Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Film Festivals

For feature films fees average about $50 per entry.  Then if you make it in, you want to be able to attend and network.  So you have to make a very well researched list and budget for all that.

Let me preface this by saying you don’t have to go this route, it’s expensive and if you have something that you think is sellable, but maybe not a good fit for festivals, skip this one and go to the next step.  That said, you only have one year of exclusivity to hit as many film festivals as you can and try to rack up some laurels.  My Toxic Backyard screened at 9 festivals (one of which was an amazing film tour) and won 2 awards.  Done and done.
The cost was high though.  I spent about $1000 just in submission fees (I submitted to a lot more festivals than I got into.) It’s more fun to talk about the places you get accepted, then all the places you’ve been rejected from.  It can be really disheartening to get all those rejections, but you have to develop a thick skin and learn not to take it personally.  Sometimes you don’t even get rejected because the screeners and programmers of the festival didn’t like your film. They might love it, but aren’t able to find a place for it with all the other films they have programmed.  Maybe it just doesn’t fit time wise and/or theme wise.  If you really want to get an idea of what film festivals have to go through to choose the films they’ll go with, volunteer to be a screener.  It’ll be good experience and film festivals need all the help they can get. 

Then there were additional costs in traveling to some of the festivals.  I couldn’t make it to all of them.  Sometimes you might get help with room and board from the festival.  They might offer free hotel rooms or at least discounts.  It never hurts to ask, if you’re planning on going. Couch surfing is a thing.  I've hosted and been hosted and had good experiences.  You also might look at youth hostels.  I've done that before too.

So what do you get out of all that?  It’s fun.  I love traveling and I love movies and this is the best possible mash up.  Your film finds audiences.  Festivals are great places to have your film showcased.  You can engage the audience, generate some buzz, and have a lot of people see your work on the big screen.  Then there’s the laurels.  Laurels say: this film was chosen with a select few out of the hundreds of other independent films made that year because someone thought it was worth seeing.  Film festival acceptances and awards say to the average viewer that someone thought this was better than the rest.

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Monday, February 23, 2015

The Cannes Film Festival Video

I finally had the chance to go over all the little snippets of video footage that Lela and I grabbed at the Cannes Film Festival with our GoPros and iPhones.  Here's a short video of our amazing time at the festival (including our celebrity red carpet walk.)


Friday, January 02, 2015

PSA for Helpmate

I just made a PSA for Helpmate, a local non-profit that helps victims of domestic violence (www.helpmateonline.org) Had a great team working with me on this one: Andy Crespo working with me behind the scenes. Morgan Purdy, Drew McDermott, and Maya all acting in a PSA that I put together entirely from still photos that have been manipulated to look like super slow motion.  I had the wonderful Billy Goodrum (http://www.billygoodrum.com/) writing a beautiful original score. Check it out:



Monday, December 29, 2014

My Toxic Backyard on TV

My Toxic Backyard finally had it's broadcast debut.  It aired on the local CW channel here in Asheville at 5:30am on a Sunday morning (because that's what I could afford.) I ended up buying air time to have it broadcast and with Diamond Brand as an associated sponsor that really helped defray some of the cost.

I submitted My Toxic Backyard back in July to our local PBS channel, but they turned it down.  They sent a letter telling me how much they liked the documentary and that they thought I was a talented filmmaker, but because it was a "point-of-view documentary," they said they did not "have a place in [their] schedule to broadcast point-of-view programs." They went on to say, "for complex issues, like the topic you tackle in your film, we look for a more balanced representation." I can see where they're coming from.  I could have argued that both the EPA and CTS refused to comment on the record, or grant an interview, or even release a statement to me, but I decided to let it go. 

I also tried to buy air time on another station before I went with the CW, but was turned down by that station for pretty much the same reason as PBS.  They bring up an interesting point about documentaries that I've discussed at length with many filmmakers: does a good documentary have to present both sides of an issue or story?  My answer is not necessarily.  While there is always a desire to represent events and people truthfully, sometimes (like in my case) you can't always get all sides.

