Sunday, May 3, 2015

Joys and Heartaches

I know many of you are waiting for one of those few letters of acceptance that have yet to go out.

Yes, that's right folks. Our competition films are going to be announced in the morning (Monday, May The 4th be with you) - but believe it or not, we are still working to fill some screening slots. 

Remember, nothing is decided until you get a pass letter, and those should all be out by the end of the week.

But that's not the point of this article.

There were somethings I didn't say at the Orientation Meeting that I meant to. Nothing big or deeply insightful, but hopefully helpful - if not at Dances With Films, then at whatever festivals may screen your film.


A good producer always has two extra tickets in his or her pocket, ready to hand to any VIP who might show up unannounced. As we said at the orientation, we don't give out industry comps. The people you want to use them never do, and the lost revenue is pretty much what kills theatre in LA. Any executive worth talking to can expense the price and should respect that DWF wouldn't have survived for 18 years by giving away free tickets. Still, some big shots in this town are either jerks, or legitimately can't afford a movie ticket anymore than you can. Unfortunately, you can't afford to not have them there, so make sure you have a pair of tickets ready. If they go unused, the cost is a cheap insurance policy against an awkward situation.


We said this at the orientation, but it's worth repeating. It's a good policy to check in with the festival to find out which restaurant sponsors might have deals on a screening party. Not only can you get a good price, but you'll be helping the festival tremendously by supporting those who support them.

This also applies to just hanging out, getting lunch, a drink, etc. Look through the program and go to the bars, restaurants and shops that have taken out ads. Wear your festival badges and make sure the staff know you've come in because they are a sponsor. If you want to have some fun, go make rude gestures to those merchants who didn't support the festival. (That's a joke ... really). 

Still on parties. Consider having everyone meet for dinner or drinks BEFORE your movie. This is helpful in getting a crowd. Old people like me, might not like the idea of going to a 9:00 movie with the obligation of a party afterward - but it's easy to meet before hand. This also gives you a time buffer for those people who are perpetually late.

Program ads. 

Some festivals give a hard and heavy pitch to filmmakers about buying an add in their program. They promise that distributors will see your ad, fall in love with your movie sight unseen, and make you a million dollar over-your-budget offer based on the ad alone. Don't let this shock you, but that's not going to happen. Sorry.

But there are some good reasons to buy an add in the DWF program. For one thing, it's not a cheap piece of newsprint. This program is collectible. They cost us more money than a xeroxed copy stapled in the corner, and your ad will help insure we're able to make the program something you'll cherish for a long time.

Also, a program ad is a fantastic place to thank your investors, cast, crew, mother-in-law, etc. Then, on the off chance that a distributor does flip through our program - and, actually, they do - they might not offer you a deal based on your ad, but they will know you're a class act.

In case of emergency. 

If for some strange reason you haven't given us a back-up copy of your film (Blu-Ray, DVD, etc.), bring it with you to the screening. I say this so I won't have to drive like a bat-out-of-hell back to your hotel room to get the back-up copy when it turns out the one on the screen was copied three frames out of sync. (True story, in the Tape days). 

See everyone's movie! 

I know it's hard to do, and chances are you won't be able to see the film that screens just before or after yours - but ask to trade screeners or Vimeo Links. The only thing worse than not winning an award yourself, is knowing nothing about the movie that did win. 

And finally - remember to have fun!

These eleven days are like summer camp for grown-ups, a brief time in your life that you will never forget. Whatever happens - good or bad, at Dances With Films or some other festival - celebrate it. You're an artist in the company of your peers presenting your work to the world. Damned few people on the planet will ever know the joys and heartache that can bring. The chance to have either, or both, is a blessing. 

Thanks for reading.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the posts and insight!
if we received a round 3 letter, but nothing yet, we probably didn't make it in right?
Either way its been a super cool opportunity!

RSMellette said...

Put it this way... your odds aren't as good as they were last week, but we do have slots open, so there is still a good possibility.

You have a super cool attitude and from the round 3 status, a good movie, so you'll do fine wherever you land.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Thanks a bunch for the response! Good luck with putting it all together! Its been a neat couple of weeks following the action!

Anonymous said...

I'm all but certain I didn't make the cut at this juncture but I want to express thanks to your these posts and updates and just the overall transparency of the process. a little light goes a long way for filmmakers sitting in the dark, so thank you.

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