Saturday, May 7, 2011

Ask Each Other

We have a ton of filmmakers from all over the world who couldn't make it to yesterday's orientation meeting who I'm sure have questions. We at DWF would like to know what was helpful and what questions you still have.

So here's a place for this year's filmmakers - and anyone else for that matter - to ask each other questions about festival preparations, marketing, industry info, or just a shout out to say how great we are.

'Cause, you know, it's all about us.

Use this blog's comments section like a forum. Have at it, folks.


Zack Parker said...

This is Zack Parker (SCALENE). I wasn't able to attend the meeting yesterday, though one of my Producer Reps was there in my place.

So, what do you feel is some of the most valuable information you walked away with?

Greg Croteau said...

Sorry I didn't make it to the orientation but this is a helpful alternative.

Can anyone recommend a PR firm in Los Angeles that handle indies or have worked with Dances With Films filmmakers in the past?


Greg Croteau
The Aristocrat
Feature Film

Trick said...

Patrick Campbell here (The Dumpster). I too wasn't able to make it, but a couple friends went for me. They said you mentioned targeting agents and producers who you want to come see your film and possibly inviting their assistants to come. How do we find out who their assistants are?

RSMellette said...

Greg, there was a grassroots marketing/PR guy there, I'm working on getting his contact info. PR firms are expensive and not all of them are any good, so it's a tough call.

A suggestion for you guys. Try to sell the LA Times or any of the local LA papers (not the entertainment section, but the features people) on a story about con men, who they target, how they work, etc. Seems like every five years or so I see a story like that. If you can tie it to your movie, you're golden.

Trick. Start with the Hollywood Creative Directory. They have an online version. Call the agency, ask for the specific agent. Whoever you get transfered to is the assistant.

Zack - if I were in your boat I'd talk to your cast and/or their managers. Skating a fine line, because of course the managers will say "No stars? What does that mean?" - but your cast is savvy enough to know that a lead role in a movie that's opening in LA is worth pushing no matter what.

Anonymous said...

Hi, this is GG from "Hip Hop Maestro".

I attended the orientation and learned a lot. The clearest bell for me was the understanding that the festival is the first step in a long journey. The festival serves as a great promotional opportunity for our films, and it is the individual responsibility of all of us to utilize this opportunity.

Nothing sells a film better than a line around the block, so we're using the same promotion strategy as a music concert to get asses in chairs for our film. Street team, club flyers, the accumulated email list from our shows, facebook, etc...

Trick said...

Press kit question. Should the production stills be loose prints in the kit or should they be integrated into pages of the kit? Also what is the ratio of production stills vs. behind the scenes stills? Seems like people in LA can walk out in front of their house and see behind the scenes stuff.

Zack Parker said...

Thanks, Robert. We do have some of the actor's reps coming, and the actors themselves are very excited about SCALENE premiering at DWF.

If I could throw in my 2 cents to the other filmmakers; contacting agents and distributors can be an intimidating process, but it's really not as bad as you think. Having a contact name is, of course, always ideal, but you can get around it, especially with distributors.

My second feature premiered at the Sunset 5 (at a different, not great fest) in 2007. Beforehand, I called about 30 distributors. When the receptionist answered, I simply asked "May I speak with the person who handles acquisitions please." Every time I was transferred to the person I needed to talk to. I invited them to the fest over the phone, got their email address and sent them weekly reminders of the screening leading up, and finally mailed them a hardcopy postcard/invite .

All confirmed, but only a handful showed up. But one of those handful lead to me signing with a Producer rep company, and ultimately making a deal with a distributor (coincidentally one of the ones that confirmed, but didn't show up to the screening).

My point is, don't be afraid to sell yourself, and use the fact that we are playing at a great fest. In the end, these distributors need us just as much as we need them.

Hope this helps!

RSMellette said...

Thanks for the success story, Zack.

Trick, as for prints, in these digital days, anything goes, so long as you have a clear link to where press can download 300 dpi jpegs.

Traditionally, photos were black & white prints and color slides. They were separate from copy. I certainly wouldn't mess with slides, and having the pictures with the web address on the print should work whether they are in the copy or separate.

RSMellette said...

Oh, and great strategy GG.

Darci said...

This is all great information. My logistical question, being from out of town, where is everybody staying? I'd like to stay as close as possible, where other filmmakers are going to be but we are traveling on an indie budget...nuff said?

Anonymous said...

