.
2006 BEST FILM "AMAZING GRACE: JEFF BUCKLEY" went on to win numerous other film festivals, as well, the terric and moving portrait of the winger, and is awaiting release on DVD.
The 2007 Festival included recent theatrical release "Last Stop for Paul" by director Neil Mandt. "Last Stop" went on to win awards in 45 film festivals and was released theatrically this past spring. And finally, last year's Documentary feature winner "The American Drug War: the Last White Hope" went on to win numerous awards and was purchased by Showtime where it made its debut in March and is now on DVD. Congratulations to director Kevin Booth and kudos to all the filmmakers who've allowed us to get a glimpse of their careers early on! Keep up the good work!!

Last year's winner Best Film "Buskers" is showing at the upcoming Coney Island Festival on Sept 8th.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

2007 DIY FILM Festival Winners

Just to recap.. for those who are new to the blog..


"Last Stop For Paul" Wins Best Film Award

LOS ANGELES (Feb. 12, 2007)_ The hilarious comedy "Last Stop For Paul," the tale of two cubicle-bound workers who take an inspired trip around the world with a dead friend's ashes, has been named Best Film at the 2007 DIY Film Festival, which concluded Sunday.

The film was screened as part of the 2007 DIY Convention, which took place Feb. 9-11 at the historic Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.

In "Last Stop For Paul," director Neil Mandt improvises a film based on the idea of a worldwide journey seeking both pleasure and to honor the memory of a departed comrade. Using local amateurs and actors he picks up along the way, Mandt crafted a hilarious film from a cast that the makers of "Babel" would envy. For his innovative use of resources and his flair for storytelling, Mandt wins the 2007 DIY Film Festival "Best Director" honors to go along with his best film award.

A special award was granted acclaimed writer/director Henry Jaglom, who was named "DIY Filmmaker of the Year" for his vast body of independent filmmaking, which includes 16 feature films. Jaglom was honored at a special Saturday evening screening of his latest film, "Hollywood Dreams," and participated in a post-screening interview with DIY Film Festival programming director Richard Martini and lead actress Tanna Frederick.

The other winners of the 2007 DIY Film Festival include:

In the vein of "Fight Club," a group of friends decide on a novel way to pick up girls: staging a street mugging and then pretending to save them. But things go downhill when one of the friends falls in love with a victim...

An uproarious comedy depicting a dysfunctional family from Liverpool. Reminiscent of "Little Miss Sunshine," the story revolves around a young girl's first communion and her completely wacky family, all told in DIY fashion with residents of Liverpool as the cast.

Two Russian slackers move to London to scam their way to riches in two weeks. Thoroughly exploring the immigrant underworld of the UK, this film manages to feel like a "Borat" through the eyes of two hip Eastern Europeans.

Director Kevin Booth exposes the people behind the so-called "War On Drugs" proposed by the Nixon administration and still operating as government policy – or is it? Featuring interviews with a former DEA agent, a conservative judge and other political leaders, Booth uncovers the lies and conspiracy theories of the drug trade.

A famous "Jab" dancer passes along his secrets to dancing, life, love and native cooking to a protege.

An insightful and funny look at the new Christian evangelical movement through the eyes of Stephen Baldwin, punk rockers and skateboarders.
A guy loses his girlfriend and goes through an unusual fantasy of what happened – a dream where all the characters are played by her.

Touching story of a young boy whose attempts at communication with his grandmother are stifled until he realizes she's hard of hearing.

This clay-mation animated feature from South Africa takes a look at life and love in Johannesburg.

A fresh and unusual look at a relationship told in split screen, and sometimes in triptych, where our hero's running monologue with himself is played in variations until he gets it right.


CALL FOR ENTRIES The International Film Festival Submission System
The DIY Film Festival prefers paperless entries submitted via The International Film Festival Submission System (BrigitFest) – on the Web at Withoutabox provides cost-saving, online entry to major film festivals throughout the U.S. and in Europe with one master entry form, allowing you and us to enter your film more quickly and with greater accuracy. This method is free and easy. Members who choose to join Withoutabox also get $5.00 off their Entry Fees, plus the advantages of Extended Deadlines and Online Press Kit submissions. Click over to Withoutabox, then follow instructions to apply online:CLICK HERE TO APPLY

Click to Enter the 8th Annual DIY Film Festival

Interview: Jason Connell, New York United Film Festival

When asked for his advice for upcoming filmmakers:

I was on a panel at the Maryland Film Festival about a month ago, giving filmmakers advice on getting into festivals. There are so many and the shorts are incredibly long. They have a tendency to be longer than need to be. 16-minute shorts are hard to program, but if it's a great 5-7 minutes, it's easier to program. But it has to be special. Also, have someone else look at your film, since a director is too married to the film and someone else has a different eye and can offer objectivity. Festival competition is tough, so be sure to submit early, too. If you submit late, the lineup for an evening may already be locked up, no matter how great your film is. Our submissions are cheap, too. Those things are key. Oh yeah, make a great film. That's important, too.

