With the loss of Without A Box's forum there isn't a good place for filmmakers to ask or answer each other's questions. 

So if you have something on your mind that's not covered in the blog, please feel free to us the comments section of this page to ask any arts-related question.  Filmmakers, writers, actors, visual artists, musicians, audience members, ask away.

If you see a question you think you can help with, dive in as well.


RSMellette said...

This is the place to ask me - or anyone who might know the answer - your questions.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for offering this.

JoeB said...

So does a production company still require a treatment of the movie? If so, there are many books available showing what the authors think is the proper way to discuss the movie. But, do you have any personal experience selling a concept for a movie without a script being written?

RSMellette said...

Selling a script based on a treatment is only done with well-established screenwriters.

Usually, a production company will already have a history with that writer so they know s/he will deliver.

If you're a first time screenwriter, you're better off writing the script then looking for a manager/producer to help you attach a production company or other talent.

JoeB said...

I received word last night to get my legal team together and start looking for a producer for the TV series I submitted last week to a consultant in LA. He was recommended to me by someone I trust.
I have the legal team in place and am now wondering how I go about finding a credible producer. Any suggestions?

RSMellette said...

If someone has told you to go find your own producer, they have, effectively said, "Thanks, but no thanks."

Granted, this is better than several other things they could tell you to go do to yourself, so there's an upside, there - but you don't have a lot to brag about... yet.

Now you have to figure out what they meant by "producer." For a TV series, that can mean "Show runner" which translates to: a head writer who has been the show runner for a series before.

It could also mean a production company - that would be a group like Imagine or Village Raod Show (both on the huge end) - who can provide soup-to-nuts production services.

They might also mean a financial producer - meaning money. If you can find the money (ballpark - $100,000 to a million, depending on a ton of issues), send me an e-mail and I'll produce your pilot. So will any other filmmaker-for-hire.

For more information, go over to my blog group on FROM THE WRITE ANGLE. Do a search there on Hollywood to find my 3-part series.

Good luck.

David H. Steinberg said...

What constitutes a "known" actor for selection purposes? My feature film has some familiar TV actors and some cameos from recognizable faces, but there's no bankable stars.

RSMellette said...

We get this question a lot, and it's always a judgement call - especially as we get older, the stars get younger, and we loose touch.

First, our rule only applies to films in competition, so submit no matter what.

Our first rule of thumb is "can this artist get you funding?" Could you walk into a bank and say, "So-&-So just signed to do my film" and have them say, "great! Have a seat."

Another general test - do you have to give a resume title after saying the name? "You know, John Smith from Law and Order Chicago." If so, you're safe.

Last year we had a film that didn't have any one big star but the collection of cast members made it a bit too much - so we screened it out of competition. Hey, a screening in LA is a screening in LA.

Good luck

David H. Steinberg said...

Ha, exactly! It's always, "We have so and so from that TV show. No? You don't watch that one? Well, he's big in TV."

Sent in the submission today...

RSMellette said...

Excellent. I look forward to seeing that movie, you know, with that guy, from that show - you know?

Shane said...

Hey Robert,
I have a question about short film length. I am in post on a musical comedy short film. It is running around 32 minutes in length. I have heard form other filmmakers that this can be a bad thing. Programmers would rather have more films in the fest than less. The film looks great and I am very happy with the result. But, I dont want to burn the bridge before I cross it... What are your opinions on this? What is the cut off on time to be more fest friendly? Or am I just being neurotic?

RSMellette said...

Mark Twain was once asked how long a mule's legs should be. "Long enough to reach the ground."

When short filmmakers ask me if they can ask me a question, I say "cut it in half" before they even ask. 99% of the time I'll be right.

That said, if you like your movie at 32 minutes, then that's how long it is. Yes, that's a difficult time to program, but if every one of the 1,920 seconds of screen time are brilliant, you'll get programmed. You're not going to get into as many festivals as a 2 or 10 minute short, but you might get more attention.

Then again, if only 1,900 of those seconds are brilliant, then the movie might FEEL like it's 2 hours long and you won't get programmed at all. Funny how that works.

Shane said...

