First, we do still have a slot or two open, so as I've said a hundred times, nothing is official until it is. This posting is both for those films that have gotten in, and those who will soon receive our famous pass letters.
Why a film gets rejected.
The easiest reason to reject a movie is because it's just no damned good. I hope the people who make these movies understand this about their work. In my head they kick the dirt and say, "Yeah, we were just goofing around," or "Hey, I gave it a shot and it was a good learning experience," or "we had fun and that's all we cared about." Good on ya.
The harder ones are the near-misses. We had an excellent road-trip documentary that covered a serious topic with a light sense of humor, but it was way too long. When we pass on this film we will encourage them to cut it down. Every year we have films that are moving along great, and then some left-field plot point turns the whole thing into a mess. We have good films with technical problems. We have pretty good films that don't pop off the screen (see my post on Voice). It's sad to see these DVDs in the "no" pile, but they are not the hardest, most heartbreaking ones to pass on.
That title goes to the great movies that have been seen by everyone. If I hear one more time, "...but it's showing at Newport," I'm going to scream. Nothing against the Newport Film Festival. They know a good movie when they see it just like we do. Nothing against Hollywood Shorts or the Beverly Hills Film Festival or any other small festival in Southern California or the world.
Yes, in a perfect world, each festival would program the best movies submitted, period. There would be no question of premiere status. All the festivals could just pass around the same movies each year. In the destination festivals, which are a way of attracting tourists to the area and so enjoy hefty sponsorships, that's practically the case. It's called the circuit. These fests are less dependent on ticket sales than the uber-indie crowd.
The cold hard fact is, world premieres draw better in a flooded festival market like Los Angeles. So while destination fests can live off their local Chamber of Commerce and angel donations, discovery fests like Dances With Films – which do have sponsors, and we love them dearly – are more reliant on ticket sales. Sure, some of you angry young artists may balk that film festivals should only be concerned with the art, period, end of story – but if that was the case, there would be no Dances With Films for you to be angry with. They would have gone under in year two. Since I didn't come on board until year three, I'm thankful they had a close eye on the box office.
Every film festival strategy book you read talks about the importance of your premiere. Most think that's just for the majors, and it is. Hey, if you get into Sundance, more power to you. Other regional festivals say they don't care. Well, let the word go forth from this day forward; Dances With Films takes the discovery part of being a discovery festival seriously. We are going to be a bitch about world premieres, not so much this year, but definitely in the future. Tell your friends and plan accordingly.
If your film is in the festival we'll cover this in e-mails to you. If you're in the LA area we'll talk more about it at the orientation meeting. I think we're the only fest that does these meetings, not sure. Doesn't matter. We've had filmmakers fly in for the meeting. That's not necessary unless you have more time and money than you know what to do with. If you can't make it, but have a friend in the LA area, send them to represent. If you are in SoCal, it's worth a ½ off from your day job for sure. I look forward to it every year.
If you haven't heard from us in the past few weeks and still want to be a part of the festival, get your 2-Minute 2-Step submission in ASAP. You'll get to make a movie that's in the festival the very next day.