There's a thread running in Without A Box about feedback from festivals, so I thought I'd cover that this week, as we're about to send out our acceptance notices and will soon get around to ... the other letters as well.
Since year one (before my time) Dances With Films has included a "positive comment" in their pass letters. I don't like calling them "rejections" - we have passed on some great films for any number of reasons, so it's not always a negative thing to not get in the festival.
The logic of the positive comment is simple. Making movies is hard. Just finishing a film is a worthy achievement. There has to be something positive to say about it. After 10 years of screening myself, I might argue that point - but still, it makes sense.
Something to keep in mind - you pay the festivals to watch your movie. It's different than a submission to an agent or manager (neither of whom should charge a fee for doing their job, and by the same token, don't owe you a thing in feedback).
From time-to-time, filmmakers will ask us for more information about what the screeners thought. Leslee will then look up the movie in our handy-dandy computer program and find some genius insight like TLTB (Too Long, Too Boring) from a judge who is too lazy and seen too many films to elaborate much more than that. (I wonder who that might be).
On more than one occation Leslee has had to re-watch a movie in order to give more constructive critism. 99% of the time the reason there aren't better notes on those films is because the movie sucks so much that the screeners sat there, jaws dropped, wondering what planet the filmmaker is from.
And those are always the ones who e-mail to ask why they're movie didn't get in. It's a good thing I don't answer those e-mails, 'cause my response would be, "This is a joke, right? You really don't know? NEVER MAKE ANOTHER MOVIE AGAIN."
Unless, of course, I liked it, then I'd end up with, "Great movie, you've got skills, but you played 5 different festivals in Los Angeles. We're giving another good filmmaker a shot."
The thing is, you have to know in your heart the quality of your own work. If you don't, then get out to a film festival near you and see what's out there. See if you're playing in the same league. I had a distributor tell me once that my movie was too good for them, and she wasn't kidding. Film festival screeners are not the end all and be all of your art. You are.
Good luck everyone. Hope to see you at the festival, whether you're screening, or just sitting in the audience like me.
Thanks for reading.