Monday, April 30, 2012

I'll Bring the Booze If You Bring the Coffee

That sounds like a country song - and it's a great tune to hear. 

We very much encourage filmmakers to support each other in ramping up to the festival, during the craziness that is the festival - and for as long as you're on the circuit.  You never know, you might be able to room together and save some bucks when you find yourselves at the same screenings down the road.  We've had alumni get together on projects that have come back to screen years later.

So let the networking begin!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Learning From Last Year

And this point, it's worth it to take a look at a post from about this time last year.

Why and What Next?

Brag Board 2012

Some - not all - invitations have gone out to films for year 15 of Dances With Films. 

Did you get one?

It's too early to send out a press release - but I think a happy shout out here wouldn't hurt.

If you don't get in - and remember WAIT FOR AN OFFICIAL PASS LETTER - but you do have success at other festivals, feel free to come rub our noses in it.  In truth, some of our favorite movies for one reason or another don't make the cut, so we'll be glad to hear of your progress.

So - brag away in the comments section.  Make sure you choose to get updates for new comments and as the year goes by you can follow each other's success on the festival circuit.

Congrats to those who have made it.  And best wishes to those that will make it done the line.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My Pet Peeve

Filmmakers that don't get back to us.

Check your e-mails, people!

Of course, if you're reading this blog, then you're probably not guilty of this.

I can't tell you how frustrating it is to find a movie you like out of all the submissions.  Fight for it in the competition for precious screening times.  Then have the filmmaker not answer e-mails.

Every year one or two movies don't get in the festival because they never got back to us.


Monday, April 23, 2012

If At First You Don't Succeed...

Notifications have not gone out yet, so sit tight.

It is getting late for not hearing anything, though.  If you haven't heard a peep from us, the writing might not be on the wall yet, but the taggers are suiting up.

If that's case - and even if it isn't - you might want to enter a 2-Minute 2-Step script.  If you don't get your movie in the festival, you can still get your movie in the festival by making another one!  Even if you do get in, you can take half a day to make a movie and have two screenings!

So - hedge your bets.  Write a 2-page or less script and submit it.  You've got little to lose; you'll walk away with another film on your resume, and possibly a sweet Canon camera!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Anyone Got Class? - Study Filmmaking Here

Yes, I'm hanging out my shingle.

If you'll notice, on the menu above, I've added a section for CLASSES.  I'm just starting this up and would love any and all relevant thoughts you guys might have on the subject.

Thanks in advance.

MOVIE SELECTION UPDATE - We're taking a second look at every movie.  Last night I watched a feature that one screener had passed on.  I loved it, and so did Leslee, so we're contacting them for more information.  Last time that happened, the movie that was originally a pass, won the festival!

Good luck everyone.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Ask The Programmers 2012

Okay, we've come to the time of year when I run out of things to say.

I'll pause while those who know me make a joke about that.

While we're waiting, I noticed some people commenting on our Facebook page about this blog.  That's cool, but I don't go on the Facebook page that often.  If you want to make sure I see something, post it here.

Having said that, and not having anything else to say, it's time to throw it out to you guys.  Do you have questions? 



Favorite articles? 


Bueller...?  Bueller...?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Festival of the Unknowns

It's funny how objects change depending on our relationship to them.

At the beginning of each season the DVDs are just a pile of meaningless titles. Some have cover art. Most are just homemade DVD's with a title, running time, tracking and contact information, one last desperate note from the filmmaker, etc. making for a mess of multicolored sharpie scribble. This doesn't change much after screening the movies except the titles start to ring a bell.

Then, after watching hundreds of movies over a few months, it comes time to discuss who is in and who's not. We final programmers go through every single title, regardless of its scores, to discuss it. Most often, these conversations start with, "Is that the one about...?" If we can't remember it, we pull out the DVD – which still looks just like all the others – and pop it in the machine.

We don't have to watch the whole thing again, since we've seen it before. This is just a reminder. "Oh, yeah, okay..." I hit eject and the DVD has transformed. The scribbles all mean something now. The key art, if there is any, makes sense. This once-standard DVD has become as unique to me as the people who made it. Myself and a few others now hold a good portion of its Fate in our hands.

Deciding whether it is still in the running, or out until further notice, changes the DVD once again. It now looks like a decision made, or closer to being made – and for us – that's a good thing. We have a lot of those to make in the next week or so. If it's still in the running, the DVD feels lighter, happier. If it has been set aside to hope for an open slot along the way, there is a sadness to it. It almost feels heavier.

For some, we need more information. An e-mail is fired off, and the DVD is put back in the bin it came from. Somewhere in the world its creator has an anxiety attack trying to guess what that request means. I can tell you. It means your once-anonymous DVD is now known by the festival of the unknowns.

Good luck everyone, and if you haven't heard from us, that doesn't mean anything yet. Sometimes we don't get in touch because we know, no matter what, your movie is in. Sometimes we're just waiting to see how things shake out.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Times of Our Lives

As the festival gets closer, I start waxing nostalgic, which has lately turned my thoughts toward times of our lives. Dances With Films festival lasts a week. One week out of fifty-two in a year. One week out of thousands of weeks in a lifetime, and yet, when I see filmmakers I met during my one week in 2000 – people I might only see for an hour or so a year – it's like were never been apart. We shared something special together that only we can understand.

Life in production is like that. You might work on a film for a month, a week, a day, or years. However long you do, there's something special about that time. There's something special about the bonds you make. Whether you get to share a week with the filmmakers in this year's festival or not, I hope you will all appreciate the special times you've already had. Friendships forged in these conditions are rare and wonderful. Enjoy them.

