The time is drawing near. Our final deadline is March 26th. Without A Box makes us do a super-final deadline of April 2nd which drives us crazy! Please try for the 26th to save our sanity. FYI, if you HAVE to wait until April, and want to avoid the insane Without A Box late fees, apply directly through the Dances With Films website. It won't improve your chances, but it might save you some cash.
As one of my commenters noted, second round letters have
started to go out. What does that
mean? What should you do if you get a
second round letter? What if you don't?
What does a second round letter mean?
First, we don't have official rounds, so if you hear one
film got a second round letter, and another got a third, it doesn't mean that
you didn't clear to a third round. We
just don't have a good name for, "Screeners have liked this movie, let's
check in with them to see what's changed since submissions." Or, "Okay, we already got in touch with
them, but we have a couple more questions." So don't let that bother you.
Next, if you don't get a second round letter, that doesn't
mean anything either… at least, not for the next month or so. It's entirely possible for you to get a
second round letter after we've announced our official slate to the press. Remember rule #1 – until you get a pass
letter, you're still in the running.
What should you do if you get a second round letter?
First, don't lie!
We're going to ask you about your World Premiere Status. It is much better if you have not premiered,
but we can live with a West Coast Premiere if we love the film and the
filmmakers. We'd rather be your premiere. If you have screened somewhere
else in Southern California, we're going to smack you upside the head and point
you to the MovieMaker Top 25 Coolest Film Festivals Article – but we'll still
love you and wish you well – and possibly screen your movie. But if you lie to us, you're done. We have the internet. It's real easy to find out if you've screened
anywhere else, so be honest.
This brings me to another point. The relationship between filmmaker and film
festival is a partnership. One of the
reasons we send out so many "rounds" letters is to vet our future
partners. We're going to be working
together over the next several weeks, and if you're difficult, we will choose a
film of equal quality with pleasant filmmakers.
There is a reason why our alumni network is so strong. There is a reason why you'll make some of the
best friends of your life during this festival.
There's a reason why you should answer your
"round" letter quickly, politely, and informatively. It's called being professional.
What if you don't get a "Round" letter?
I said it before, I'll say it again and again and again…
until you get a Pass letter, you're still in the running. Sure, if it gets to be the first week in May,
and a press release has come out saying "the official" slate, and you
haven't heard a thing, then your odds are getting long – but it has
happened. If you get an offer from
another festival in the next few weeks, please, get in touch with us. We can't tell you what to do, but we can drop
really big hints.
Okay, enough business.
Let's get back to the quality of what we're seeing in submissions.
Our screening room saw some fantastic short films, and some
that were just okay. Any screener will
tell you, they're happy to see great films, and truly horrible ones are easy to
reject. It's the so-so movies where we
earn our money. In many cases, a movie
can just lay on the screen. Nothing
jumps out as exciting or stupid. The
audience is left with a feeling of … eh.
For the filmmaker, it's important to recognize this lack of
enthusiasm before the movie is made, while it's still on paper. Have table reads. Ask your cast. Don't take their first response as a viable
answer. They want to be in your movie,
even if they think it's not the best script they've ever read. If the script jumps off the page for the
readers, you'll know it. The energy will
become electric. If the reaction is
anything less, then don't go into production.
Re-write. Find your voice. Make it pop.
Don't commit to production until every character's objectives are life
and death, and every obstacle is insurmountable.
Speaking of life and death, we saw a great film from the American Film Institute, but my
challenge for an AFI comedy still goes unanswered. Come on, AFI, not every film has to be
foreign and important. Have you seen
Sullivan's Travels? Laughter is as important
as drama… often more so. Make us laugh!
I'll leave you this week with an issue we see quite often –
sudden bad language.
Don't get me wrong, I drop the F-bomb as much as the next
person in the film industry. Some of my favorite
words have four letters – but if I've written an otherwise family-friendly
film, I'm not going to allow a character to start cussing. This happens late in movies sometimes, which
makes it even more noticeable, even offensive to an ear as jaded as mine. If you've started clean, and are mostly
clean, keep it clean. You will find your
screening opportunities widen greatly.
Thanks for reading.
Don't get too nervous over the next week or so, we're still watching
movies. Good luck.