Tuesday, April 9, 2013

How Can You Help Your Chances Of Getting Into A Film Festival ? Plus, BIG NEWS!

For year 16, digital distribution company Gravitas Ventures will be offering a Video On Demand deal for this year's Feature Film Jury Award Winner.  That's huge, folks!  So huge, we've extended our deadline FOR FEATURES ONLY to April 15th.  So turn in your taxes and get your movie into our office.  That's right IN THE OFFICE BY THE 15TH.  Post marks won't do.

I want to dispel a rumor before it starts.  The winning film will not be required to take the offer.  If you want to hold out for that worldwide theatrical release on a thousand screens, that's your prerogative.  You'd be nuts to do so, but I don't want to hear in the indie blogosphere that "if you get into Dances With Films you HAVE to take their distribution deal."  That's not the case.  This is a good offer from a legit company, but the final decision is up to you. 

On to other business:

People always ask, "What can I do to help my chances of getting into the festival?"  Well, here's the answer:

First – make a good movie.  Of course, everyone thinks their movie is the greatest thing ever, so let's keep going.

Next, check your e-mail, your spam filter, and carrier pigeons.  Every year we have more than one filmmaker who doesn't reply to our e-mails.  I can't tell you how frustrating it is to work so hard to find a movie we want to program, only to have the filmmaker drop off the planet.  If you submitted early, and you haven't heard from us, it doesn't mean anything, but feel free to shoot us a polite, short e-mail that says, "I'd like to confirm that this is the contact e-mail for [movie title]."

Speaking of polite, when you do communicate with us be nice.  You don't have to kiss up.  You don't have to try too hard, just do your mamma proud. Say "please," and "thank you."  We're going to spend about a month working together under high pressure with tight deadlines.  That'll be topped off with 11 of the most intense days you've ever experienced.  If you're unpleasant at the beginning of this process, there's a good chance you won't be a part of the middle or end of it.  Got it?

And, we're still watching movies. 

I've noticed a trend returning in  features this year, gender issues.  If you're working on a script right now, and all of characters of one gender either sound the same, or are all villains, or all flawed in the same way, then you might think about getting some therapy.  If not, definitely consider a re-write.  Show the script to at least ten people of the opposite sex and listen to their opinions. Not all women are Femme Fatales.  Not all men are sex maniacs.  Mix it up a little bit.  Make it like life.

A note to my fellow actors.  If you are in a low budget film with limited resources, speak up!  It's impossibly hard to get a clean recording of someone who mumbles into their collar for an entire shot, even in the best of situations.  If nothing else, at least talk loud enough for your scene partner to hear you.

From sound to light.  Filmmakers be warned! If you don't start lighting actor's faces, we have a screener who is going hunt you down and kill you.  There are extremely few times when you want the character's face to be hidden.  In all other cases, if the actor's face it's clearly visible, then you have failed as a director of photography.  If you're the director and the camera operator, then you've failed at both jobs.  Get a bounce card, a light meter, and the skills to use them.

This week I've seen a couple of films where bad visual effects were put in where real special effects would have been easier and better.  Digital dust, smoke, etc. looks like crap most of the time.  You've got a scene that calls for wind-blown dust?  Put your crew to work.  Get your actors dirty.  That will keep the audience in the story and not thinking, "why did they put in fake reality?"

That's it for now.  We have another week of screenings, then decisions begin to be made.  Please, be patient.  I know it's hard.  Keep in mind that until you get a notification from us one way or the other, then you are still in the running.

Good luck.

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