Thanks Robert. We have worked on a more fest friendly cut of the picture by editing out a song. Got it down to about 26 minutes. I was really hoping we could find a way to get it to 20 minutes but that is just not possible. LOL! I knew going into it taht this was going to be a long short. I am extremely happy with the film so I will be happy with the time! Thanks for the input.

Anonymous said...

Hi Robert! Festival strategy question: If I get rejected from the big fests I submitted to (you guys are in that group), when do I submit to the smaller fests? Should it be the next film festival cycle bc I will have missed most entry deadlines? Or should I just start submitting now even though I haven't heard back from anyone yet (no rejections, no acceptances) and it will be expensive? My film should "age" decently (not news-type doc) but still I worry about it going stale. Apologies if you've covered this a million times...

RSMellette said...

Good question, and one that's hard to answer. You're smart to understand how a film might age, and that yours won't. You could spend a year submitting to your A-list fests, then consider a re-edit based on feedback, and then shot gun out the next year. Might help spread the cost as well. Some fests say your movie as to have been finished by certain dates, but how are supposed to define "finished"?

You've already made the best step in this game - understanding that you have to have a strategy.

Good luck

Nathan Resnich said...

Dear Robert,
Our feature got into a small but well-respected film fest. My friend who is another festival scheduler says that I might want to hold off any more festival submissions because now with exposure my film will get invited to more festivals. Is that good advice?

RSMellette said...

First, congratulations!

Second, if you've submitted to DWF, do send us a an update on your status, so we can keep an eye out.

About festivals that invite films, I don't know much. After DWF, I was invited to submit to the Riverrun Film Festival in NC, but they were tiny at the time. Being from NC, I jumped all over that, and we had a great experience in Brivard.

About a year later we were invited to the NY International Film & Video Festival, which of course is a scam. They charge a $300 entry fee, which is "refundable" if you don't get in. EVERYONE GETS IN. They would then do a full court press to try to get more money from the filmmakers. We did our research, knew they were a scam, but we needed a screening in NY and they would do a second on in LA. $300 is cheap for two screenings, so we did it and said "no" about 1,000 times to every other solicitation for money.

I can't imagine that top teer fests, or even top boutique fests are inviting filmmakers to their festival. There are distributors out there begging to place their films in destination fests all over the world. What kind of fest has to go looking for submissions?

I think you're still going to have to submit, but you'll be changing your stradegy from a World Premiere to building your pedigree. You might want to contact the festival you're in to find out what other fests scout them. Find out what films were in last year and contact those producers to see how their year went.

In other words, do your homework.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Trying to squeeze this one in before the deadline. I made a documentary feature. How many docs get submitted and how do you end up programming? Thank you!

RSMellette said...

I don't have the database on my computer, so I'm not sure exactly how many docs get submitted, but we do get them and we do screen them.

Since the running time on docs can vary wildly - a one-hour feature has no market, but a 50-minute doc can run on TV - we will sometimes run combine like-subjected docs into one screening block. Our challenge is always to find a film that is both well done AND might find broad appeal to a Southern Califonria audience.

Good luck. I look forward to seeing it.

David Coombes said...

Hi, Robert,

I came here from WAB forums > Facebook's dead page. I hope you can offer some advice.

I'm a new (rank amateur, untrained) filmmaker who's made a couple of animated shorts (for Britain's Got Talent, which turned me down). Someone suggested I enter them in film festivals, so I entered the soonest near to my home country that I thought I could afford to attend, which was Cannes in France (both Short Film Corner and Independent FF).

Now I've actually been accepted to the Short Film Corner, I'm suddenly in a quandry, because I'm dead poor and from the sounds of it, Cannes costs a fortune. As an opportunity to meet people in the business, it's obviously great, but not if you can't afford to attend their cocktail parties or whatever.

I reckon I can rent a mobile home in Antibles and commute on the bus. I can just about afford that, but will it be worth it? Or will I be standing around surrounded by people with slick marketing campaigns and stuff and being the odd one out? I'd be completely on my own as no-one else was involved in making the films, and I fear it'll be a lonely, expensive experience. I should be dead excited at this rare opportunity, the only good thing to ever happen to me, but I make so little money it's become a worry. :(

Thanks for your time.