Read Interview: Jason Connell, New York United Film Festival - ARTISTdirect News.

Friday, August 29, 2008


The 2009 DIY MUSIC FESTIVAL will again be highlighted by a Feb. 2009 exclusive lunchtime showcase in Hollywood before some of the top music supervisors in the country and an invite-only dinner with top professionals. The luncheon will again by co-sponsored by Bug Music, North America's largest independent publishing company, home to such songwriters and catalogs as Johnny Cash, Bob Mould, Ryan Adams, Gram Parsons and Iggy Pop.

But don't let us tell you. Hear about it from last year's winners: To enter, register online at the right.

* * *

THE 2008 NEW ENGLAND BOOK FESTIVAL has officially launched. Dedicated to the best books of the holiday season, with a major post-holiday campaign as one of the prizes. Register on the right side of the page.

* * *

THE 2008 LONDON BOOK FESTIVAL has issued a call for entries to its annual program honoring books worthy of further attention from the international publishing community. Details on registration on the right side of this page.

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HOLLYWOOD (July 12, 2008) _ The 2008 Hollywood Book Festival has named Stan Lerner’s novel “Criminal” as the grand prize winner of its annual competition honoring books worthy of greater attention from the film, TV and multimedia industries.

A graphic but page-turning account of the rise to power of the world’s most calculating and dangerous man, “Criminal” is the story of Sam Noah, who will do whatever is necessary to achieve his ends.

Lerner’s saga of this mastermind of evil was honored during awards that were part of a weekend festival at The Grove at Farmers Market in Hollywood that featured author readings, live music, book publishing panels and children’s entertainment. The event was presented in conjunction with Barnes & Noble Booksellers.

Lerner’s victory earned him $1500 and a week-long stay at the Larimar St. Croix Writer’s Colony in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Other winners and honorable mentions for the 2008 Hollywood Book Festival:



WINNER: Insufficient Mating Material – Rowena Cherry


For The Children – Marin Thomas


WINNER: The Grandmaster – Peter Balaskas


Alpha Rising – GL Douglas

Strike at the Heart: The First Mission – Lawrence Berrie


WINNER: Seven Ox Seven – Peter Ritzer


WINNER: Black’s Beach Shuffle – Corey Lynn Fayman


WINNER:: They Poured Fire On Us From The Sky – Benson Deng, Alephonsion Deng and Benjamin Ajak with Judy Bernstein


Jacko: His Rise and Fall – Darwin Porter

The House of Many Faces – Konstantina Dimitra Mahlia

Crossing Hoffa – A Teamster’s Story – Steven Harper

The Misadventures of a Roving Cartoonist – Tom Gill/Tim Lasiuta

Little Miss Smarty Pants – Suzanne Koupoulis

Running From Coyote – Danalee Buhler

Love is a Four-Letter Word – Robert X. Leeds


WINNER: The Willow Falls Christmas Train – William Trombello


Legends of a King – Damian St. Clair

The Pink Dolphin – Laura Ambler and Mary Duncan


WINNER: Criminal – Stan Lerner


The Maximum Contribution – Rick Robinson

Stolen Boy – Michael Mehas

God Bless Mr. Devil – Andrew Davis

The Rose of York: Fall from Grace – Sandra Worth

Kastle Law – Chris Copeland

The Street Life Series: Is It Passion or Revenge? Kevin M. Weeks

Temple of the Two Jaguars – Edward Curry

Spa Deadly – Louise Gaylord

First, There Is A River – Kathy Steffen

The Happy Soul Industry – Steffan Postaer

We The People – B.L. Hyde

The Badger Game – Norman Shabel

The Street Sweeper – David Riviera, Jr.

