Thursday, September 23, 2010

...And We're Back

It's getting close to that time of year again. Dances With Films will be putting out a call for entries soon, which means screening will start shortly thereafter, so once again this blog will take you behind the scenes of our selection process.

For those of you new to the blog, the idea is this: Year-after-year we see patterns in the kind of movies floating around the festival circuit. For several years it was the Romantic Comedy that was neither – written and directed by someone with serious issues with their opposite gender. Twenty-somethings drinking too much is always a favorite bad idea. And let's not forget the million mocumentary movie march.

I get tired of seeing the same kind of film over and over, so this blog is selfish on my part. I want future filmmakers to read about what's not working and fix their scripts before it's too late. If you're thinking about making a movie, I hope you'll read every entry and take notes. You might not make the best film ever made, but you certainly won't make the worst.

If you're submitting this year: no, I will not mention titles or names; yes, I might drop enough hints to let you know I'm talking about your film – but only if I'm saying good things. When I talk about what's not working, it's more about trends. If one movie does something that doesn't work, good for them. Failure usually means the artist is trying something new and difficult. Repeated failures by multiple artists means something is wrong with the collective standards. If you read my criticism about a movie that goes on too long, and you think I've just told the world that your movie sucks – trust me, I'm talking about several films with the same problem.

What if you aren't a filmmaker? Not to worry, I believe strongly in artistic cross-training. My degree is in acting/directing theatre, and my current projects are novels. The skills in one discipline definitely translate to another, and I try to point out the similarities.

Case in point. The other night at the Dances With Films alumni get together we were talking about submission fees. We all agreed that filmmakers should include in their initial budgets a film festival category – submission fees, travel, promotion, etc. Among my novelist friends it has become commonplace to budget any advance money you might get toward promotions, travel, conferences, etc.

Okay, not the best example of artistic cross-training, but it's the best I can do on the off season.

TIP OF THE MONTH: If you are using one of the few services out there to submit to multiple festivals with just one submission form, consider contacting the festivals individually and asking for a discount. The services take a large percentage of your submission fee from the festival, so you might save anywhere from 10-25% by asking to submit directly. Sure, it's more work for you, and many festivals might not take direct submissions – but it doesn't hurt to ask.

Thanks for reading.