Before a track race begins, the crowd has an expectation of what the pace will be. The longer the race, the more deliberate the pace. Notice I didn't say "slow". You would never call a marathon gold medalist slow. Similarly, a sprinter would never start a dash with a light jog.
When we start a short film, we expect a certain kind of pace. It doesn't have to be fast. We don't want to watch only Michael Bay wannabes. It just can't be slow. There is a difference between a deliberate pace and a slow one.
Deliberate pacing – be it a burst of flame or a smoldering burn – gives the viewer confidence that the storyteller is in control. We, the audience, can relax knowing we're in the hands of a competent artist. Pace is the engine of the story, and no matter what the story is, the pace must continue to move forward. Marathoners don't start fast, but neither do they meander. They move forward. So should your story, so should your characters, so should your edits, music, etc. Whether it's a sprint, or cross country, everything must move forward. The pace will change at points along the race, but still – everything must move forward.
As we are moving forward in the selection process.
From now until the end of the festival, Rule One always applies – until you get a pass letter, you still have a chance – but like the pace, that chance changes over time. Here's what you can expect over the month of April.
We will finish screening the shorts this week. Starting now, you should: 1) make sure you received a "thank you for your submission" e-mail. This confirms your address is correct in our system. If you haven't, shoot an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. 2) check your e-mail and spam filter at least once a day. Every year we have filmmakers that fall off the face of the earth. This is particularly frustrating, as we've put a lot of time and energy in finding films we love – only to be snubbed. Everyone hates that.
If you haven't heard a peep from us by the middle of April, rule one still applies, but if another festival makes an offer, don’t be stupid. You can shoot us a quick e-mail to brag and ask if you should take the other festival. We're not going to say, "You should take that, because our screeners hated your movie!" but we might drop a hint about a bird in the hand.
If you get a second round letter from us, then definitely stay in touch. Don't worry if you don't get a 3rd round letter. If you've responded well to our first communication, we might not have to send you another one. Let us know if you're planning any kind of screening, or have offers from other festivals. Again, we won't be able to make the decision for you, but we'll want to know what's happening with your movie. If for no other reason than, we really like it.
Toward the end of April, we're going to have to kick the pace up again and start making announcements to the press. Last year, some filmmakers who had received second and third round letters got upset when they read the "official" slate in Indiewire. While that announcement was official – and will be again this year – it doesn't mean it is complete. Rule one always applies.
Of course, if you haven't heard a peep from us since the "we received your movie" letter, and you see the slate announcement in the press, rule one does still apply. You do still have a chance to be in the festival, but that chance is now in the realm of Global Climate Change not being man-made, or Evolution being "just a theory." Believe what you will. At least with Dances With Films, you'll get a definitive confirmation or denial of your beliefs in the form of a pass letter. I say this here, so you won't miss out on any opportunities that may come up in the second half of April between our final selections and a "thanks, but" letter.
This is a good opportunity to speak to our friends and alumni. After 17 years, if we programmed nothing but alumni, we would still have to turn some of you away. It is unbelievably difficult to tell people who we love and respect, "you didn't make it this time." It doesn't mean we don't like you. It doesn't mean your movie isn't any good. It might mean that some other filmmakers made better movies – but that's a judgment call.
Alumni or newbie – not getting into Dances With Films does nothing to diminish your accomplishments or talents. We just don't have enough screen time for everyone.
Thanks for reading.