Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Crunch Time

Our late deadline is March 30th, which is tomorrow as I write this.

That means on our end we've got to get down to decision making. On your end, it's time for the worst part of the wait. Believe me, I understand how hard the waiting is. I'm not only a filmmaker, but also a novelist. Glaciers move like jack rabbits compared to literary agents and publishers, and the higher up the food chain you go, the harder the waiting gets. It really, really sucks – but cheer up, it's about to get worse.

If you flip though the archived comments of my blog to about this time last year, you'll see that a few people got very upset with me the closer we came to announcing our final screening list. I'm sure that will happen again this year, as some folks can never be pleased, but in an effort to keep you all in the loop I thought I'd give you an outline of how things go from here.

Right now we still have features and shorts that have yet to be screened. Keep that in mind, I'll remind you about it later.

Over the next week we expect a flood of entries from the procrastinator set. It never ceases to amaze me how people insist on paying twice the amount of money for the same thing. A little inside information: Without a Box, the festival submission service, requires that we have this late deadline, which is actually well past our comfort zone. Consequently, we jack the price up to what we think is an equally uncomfortable level – and yet, every year we get submitters who'll pay it. Go figure.

So, with movies yet to be screened and the expectation of more submissions, we're under the gun. At the same time, there are movies we've already seen that we know we like. These have been sent an e-mail saying something about a second round, blah, blah, blah. We do this for two reasons:

  1. Screening history update since you've submitted. Did you get into the LA Film Festival? Great! Good for you! Good exposure. We'll give your DWF slot to another deserving film.
  2. To give you a heads up so you can plan your festival strategy.

That second one is tricky. Every year we have more good films than we do screening slots. Getting that second round notice means you've got a film to be proud of. It means someone like me is in your corner fighting to make sure you get one of those slots, but it's not a guarantee of anything. So say we've reached out to you and another California festival wants you in. Get in touch with us. You might have a bird in the hand with the other festival, but the two in the bush are singing at you. Is it a tough decision, yes. The kind of tough decisions you want to have to make throughout your career.

Now is the time I remind those filmmakers who have not gotten such an e-mail that we still have movies in the bins we haven't screened. So the answer to your "what does it mean if I haven't gotten a second round notice?" question is... well, you can figure it out. I will add that when screening, we pick the movies out pretty much at random, so yours might be the first movie submitted, but the last one screened.

As we move forward in time the fat lady starts warming up, but she does not sing until our final list is announced, and our pass letters have gone out. Why is this? Films drop out, last minute decisions have to be made, screening times change, a brilliant programming idea might shake things up, etc. Last year filmmakers complained on this blog about how we were slipping information out when they hadn't heard anything. In fact, we had slots still open. And FYI, if your film is on the bubble, pissing off the festival directors is a great way to make their decision an easy one... POP!

But not to worry. In over ten years of doing this, I've learned that good films are made by good people. In nearly every single case, the people who complain irrationally have made the worst movies. Rational complaints are another matter.

Good luck to everyone, and thanks for reading.


I Have Herpes said...

i haven't submitted to Dances this year, but that was really insightful- thanks!

Anonymous said...

Does telling you guys that our film was accepted into another festival in another state, help or hurt our getting into your festival. By the way, I did get the 2nd round email.

RSMellette said...

We like world premieres when we can get them, but another state doesn't really hurt.

NOT telling us that, and then we see Facebook invitations to your world premiere would hurt a lot. The truth is always your best bet.

We have, on many occassions, had films that had no premiere status left, so nothing is ruled out. Of course, it is hard to promote a film where the only place it hasn't screened is Sunset Blvd, so... you know... just sayin'.

ARD1980 said...

I got the "second round" email, but my film has already played in a couple of festivals in LA. I really hope this doesn't completely kill it's chances, as I would love to screen with you guys. Either way thanks for this insightful blog, and for being part of a festival that seems to actually care about the films and the filmmakers.

RSMellette said...

Thank you for the kind words.

If it's any help, the premiere status of shorts is weighs less in the equation than with features.

Good luck.

Neil said...

Is DWF's preference for premieres with features (less so with shorts as you say) explained anywhere on the website or WAB rules of entry? In planning a festival strategy, I've found it's very helpful when festivals clearly spell out their thoughts on premiere status, even if there are no hard and fast rules – otherwise it can be a bit of a guessing game for the filmmaker (and a potentially expensive one at that).

I've really been enjoying this peek behind the curtain - thanks!

RSMellette said...

You know, it's been so long since I read our entry rules, I don't know, but you can bet that any festival in Los Angeles is going to lean heavily toward premieres, as will the majors. Some destination festivals - where they are a part of a town's tourist or local social promotions won't care so much about festivals. They also won't tell you that distributors take a big hunk of their screening slots.

So yes, there is a lot of guessing going on from the filmmaker's POV. I might make that the subject of a full blog in the off season, see if we can't shave the odds and entry fees a little bit.

Anonymous said...

In answer to Neil's question - yes DWF's stance on premiere status
is in the FAQ pages. Good Luck to you Neil!

Neil said...

Found it, anonymous (and Roger) – I was looking at the rules for entry and selection process pages. I missed the FAQ under the about section. It does lay out the policy clearly, although it doesn't mention if shorts are treated differently.


Anonymous said...

Just want to thank you guys for this festival and your whole outlook and approach. Recently received a 2nd-round email and I came here and started reading these blog posts. Even if I don't get in this year, I'll happily submit again. Hope you guys keep this festival going for years to come. Ignore the angry commenters, what you're doing is incredibly rare and worthwhile.

RSMellette said...

I felt the same way about keeping this festival going when I won best screenplay in 2000 - that's why I'm here, putting my time where my mouth is, since I don't got no money!

Thanks for the kind words.