Death in Advertising – Stephen Hawley Martin

The Woman Pope – Nelson Clark


WINNER: When The Mob Ran Vegas – Steve Fischer


Jesus Goes To Hollywood – William Bramley

Unlocking The Mystery of Skin Color – Thienna Ho

Las Vegas Weddings – Susan Marg

Twisted Confessions – Charles E. Skoller


WINNER: Archibald’s Swiss Cheese Mountain – Sylvia Lieberman/Jeremy Wendell


Stanley The Elephant – Stan Lerner

Monty The Traveling Cat – B.J. Moesner/Kevin Scott Collier

Mama, Are We There Yet? Rose Saposnek

Kendra Kandlestar and the Door To Unger – Lee Edward Fodi

There’s A Kid Under My Bed – Lisa Funari-Willever/Lon. A. Levin

Why The Dog Chases The Cat and the Cat Chases The Dog – K.L. Vaniko

Circus Fever – Alva Sachs/Patricia Krebs

Melinda: A Mostly Magnificent Moose – Daniel Burch Fiddler

Emerita – Cindy Mauro Reisenauer

The Great Willow – Michael Starr

Born To Dance – Katherine Reynolds

The Wiggle Jiggle Book – Kathy Patalsky

WeeBeasts, Book One: Origins – Micah Linton


WINNER: Surfer Girl - Penelope Dyan


Who’s Your Daddy? Lynda Sandoval

Parallel Worlds, Paraworld Zero – Matthew Peterson

Across Time: Mystery of the Great Sphinx – Dr. O.J. Harp III

The Great Book of the Universe – Colette Francis Ashton


WINNER: The 7th Order – Donald Hudec


WINNER: Fortune & Freedom: The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Success – Jim Hirshfield


Blood Moon’s Guide To Gay and Lesbian Films – Danforth Prince


WINNER:: The Passion of Maryam – Loren Woodson


Across Time: Mystery of the Great Sphinx – Dr. OJ Harp III

Voices Under Berlin – Mark Hooker

Alpha Rising – G.L. Douglas

The Passion of Maryam – Loren Woodson

Run Toward The Sun – Anton Haardt

The Digger’s Rest – K. Patrick Malone

Dealing With Divas: Shelley Anderson


WINNER: Your Final Diet – Abby Aronowitz

THE 2008 DIY BOOK FESTIVAL has issued the call for entries to its seventh annual competition honoring the best of independent and self-published work. Full details below and registration on the right side of this page.

THE 2008 HOLLYWOOD BOOK FESTIVAL will be held on Saturday, July 12 at the Grove at Farmers Market, one of the top dining, shopping and entertainment destinations in the heart of Hollywood. The event is presented in conjunction with Barnes & Noble Booksellers. Over 30,000 attendees are expected for the event, which spotlights books worthy of further attention from the film, TV and gaming community. Details at

DIY FILM FESTIVAL PROGRAMMING HEAD RICHARD MARTINI has posted his "Tibetan Refugee" film online in its entirety. The film is debuting on YouTube in five ten-minute sections, detailing the torture of journey of monks and children who were forced to flee Tibet a few years ago. "The film is available at Netflix and other sites, but I just felt for those who have an interest in hearing from the Tibetans themselves what kind of damage the Chinese are doing, they'd be able to check it out for free." The video is online at

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Owens moves from Indianapolis to Nashville fest (and why you should care)


The Nashville Film Festival has named Brian Owens as its Artistic Director. Owens joins the Festival as it gears up for its 40th anniversary on April 16-23, 2009. Owens was previously the artistic director of the Indianapolis International Film Festival, which he founded in 2003.

When someone moves from one festival to another (particularly a programmer), it gives the alumni of the former festival an opportunity at the new festival. This is why it's important to include a cover letter with your submission -- if your film played at Indianapolis (and maybe you met Brian while you were there), you could submit that film or your next film to Nashville with a personal letter to Brian. In the letter, mention that your previous pic played Indianapolis. Whether Brian remembers your film or not, it provides a connecting point. Owens might at least look up your previous film and take your current movie somewhat more seriously than he would a random submission. It might seem a slim opportunity, but it's better than starting from scratch.

Friday, August 22, 2008

When good disks go bad

Over the last couple of weeks I've had one of those weird occurrences of synchronicity -- the same question keeps popping up from filmmakers in different places on the web. (In the case of the Withoutabox message boards, it popped up twice in the same place within a few days.) The question concerns the DVDs (or more likely the burned DVD-Rs) that filmmakers send in as their submission screeners, and what happens when the festival can't play it. With varying levels of panic, the question goes something like this:

If you can't play my DVD, is my film disqualified? Will you notify me so I can send you a replacement? I've heard horror stories from other filmmakers about festivals that just throw the disks away and move on.

