Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Orientation - And The Wait Continues

I know some of you talk to each other.  I know some filmmakers in SoHo should make plans to share a hotel in Los Angeles.  I know a lot of you have posted how excited you are to be in the festival, even though we try to keep that hush-hush before our official press release.  Shame on you. 

I know the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow - African and European.

Our filmmakers' orientation meeting is Friday.  As is often the case, we might very well go into that meeting with slots still open.  As I write this, we have slots still open.  The wait continues.


If you are out of town, the filmmakers' orientation meeting is NOT worth flying in for.  It is worth a half day off from work.  It will be extremely hot, so dress for the weather.

Please do bring plenty of screeners.  These are not only for the press, but also for our key personnel.  We like to have them screen the movies ahead of time because: 1) they are too busy to see them in the theatre, and 2) to help the buzz on each of your movies.  When someone wonders in the lobby and asks about what movie they should see, it's nice to have a team there who know all of the movies and can help.

Those of you still waiting to hear, hang in there.  We are still hashing things out.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Don't Stop The Presses

Just a quick note...

You're going to start seeing some press about our official slate.  You're going to start hearing squeals of excitement from people who have heard they got into the festival.

Please note.  As of this morning, we still have 2 slots to fill for narrative features.

We still haven't programmed any docs.

We still haven't finalized our shorts schedule.

We haven't even begun to program Dances With Kids.

But the Press must go on, so sit tight.  Keep your hands and feet inside the car and don't remove your seatbelt until the ride comes to a complete stop.

Friday, April 25, 2014

It's Own Special Hell

I just want to give a quick shout out to thank those of you who have received an invitation but haven't said anything publicly yet.  Sitting on good news is its own special hell.  It's almost as hard as waiting to hear news one way or the other.

Almost... not quite.

Those who haven't heard - sit tight, we're still working on it.  If you have suggestions for your fellow filmmakers on how to make the wait better, give a shout out!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

We're Getting Closer And Closer

The time is getting near. Keep checking your e-mails.

Again, until you get an official pass letter, you're still in the running. 

At this point, though, if you submitted before our late deadline and you haven't heard anything from us since we accepted your submission - and you get an offer for another screening... Do what's right for your film.

If you have received a second or third round e-mail from us, and you get an offer in the next few days, ask them to wait and GET IN TOUCH.  We will work something out that's best for everyone if we can.

Have a nice weekend.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Quick Observation on Women In Film

We're in the heat of programming, so no time for a long blog - but just a quick note.

Dances With Films could careless about who makes the movie as long as it's a good one.  Sure, when we enjoy a movie and then see that filmmaker isn't a rich white male, then great.  We're glad to support the cause.  But if the filmmaker is a rich white male, that's fine, too.  The merit of the film is all that counts.  Really, we don't care one way or the other.  Just please make a good movie.

The quick observation here is the number of women's names I'm seeing as Director's of Photography.  Anyone who has been in a film set knows that the camera crew - including Grip and Electric - is traditionally a testosterone-fest.  Not that you'll find bad attitudes toward women there, anymore than you'd find bad attitudes toward men in Oprah's studio audience.  A camera crew will get behind anyone who pulls their own weight and doesn't make their department look bad.  It's just that, traditionally, they've been men.

So, just a quick kudos to all of women heading up the camera department out there.  You won't get any special favors from DWF, but we're glad to have you.

Back to programming.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Hardest Part

Just a quick update:

Last night we went over and over on how to cram as many of the shorts we love into the festival - without sacrificing the features we love, too.

This year more than ever, Rule One Applies - until you get an official pass letter, you are still in the running.  We might do a little magic to find time for more movies after we announce the "official slate."

Hang on.  I know the waiting is hard.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Billy Bobble Makes A Magic Wand - The Novel Coming in December 2014

My debut novel, Billy Bobble Makes A Magic Wand, is being published by Elephant's Bookshelf Press.  It will be available as an e-book in December. 

Why am telling this to a bunch of filmmakers who mainly come here to see if they can glean some tidbit of information on how their submission is doing during Dances With Films' selection process?  One word:


In order for any independent work of art to earn its keep, people who are not friends or family of the artist must buy (or in the case of a painter or sculptor, hear about and want to buy) the artist's work.  Let's think about that for a minute.

Right now on Facebook, I have 645 friends.  If every single one of them buys my book, it will be a failure.  By that, I don't mean it will be a bad book.  This isn't about measuring good or bad art by the number of people who buy it or how much they pay for it.  This about the artist becoming self-sustainable on their art alone.  Filmmakers understand this more than most artists, since they have to raise a ton of money to create their work.  Investors aren't likely to lose money more than once or twice, so making art that turns a profit is as important to the artist as it is the distributor. 

Back to my book.  How am I going to reach beyond the 645 people I can easily bombard with Facebook? How am I going to get complete strangers to shell out cash for my little story?

There's a 2-step answer: First, get good reviews.  Second, get those reviews out beyond my 645 friends.

Luckily the literary world is full of people who love to read and write.  Being dyslexic, I have never been one of those crazed readers, but I'm glad they exist.  These voracious reader/writers often blog about what they are reading, so independent publishers like Elephant's Bookshelf Press find the most influential bloggers and beg borrow or steal reviews.  Hopefully, these reviews written on widely read blogs will be seen by people who are not in my 645 friend-pool. 

That's one way it works for books.  How does it work for movies?

If you're reading this blog to find out how your film is doing in the selection process, you already know one of the answers.  Get your movie into film festivals.  Those laurels go a long way into letting strangers know that you made a real movie.

But, for many of you, Dances With Films has just sent a letter asking you how you're going to promote your Los Angeles screening.  "What do you mean?" asks the inexperienced filmmaker.  "I thought that was the festival's job."

It is, and DWF does a fantastic job of promoting… the festival.  It's up to you to promote your movie.

That job will be easier once you have reviews, but do you really want your film to play to an empty house when the critics and distributors are there?  I don’t think so.

There is no one right answer to how you're going to get people off their couches and into the theatre for your movie.  Truth be told, if the cast and crew all come and bring a few friends, you'll do okay for your premiere.  If you're satisfied with okay, then great. 

If you want a career, you're going to need a line around the block.  You're going to need us to add another screening because you turned away a whole second audience.  Even that won't guarantee that your movie has a successful run, but it'll help.  Every little bit helps.

I've said it before on this blog and others, but I'll say it again.  Book publishing and movie distribution have become so similar that it's hard to tell them apart.  Both are transcoding files for iTunes, Amazon, Nook, etc.  Both are trying to tweak their poster/cover art so the thumbnail image will catch the casual shopper's eye.  Both are trying get their metadata just right to make sure browse engines find them.  Both are trying to dial in the right download price for the right time in the release.

Normally, in the off season for Dances With Films, I don't blog at all.  This summer, look for entries about the independent publishing process, in the hopes that you'll gain some insight into the independent film process.

Why am I doing this?  Duh! I want you to buy – and also enjoy – my book!

Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Let's Talk About Pace

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  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.