After our screening last night, Leslee and I looked over the list of short films. "There are a lot of great films," she said. "It's going to be a good year."

I can't help but think of the week or two we have ahead. So many good films means not all of them will get in. This makes for one of those stressful, friend-forging, times – as it can become very emotional. We each have favorites that we fight for and the pushing and shoving can get intense. So if one of us snaps at you between now and May 1st, please understand. It's not you, it's life as a festival programmer.

When I speak at panels, or talk to filmmakers, I'm often asked what they can do to increase their odds of getting in. The first answer is make a great film. Now you've done that, and your great film is up against other great films – so here are some next level tips.

• Rule #1: Be a good person. Between now and our announcement of the line-up, we may or may not be in touch to get details about where you are now with your film – premiere status, etc. So, the Golden Rule applies.

• Check your e-mail! Check your spam filter. If you made a special e-mail for your film that's separate from your work/personal one, check it twice a day. Every year we have some filmmaker that falls off the map. Don't let that be you. If we can't get you by e-mail, we'll call, fax, whatever – but e-mail is our first choice.

• Have your own marketing plan. Yes, that's right, YOUR marketing plan. We market the festival, you market your screening, both to industry and the public. Start thinking now, if you haven't already, about how you're going to make sure the critic or industry professional in the audience isn't the only one there. Nothing impresses distributors like a line around Hollywood Blvd.

• Be patient. It is in our best interest to notify you as quickly as possible if you're in, so asking a thousand times starts to break Rule #1. If you have an offer at another festival, sure, get in touch – politely. We won't be able to give you a legally binding answer as to whether you're in or not, but the more we ask you think about your options, the more you should think and not act.

• Yes, we will notify you if you've not gotten into the festival, and we will do so as soon as we can. As I've said before, films drop out, don't get back in touch, break rule #1, etc. etc. – so it's not until we have everything locked that we send out our famous pass letters.

• Use this blog: If you look back to about this time last year, you'll see people asking questions in the comments section. Chances are, you have the same question. Chances are, the answer hasn't changed. If you still have a question – or just want to shout out to the world how excited you are – don't hesitate to post in any of the blog post's comments section.

I know the waiting sucks. I know that you're going to see posts on Facebook from other filmmakers, saying "We're in the second round of DWF," and you haven't gotten that notice. It doesn't mean anything at this stage. Sit tight. We've been doing this for 15 years. We'll all make it through together.

Thanks for reading. Good luck!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

As The Deadline Nears ... I Hit The Jackpot!

As our final, ridiculously late, deadline approaches (April 9th), filmmakers who have submitted start to get antsy. Perfectly understandable. I've been there. I feel your pain. The thing to keep in mind is that, until you have one of our famously polite pass letters, your film is still in the running. Over the years we have had filmmakers turn us down thinking they'll get into a bigger festival – they almost always resubmit the next year with their world premiere status intact. We have had filmmakers disappear, not answering our e-mails, phone calls, etc. We've had filmmakers freak out, saying they aren't ready. In all of those cases, we've reached back to movies that were on the bubble and pulled them in.

Sometimes, we have one open slot and two good films. Film A has a delightful filmmaker who has been understandably anxious, occasionally posting a question or two, but not being a pest about it. Film B's creator rants on the boards about how festival's don't meet their deadlines, demanding answers, and generally being a pain in the behind. All things being equal, who do you think gets in?

There is a reason we have such a strong, active alumni.

Moving on; I want to say a word about the features. Each week after the shorts screening sessions we pull features out of the bin to take home to watch and review. Last week, I was the last one at the troth, so I just grabbed four films that no one else wanted. Picking good films with nothing to go off of but a title and maybe some packaging is like playing the lottery – you might think you can hedge your odds, but it's all luck. Mostly this year my luck has been bad. I've seen some okay films, but nothing to get me excited – and, don't worry... that means nothing about your particular movie. I haven't seen all of the features by a long shot. I hear good things, and look forward to watching them as the process continues.

That said, last week I hit the jackpot! Four terrific films in a row. From Ballet to Baseball, from the Northeast to the Northwest, you guys were rocking it. All kinds of styles – each with a clear filmmaker's voice. From commercially formula movies that were spot on – not as easy to do as people think – to quiet, personal stories driven by character. From the masculine to the feminine, you had it covered. Nice.

On to last night's shorts:

The accidental theme last night was "people getting dressed for... dates, work, we don't know what." We had five films, each with long scenes where nothing happens but people putting their clothes on, putting on makeup, showering, etc. etc. Yeah, we get it. They're getting dressed, we know how that works.

This led me to an important teaching phrase I made up last night. "Only show us what we want or need to see." When shooting and editing, ask yourself about each set up or shot, "Does the audience need to see this?" and "Do they want to see this?" If the answer to both questions is "no," and you're not making a horror/twisted film – where we enjoy looking away in disgust – cut the shot.

Every year we get three-to-five blind date movies. We saw two last night. One good, one not-so-much. If you're thinking of making a blind date movie, understand that you're going to have to up your game, because every comedy filmmaker in the world is doing the same thing. In the bad films of this genre, we are forced to watch a date that's that dull and boring just to see how dull and boring it is. When you're facing the blank page, thinking what to write, and you have a choice between dull and boring or hilariously horrific, which do you think is the better choice? We, as viewers, have the same choice.

Which do you think we're going to make?

I'll leave you with that question. Thanks for reading. Get to writing your 2-Minute 2-Step entries, and I'll see you on Hollywood Blvd.