My first reaction was to downplay this reaction as ridiculous -- of course festivals (at least the vast majority of reputable festivals) don't just throw away bad disks without notifying the submitting filmmaker. A screw-the-filmmaker attitude like that would surely creep into other, more noticeable portions of the business and, filmmakers being a fairly tight bunch, word would get around. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that it would be a fairly easy rumor to believe. Submitting filmmakers don't get much communication from festivals until they get a yes or a no. Wouldn't it be easy for festival staffers to think of those filmmakers as a faceless mass of entrants -- and who cares if a film or two falls through the cracks?

The reality though, is that festival staffers are often filmmakers or former filmmakers themslves, and they care enough about the process to make the effort -- at least once.

I put the question as phrased above to Andrew Rodgers, Executive Director of the RiverRun International Film Festival:

Wow. Some festivals might do that. We don't. We will always email the filmmaker and suggest that they send in another disk. It will probably just be an email though, we won't spend a lot of time tracking down a filmmaker by phone, particularly if they are outside the U.S.

And to Bekah Macias, Festival Producer of the San Diego Film Festival, who said:

If we come across a DVD that will not play the screener will alert the Programmer immediately. I take it and email the filmmaker right away so they have a chance to send a new one. If I don't hear back from them by the time we begin making selections I throw it out. I usually do not make more than one attempt at contacting them. The closer it gets to the submission deadline the less likely they will waste their time trying to get a replacement.

If you can find a festival director who admits to a radically different policy, I'd like to know about it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Film festivals with student film awards and categories

A recent email from a filmmaker asked what festivals out there specifically have awards and categories for student filmmakers. Seems there are students out there who are tired of seeing their early efforts compete against shorts with Hollywood stars and major budgets. Who can blame them?

I should caution student filmmakers looking for a break from festivals with student categories that there are film schools who supply their enrollees with high-end equipment and access to "real" actors, so you may find yourself competing with films of a higher production value regardless. But if you think you'll have a better time of it at festivals with student-specific awards and categories, here's a list that I came up with after a quick search on Withoutabox and the web. I didn't include links to the festival web sites, you'll have to do the hard work of Googling them yourself.

  • Action/Cut Short Film Competition
  • Angelus Student Film Festival
  • Ashland Independent FF
  • Austin Film Festival
  • Big Apple FF
  • Blue Plum Animation FF
  • Chicago International FF
  • Columbus Intl Film & Video Fest
  • Dam Short FF
  • Daytona Beach FF
  • deadCENTER FF
  • Delta Moon Student FF
  • Feel Good FF
  • Firstglance FF
  • Florence Intl FF
  • Independents' FF
  • Intl FF Egypt
  • Intl FF South Africa
  • Jackson Hole FF
  • Kansas City FF
  • Mexico FF
  • New Hampshire FF
  • NYC Short FF
  • Nextframe: UFVA's Touring Festival of Intl Student Film
  • Palm Springs Intl Shortfest
  • Red Rock FF of Zion Canyon
  • Redemptive FF
  • Rincon IFF
  • RiverRun International Film Festival
  • Sacramento Film & Music Fest
  • San Fernando Vally IFF
  • San Francisco Frozen Film Fest
  • Santa Cruz FF
  • Seattle Intl FF
  • Skidmore Intl Student FF
  • Student Films Across America (see also Door County Student FF)
  • Swansea Bay FF
  • Take-2 Student IFF
  • End of the Pier IFF
  • European IFF
  • Women's IFF South Florida
  • Zion IFF and Movie Camp
  • Toronto Film Festival
  • Santa Clarita
  • Santa Barbara
  • Paso Robles Digital Film Fest

Update: SxSW has a Texas High School Filmmaker contest. Thanks to Jarod Neece for the update.

(If you're a festival director and you'd like your film included on this list, please email me with a link to your web site so I can confirm that you have a student award or category.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New festival: Metafest

indieWire News:

Metacafe and Microcinema International, a leading international rights manager, exhibitor and specialty markets distributor of the "moving image arts," are teaming to create and curate MetaFest 2008. MetaFest will be a juried online and offline film festival presenting international creative and contemporary short-form video entertainment. The call for entries begins today, and invites short video, film and digital media submissions of 10 minutes or less that are "narrative, humorous, artistic, dramatic, animated, documentary, mockumentary, music, experimental, alternative or avant-garde in any genre, format or style."

Metafest's call for entries is only open through September 10th, and as with any online festival (this one has online and offline components) I'd be sure to check the terms to make sure you're not giving up any rights with which you'd be sorry to part.

Read indieWIRE's buzz for more.