We are trying to find a hotel that will give a discount. But being in LA, specifically West Hollywood - the hip of the hip to vacay at - it is tough. By early next week, we can give you a list of hotels, but still trying to find a cool one that will give a discount. That is a problem we have had since 1998. No airline or hotel is going to give a discount to fly to an area everyone wants to be at. You know what I mean?

Posted by Leslee but I had to choose Anonymous...

Wonder Russell said...

Hi! I'm Wonder and I'll be attending with Connect To, a short film made ere in Seattle.

My question is geared toward short films; what should a new filmmaker with a short aspire to (at a festival) that differs from features? I'm guessing calling an agent isn't going to do me a lot of good unless I can band together with the other shorts makers in my program.

Also, what do you think about giving swag out to attendees at the screening?

And lastly, any advice specifically for actors who are not from LA, but want their work seen?

Thank you all!!

RSMellette said...

Good questions.

Re: Short filmmaker: I'd say you have to define your goals. You're in Seattle. If you're going to stay in Seattle, which is fine, agents in LA aren't going to be as interested. If I were you, I'd do some research in the Northwestern US film scene. Send everyone an invite that says, "I'm a Seattle-based filmmaker. If you're going to be in the LA area, come see Connect To, blah, blah, blah..." Then, when you're hitting them up for work later, they'll know who you are.

Actors in Seattle with an LA screening is the same sort of thing. Do your research. Find out what films are slated for production in your area and who the casting director and/or production team is. Invite them all.

Swag isn't as necessary as promotional material. All of those postcards you're going to send as a follow up to the e-mail invites... bring those with the screening time and location on them. Some fun promotional stuff related to your movie is good, too - but don't break the bank. Have fun with it.

Of course - that's just my opinion. Many folks will differ.

Greg Croteau said...

Great idea, Robert.

Wonder asks a good question in regards to agents. Does anyone have any advice for inviting talent reps to see your film? Should it only be "friend of a friend" type invites or is there a more formal way, similar to what Zack did with the distribution companies?

Linda Nelson said...

Can we get a list the filmmakers with films in the festival and their e-mail address and facebook page link for their film?

RSMellette said...

I think Leslee does usually do a contact list with e-mail addresses. Facebook pages would be a little labor intensive on our part. Easier for everyone to post them here or on our FB page - afterall, that's public info.

The Millennium Bug said...

Here are a few things that popped out at us during orientation:

Invite press (provide them a ticket AFTER they confirm); include press kit
Create event on Facebook
Have a contest for tickets
Send clips of movie (press clips too if you have them) to agents' assistants and invite to screening
Get an IMDB Pro account (actually, we already have one but you should get one if you don't) - it's a fantastic info resource

RSMellette said...

Good ones. I like the idea of the contest for tickets. A lot of writers are doing that to draw people to their blogs - giving away free books.

I would suggest that you hold press/industry tickets at the box office for them, since even if they confirm, they don't always show. Kind of like dating in LA.

Zack Parker said...


Do you happen to know how many the theatre seats?

RSMellette said...

In the neighborhood of 200.

I put in that way because DWF has house seats - as any good producer (including you) should - held for last minute VIPs.

Big notice here, these are NOT free tickets for industry. We have obligations to people who have worked their behinds off - or ponied up cash - to make sure you have a festival to screen your movie at... on?... in?

Of course, if you sell 220 seats, we'll make sure everyone gets in.

One of the ways we do that, by the way, is to ask all you filmmakers who are NOT involved in that particular screening to wait while everyone who bought a ticket is seated. We then shoehorn in the filmmakers with passes.

This insures that everyone that filmmaker invited to the screening gets in - and when it's your turn you get the same courtesy.

If you sell 300 tickets (I made that number up, basically if you sell out and have a long waiting list), we will probably come up with a second screening time - but that's rare.

Anonymous said...

Hey Robert,

Happy to be aboard for this season of DWF.

Have we gone all indie video yet?

I'm curious, what's the ratio of films shot on film vs video - in this year's submissions and this year's selections (roughly, of course)?


Anonymous said...

...and do you have a preference?

RSMellette said...

I'd have to check the database, which isn't on my computer, but I think we're 99.9% HD with SLR and/or Red cameras looking so much better than even the best HD standard video.

The only 35mm or super 16 we really see come from students, and occassionally someone shooting black & white.