RSMellette said...

First of all - HUGE congratulations! If you haven't taken a moment to take a deep breath and enjoy, do so, you've earned it.

Will Cannes be a lonely, expensive, experience - quite possibly, and you're wise to foresee that - but it will also be the best experience of your life. And trust me, you won't be the only person there pinching pennies - but you might be the coolest, because I can tell from just this one post that you have a charm about you that the glitteratti will love.

And don't forget, most of the talent who have made it big in this industry come from nothing. They remember scraping together loose change to buy a $1 taco - so stand proud among your peers, 'cause that's who they are, your equals.

Also, you'll have a filmmaker's pass, that will get you into most things free - where there is plenty of free food and drink from sponsors.

This is also a good time to hit up your friends & family. Throw a "Don't let me starve at Cannes" party. If you live in a small town, get in touch with the local newspaper/TV news - tell them your story and see if they might not want to do a piece on your plight.

In other words, have fun with it. And remember, the festival may be expensive and lonely, but sitting on your couch is definitely lonely - and if you miss the chance to make professional connections, very expensive!

Good luck!

JF said...

My film was accepted to the Cannes Short Film Corner, but it is hard to get a sense of whether that is prestigious.

Do they accept everyone who pays the fee? Or is it a selective process?

It has been hard to determine this from their materials.


David Coombes said...

Thanks so much Rob for the reply. That helps considerably. Being in the dark makes everything seem so much scarier!

@ JF - Yeah, that's something I'm very unsure of. At first I considered Cannes as hugely prestiguous. Then I went looking for info and there's very little apart from the website, which described it as a mammoth film sales pitch. There are 2000 short films at the SFC, and I imagine a meat market for filmmakers.

I don't believe for a minute that they accept everyone who enters, as they have a reputation for being a showcase for the best that they need to preserve. That's what scam 'festivals' do. But then I'm a complete noob so what do I know?!

(I can't believe there are no open discussion forums for filmmakers. There are for everything else.)

RSMellette said...

Yeah, not having a forum sucks, but spread the word, all are welcome here.

I sent an e-mail to Cannes press folks and invited them to reply here, or send me a reply and I'd post a summary, but no word yet.

Hey, keep us posted about your experience. Hope you both have a blast.

Anonymous said...

I noticed that you can't have distribution and still screen at DWF. Does that mean just no studio-financed films, or does it exclude indie films that were able to get a deal after shopping it around. I ask because we have a sales agent trying to get screeners to distributors (no luck yet) but if we landed one would we be disqualified from festivals?

RSMellette said...

First of all, our very last late-late deadline is coming up, so get that sucker in.

Second - I believe we have had movies in the festival who landed distribution between being accepted and screening - so you're good there. The idea is not to punish a film that's done well - but to help those that need it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Robert,
Just gleaning from the conversation here that you guys let filmmakers who enter features where they are at in the process - eg 1st round, 2nd round etc. Can you explain that process a little further please, and secondly, if one hasn't heard from you by now should they be worried... very worried? (this is not about me, but a friend of mine you understand :) )

RSMellette said...

Ah, it's Spring, that time of year when young filmmaker's fancies turn toward the never-ending question... "Did I get in?" "Should I be worried?"

Should you be worried? If you've made the best film you could make, no. You've done your job. We're the ones that have to worry, we have a whole festival to put on.

I'll be covering the process step by step on the main blog page, so keep an eye out there. In the meantime, don't worry - we have features that haven't been seen once yet, and our late-late-late deadline isn't until the 9th, I think. So the agony of waiting can continue until sometime into the first week of May.

Anonymous said...

have you guys picked the films already? If I havent been notified am I to assume I didnt get in? Thank you

RSMellette said...

Guess you haven't been reading my blog, huh?

Andrew S said...

