Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Times of Our Lives

As the festival gets closer, I start waxing nostalgic, which has lately turned my thoughts toward times of our lives. Dances With Films festival lasts a week. One week out of fifty-two in a year. One week out of thousands of weeks in a lifetime, and yet, when I see filmmakers I met during my one week in 2000 – people I might only see for an hour or so a year – it's like were never been apart. We shared something special together that only we can understand.

Life in production is like that. You might work on a film for a month, a week, a day, or years. However long you do, there's something special about that time. There's something special about the bonds you make. Whether you get to share a week with the filmmakers in this year's festival or not, I hope you will all appreciate the special times you've already had. Friendships forged in these conditions are rare and wonderful. Enjoy them.

After our screening last night, Leslee and I looked over the list of short films. "There are a lot of great films," she said. "It's going to be a good year."

I can't help but think of the week or two we have ahead. So many good films means not all of them will get in. This makes for one of those stressful, friend-forging, times – as it can become very emotional. We each have favorites that we fight for and the pushing and shoving can get intense. So if one of us snaps at you between now and May 1st, please understand. It's not you, it's life as a festival programmer.

When I speak at panels, or talk to filmmakers, I'm often asked what they can do to increase their odds of getting in. The first answer is make a great film. Now you've done that, and your great film is up against other great films – so here are some next level tips.

• Rule #1: Be a good person. Between now and our announcement of the line-up, we may or may not be in touch to get details about where you are now with your film – premiere status, etc. So, the Golden Rule applies.

• Check your e-mail! Check your spam filter. If you made a special e-mail for your film that's separate from your work/personal one, check it twice a day. Every year we have some filmmaker that falls off the map. Don't let that be you. If we can't get you by e-mail, we'll call, fax, whatever – but e-mail is our first choice.

• Have your own marketing plan. Yes, that's right, YOUR marketing plan. We market the festival, you market your screening, both to industry and the public. Start thinking now, if you haven't already, about how you're going to make sure the critic or industry professional in the audience isn't the only one there. Nothing impresses distributors like a line around Hollywood Blvd.

• Be patient. It is in our best interest to notify you as quickly as possible if you're in, so asking a thousand times starts to break Rule #1. If you have an offer at another festival, sure, get in touch – politely. We won't be able to give you a legally binding answer as to whether you're in or not, but the more we ask you think about your options, the more you should think and not act.

• Yes, we will notify you if you've not gotten into the festival, and we will do so as soon as we can. As I've said before, films drop out, don't get back in touch, break rule #1, etc. etc. – so it's not until we have everything locked that we send out our famous pass letters.

• Use this blog: If you look back to about this time last year, you'll see people asking questions in the comments section. Chances are, you have the same question. Chances are, the answer hasn't changed. If you still have a question – or just want to shout out to the world how excited you are – don't hesitate to post in any of the blog post's comments section.

I know the waiting sucks. I know that you're going to see posts on Facebook from other filmmakers, saying "We're in the second round of DWF," and you haven't gotten that notice. It doesn't mean anything at this stage. Sit tight. We've been doing this for 15 years. We'll all make it through together.

Thanks for reading. Good luck!

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