My preference? Film is still the gold standard, but if you're shooting a camera that can use film lenses it's going to pass for gold at a fraction of the price.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if anyone had any ideas on length of stay would be recommended for the fest (for a short filmmaker)? If one can't stay the entire fest, besides the day his film is showing, anyone have any recommendations on good days or lengths of stay?


RSMellette said...

Grr... I just wrote a whole response that the system lost. Hate when that happens.

First - if your finances and schedule are limited, do what they dictate. Never go broke for a festival.

Second - Back in the day, we used to get creative. See if you can crash at another filmmaker's place. You make a new friend, save some money, and experience LA through a local's perspective.

The way the fest goes: Thursday starts with a late afternoon/early evening cocktail party. Some fests charge for tickets to such parties and promise distributors and industry people will be there. We do neither. This is mainly for everyone to meet everyone else, have a drink together, and if industry people show up, that's just a plus, not a promise.

That night we'll have our alumni screening of Love's Kitchen. This is a great date movie. Very sweet. A good one for horror filmmaker's to bring their mother's to and say, "See Mom, there are lots of different kinds of independent movies."

Friday the fest kicks off in earnest. I'm about to go to a meeting about panels, which should be all weekend. Again, if you can afford to be in town, they are worth attending. Free with your filmmaker's pass.

If you're into parties, other films may be throwing some. We don't because we don't want to step on films that are playing. If you're LA-based, make sure to invite our out of town filmmakers to your events. You'll be glad you did.

We have always thrown together happy hours near by, to varying degrees of success over the years. Still waiting on details for that.

During the week, films don't start until the afternoon, so you can either play tourist or start now trying to schedule business meetings for while you're in town. Either one is a noble persuit.

Closing night party is fun - especially if you win, but even if you don't. We usually have some lite food, you buy your own drinks. We show the 2-minute 2-step movies all in a row, it's a blast.

I hope that helps.

Mike Kopera said...

Hi everybody--

This is Mike Kopera from the short film "My Friend Peter."

Does anyone have any advice on if there's an ideal time to contact execs and agents and the like--inviting them to a screening?

This Sunday, we'll be 3 weeks out...should I wait until we're only one or two weeks away or go ahead and start making calls and e-mails now???

Ray said...

Hi Michael,

I just wanted to clarify our invite list as opposed to the "Hold" and/or "House" seats. We're purchasing a number of tickets for special VIPs who we know are coming. Are "Hold" and "House" tickets (both mentioned in above posts) tickets we purchase as well, in case people we didn't expect show up.... or are they tickets that we ask the box office to hold for us in case someone shows up (only purchasing them if needed). If the latter is the case and the theater starts to get full, I take it we release them back to the box office to sell to those standing in line.

Is this a correct interpretation?

Also, do the tickets we purchase on line through the DWF/Sunset 5 online site remain in the will call window or are they mailed?

Thanks Ray
"Certain Proof"

RSMellette said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RSMellette said...


The box office will not hold seats that aren't sold, so it's a good idea for you to buy an extra pair if you'd like the insurance.

Tickets boy on line are picked up at the one-and-only box office window. :)

If you have a nicely alphabetized list of the people you know are coming, and the tickets you've bought for them, we will hand out the tickets at the DWF table inside the theatre. That frees you up to meet & greet.

I hope you do get a big crowd, your film is extraordinarily important for a lot of people.

RSMellette said...

Mike -

I think your post got lost in the great Blogger crash of Friday the 13th.

I'd say now would be good. :)

RSMellette said...

I got this comment on another thread, but want to repost it here for maximum exposure:

Thanks, Robert, for allowing us this forum to find crew for the 2-Minute 2-Step Challenge.

Here goes:

My writing partner, Kevin, and I wrote a very funny short film, "Toasted", that was accepted to the 2-Minute 2-Step Challenge. Woo-hoo!

We need to assemble a small crew ASAP.
The shoot is next Friday, June 3rd at 9am. We have an hour to set up and then
we'll take a MAX of 2 hours to shoot. So it would be from 9am-12pm at the latest.

The completed film will be screened the next day at 2:45pm at the Laemmle 5 Theater in Hollywood
and again at the closing awards ceremony on June 9th.

We are looking for the following:

-A DP with experience with the Canon 5D SLR camera
-A boom operator
-Editor who is familiar with Adobe Premiere (would need to be available from 10:30am-2pm.)

If you are available/interested, and/or know others who are RELIABLE who would be available, please let me know ASAP!!

More info at : (official website)

Rebecca Norris