If all you had to do to make a documentary is make a non-fiction film, one could argue that a gas station owner who has video surveillance is making documentaries.  Certainly it's possible to make a documentary from surveillance footage, but I don't think anyone would call the footage on its own a documentary.  There must be some selection of shots, some choices on what is presented and once that happens, no matter how objective the author of that content is, you are presenting a version of reality. You are manipulating events. 

I think the key is to acknowledge that you are altering information to create a compelling story while also working to present that information as truthfully as possible.  If you are able to present different perspectives in your documentary, I do think that can make the piece stronger, but I also don’t think a documentary should be abandoned simply because you weren’t able to present multiple viewpoints.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rotten Tomatoes and Closed Captions

My documentary found it's way to Rotten Tomatoes! You can check it out here: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/my_toxic_backyard/

and if you've seen it, give it your review by clicking on the stars under "add your rating."  As of this post it's averaged 4.9 out of 5 stars!  

I'm still working on closed captioning for the TV premiere.  What a pain! Next time I will hire a company to do it.  It's so painstaking and tedious, at one point I estimate I was taking an hour per minute of footage, but it's going faster now. 

I've been using adobe premiere CC to do closed captioning and the nice thing about doing it myself is I can really take my time and customize it all with different colors and positions for different people taking over each other. I can add sound FX and music cues and I can export as many different types of files I need. Right now I need two. For TV I have to embed the closed captioning in the movie file and premiere would do that in a quicktime so I making a special quicktime file just for the broadcast. For Amazon they want a separate file called an .SCC (scenarist closed caption.)  So it's been a good learning experience.  My main take away is it's worth it to pay someone else.


Friday, November 14, 2014

The Perfect Spot

When the production company I belong to, Gorilla with a Mustache Films, won the grand prize with our movie Joint Effort part of the prize was to have free entry into the next year's competition.  Even though we've all been exhausted working on our comedy feature film, One Hell of an Angel, we decided we had to take advantage of the free entry and compete again this year. 

The competition, formerly "The National Film Challenge" re-branded itself this year (probably because it's an international competition and the title is a little confusing) and is now called "The 4 Points Film Project."  Our team created a short film in just one weekend with some new faces on set.  We had the talented and ruggedly handsome Paul Anderson as our cinematographer, Lisa Styles our awesome Canadian Producer friend who we met at the Cannes film festival came down just to help us with this production, Michael Valentino came on board to help with editing, and Eruch Valo was our fabulous composer.  After a rocky start and a completely unexpected last minute script change, we set off to make a film pretty much by improv.  Luckily our actors are good at that.  While we didn't win any of the awards this year, we were chosen in the top 20 in the world, so not too shabby.  Here it is: The Perfect Spot.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Film Festival Run Down

You pretty much have a year to show your film on the film festival circuit.  Most festivals won't let you release your film to the public before it screens at their festival and most don't want movies more than a year old.  So a year is about all the time you have for that.  Why?  It's hard enough getting people to attend a film festival, but they keep attendance up by giving cinephiles something different than the mainstream, something new and fresh, and something exclusive.

My Toxic Backyard has had a great run. It's been accepted to 9 different film festivals and even won best film at one of them, which makes this year a great success.  Whenever possible a filmmaker should attend the festivals where their film is screening. I've chronicled my experiences at the Thin Line Film Festival (plus a video here) and on the Southern Circuit (and a radio interview.)  I couldn't make it to the Greenpoint Film Festival but, I was able to send my associate producer, writer and editor Jaime Byrd to accept our award there.

The next phase will be working on securing any possible distribution deals and releasing the film to the public for purchase which is probably going to happen on Amazon.  I'll have more information on that process on this blog, but in the meantime here is a run down of all the festivals and awards My Toxic Backyard has garnered in the past year:

Winner: Best Documentary Feature, Greenpoint Film Festival
Winner: Best Film, Mountain Express Best of WNC 2014
Official Selection: Southern Circuit
Official Selection: Thin Line Film Festival
Official Selection: Twin Rivers Film Festival
Official Selection: Reel and Meal
Official Selection: Utopia Film Festival
Official Selection: River's Edge Film Festival
Official Selection: Wild Goose Festival
Official Selection: Compress Fest (trailer)