Why Filmmakers Should Go to Fests…

Posted in Diary of a Directrix
February 20th, 2010 by Devi Snively (The Directrix)

_MG_9818Once again, I’ve been asked by a filmmaking peer what the value of attending film fests is.  As I responded to his e-mail, it dawned on me how nearly everything going on in my life right now is directly related to my having attended festivals:  my projects, my friends, my perspective, my lifestyle.

LBOH_LogoThanks to 4 different fests, I am in pre-production for our next film.  Thanks to various others, I’m working out the final details for a distribution deal for Death in Charge with 4 other shorts.  I’ve written a draft of a feature that is currently in pre-production with a fest friend directing. I’ve teamed up with another amazing director I met at a fest on a multi-national co-production for which he will direct, I’ve already written and we’re currently packaging. I’m collaborating on a book with two fabulously talented and well-published authors (one whom I met at a fest). I have just kicked off a new collaborative effort with 5 other female directors (none of whom I’d know without fests) that will be an invaluable complement to the new feature.  I’ve even contributed my two cents on this very topic to a new book by another fest friend I’ll be sure to plug once it’s available to the public. In addition I have some fun new interviews lined up with several different publications/broadcasting organizations within the next month and can you guess why?.

trippincardsAll of these things are the direct result of connections I made out on the fest circuit.  A few other fun tidbits of news also directly resulting from fests, materialized the past few days, but I’ll wait to share details until things are more solidified.  Suffice to say, trippin’s had a very good week.

steampunk-teapot_01_rlUIU_17621So, yes, festivals are worth accruing the unpleasant  debt that’s often required to cover entry submissions and travel expenses.  In all honesty, it pains me we cannot afford to enter trippin’ into more fests than we have.  We sort of tapped ourselves out with Death in Charge, and fees for features are almost double those for shorts (besides, I STILL can’t even afford a freakin’ teapot.)  But we still try to enter a few here and there knowing how very important they are, not only for the life of the film, but the invaluable experience we gain.    Meanwhile, Death’s vast success has opened a bunch of exciting doors, many I never could have predicted.

The key is to not try to force a specific outcome.  One never knows why a festival could prove to be valuable – whether it’s the people one meets, the insights she gains, the inspiration that transpires as a result, or a host of other outcomes.  Of the 100 or so I’ve likely attended by ow (at least 25 I just counted in this past year alone), I can think of maybe 4 that did not result in at least some significant contribution to our efforts. Nonetheless, they’ve all been fun, even when they’re not specifically career-enhancing, which should still count for something, right?

hollywood-videoThis was on my mind as I ventured into a Hollywood Video the other day.  I was shocked by how many friends’ films I recognized on the shelves. How fascinating to see how some of their cover art (and even movie titles) had changed from their fest runs.  Some were selling the film I’ve seen, others were setting viewers up for disappointment.  A distribution company’s goal is to get people to rent or buy a movie, no matter if it’s under false pretenses.  But a filmmaker should be wary of such tactics.  hollywood_videoYou’re only as good as your last film according to the powers-that-be.” It makes you look like a bad filmmaker if you set your audience up with certain expectations only to deliver something completely different.  People like to have at least some idea of what to expect  in advance.  Cool cover art might get them to take a chance on your movie, for sure, but it could actually hurt you if a viewer feels she’s been betrayed by it. And if the audience isn’t happy, it looks like you didn’t do your job.

20080707-giix6wtyrmxb6fqwb4pjk2qp7dI know a lot of friends who’ve played but a few fests (or none at all) and run straight into a distribution deal. Many seem far more interested in making money, than doing “what’s best for the film.”  I wish them the best of course, but so far it doesn’t seem to be panning out for many the way they’d hoped.  Interestingly, across the board, it seems like the ones who’ve made the fest rounds first have fared the best, not only with the films with which they’ve toured, but with their endeavors in general.   Watching one’s film play to numerous festival audiences offers the chance to get to know the film you’ve actually made (not necessarily the one in your head you thought you were making.)  You’ll learn  who responds to what and how.   You’ll discover who your audience is.  Only then can you truly feel confident about marketing.

fantasia bedfestAnyhoo, mere fun aside, these reasons and more are why I personally think festivals are invaluable.  They offer education, insight, market research, and a chance to see your work and that of others with objective audience reactions.  Plus, they remind one to live outside her films as well, which can be easy to forget.  That said, I have to slip back into a fantasy world of my own making now.  We have a screenplay reading to prepare for tomorrow.  If you’re near Mishawaka, Indiana – come out and join us!

3 Responses to “Why Filmmakers Should Go to Fests…”

  1. [...] still kicking.  Our little film is having quite the life.  A few months back I blogged about the importance of film fests and I think I’m about due for  one on the importance of making short films as I’ve [...]

  2. [...] Yes, a blog’s important to keep cast/crew/friends/fans updated on important news – in our case, primarily festivals, reviews, awards, etc.  We also try to offer some insights into filmmaking, festivals and related topics when we feel we’ve something to say.  But there’s a lot more to it.  It’s exposure, brand recognition and offers a host of unknown perks one might not have ever guessed (similar to my aforementioned reasons filmmakers should go to fests.) [...]

  3. Clair says:

    Brilliant Devi!! I hope the reading tomorrow is very valuable. XOs to you and Agustin.

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