Thanks, Robert for including filmmakers in the process. Having had my film accepted into a few festivals, and rejected from many, it's a nail biting process and brings out the worst in all of us. I just had the lovely experience of having to turn down a really good festival that wanted a NY premiere, and we had already committed to another festival. We have good days and bad during this process, more bad, but it's great that you're honest and give us some insight into your selection process. For any filmmaker who hasn't been accepted into a festival, don't give up! Keep at it, and you will get there. Good luck to all applicants!

Spencer L.E. said...

Hi Robert,
Thank you and shout-out to you and your forum here. Your feedback through your site has made my film better. After much rejection and feedback, I went back to the editing room and subsequently my film got accepted into 2 international fests. Possibly more on the way, one can hope. How do screening fees work? Is it the thing where if fests do pay them, they will offer, and it's rude to ask?

RSMellette said...

Good advice, Andrew!

Spencer, I'm so glad to hear my notes from behing-the-scenes of the festival have helped. That's the whole point of it - to make movies better.

I'm not sure what kind of screening fees you're talking about. If you mean "buy in" festivals, where you pay in the hundreds of dollars to have your film in the festival, then yes, they'll show your grandparents 8 mm home movies if you pay them.

Sometimes this can be an okay thing for a film - but usually it isn't. It's okay if the fees are less than it would cost you to rent your own screening room AND you don't pay them another dime. If you choose to go this route, don't tell anyone you're associated with the festival - just promote as if you're the only film. And again DON'T PAY FOR ANYTHING ELSE, they will push to up-sell "booth space" featured program ads, etc.

For the record, DWF does sell program ads to filmmakers, but we're very clear about what you're getting, why we need to sell the ads (we have a kick-ass program that isn't cheap to make), and what advantage you might get over the year the program is in circulation.

Again, congrats on the new edit.

Spencer L.E. said...

Hi Robert!
Sorry I should have clarified. I mean screening fee when the festival pays the filmmakers to screen their film. I'm very happy to be included in a festival without being paid a cent but one fest asked how much our screening fee was? Is this common and is it ok to ask other fests if they pay filmmakers a screening fee? What is a typical screening fee for an indie feature?

RSMellette said...

I never got so lucky.

Sounds like a good time to make a phone call to your favorite producer's rep to see if you can leverage that one payment into more - or possibly get traction on the next project.

Good luck, let us know how it goes.

Anonymous said...


Do you know when the 2012 festival schedule will be released?

RSMellette said...

Very shortly.

Anonymous said...

First off, I'm so excited about DWF this year and hats off to you guys! My question is, what should I do if I can't attend the fest where my film is screening? I really want to go, but it's impossible. Any ideas on how to promote the film and get people to see it? Anything else I should do?

RSMellette said...

As for promotion - you posted this on June 6th. The last day of screenings is June 7th. You're WAY too late to be promoting.

I have a feeling you might have screened yesterday, meaning you're also WAY too late to be asking about not being able to attend.

For those filmmakers who read this and might have the same question for next year, the answer about attending, is to send someone - anyone - with a connection to the film to come stand in for you at the Q & A after the screening.

Good luck.

Betsy Baytos said...

Hi! 'Dances with Films' on Facebook approved supporting my kickstarter campaign and I would be grateful for additional support from your wonderful blog! 'FUNNY FEET: The Art of Eccentric Dance' celebrates great visual 'comedic' dance in film, and their impact to the visual arts, with over 45 interviews completed: Red Skelton, Jerry Lewis, Dick Van Dyke, Shirley MacLaine, Chuck Jones, Al Hirschfeld, Ann Miller, Marcel Marceau and many others. Never before documented, this extraordinary documentary takes the physical theater into a universal language!
I really appreciate your support for a great film project. Sincerely~ Betsy

RSMellette said...

Kind of reminds me of the people on TV who say, "Can I say hi to my Mom?"

"You just did!"

Sounds like a great project, and you're getting the word out, so I hope you do well.

Make 'em laugh!

Anonymous said...

Your blog is a very insightful read. Thanks for taking the time to write it - it's rare to get such an open and honest first-person-account of the film-festival selection process. Especially your remarks on trends in submitted films are very helpful for an aspiring filmmaker. Kudos!

RSMellette said...

Thank you for reading. You made my most recent post more difficult to write.