For Consideration: Film Festival Tips

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    • #43538
      AvatarTomScratch
      Participant

      Hi,

      For the last couple weeks I have participated on one of many teams evaluating short films for the DCShortsFilmFestival, which happens in September. The DC/Baltimore/Richmond area is now up to 56 annual film festivals at last count.

      Over 500 films were received for DCShorts, competing for roughly 55-65 slots. So far my team has evaluated 25 films and has strongly recommended 10 films for consideration by a higher level jury. This team has seen many gems, and although we havent seen a future Spielberg or Lucas, we have probably seen a future Ron Howard or two.

      Every genre is eligible for DCShorts by the way: animation, documentary, comedy, sci-fi, slice of life, R-rated adult themes, etc. Every film is watched all the way through by the entire jury team. Every submitter receives written feedback, pro and con, about their film; such feedback exists in other festivals but is rare. (Note. There was a separate category for HD films and a separate category for films from Canada. Fewer films submitted in these categories, so odds are better for making the finals, although if quality was compromised in any of the rating categories, see below, this would still be a non-starter.)

      Here are some quick tips for those preparing to hit the festival circuit, based on my recent experience as a film jurist.

      –Do not submit a DVD in the breakable crackable plastic cases that contain toothy hubs designed for positioning your DVD with the hub in the center hole of your DVD. These are also known as jewel cases. Inevitably, teeth break off in some of the cases and attack the media side of the DVD, making them unplayable. Recommended: Paper Sleeves!

      –Do not submit fast copies of DVDs; submit real time copies only. On the big movie screen you can see the qualitative difference between fast copy and real time copy.

      –Although the industry defines a short as up to 40 minutes, programmers are oriented to presenting more films rather than a few long short films. A truly brilliant film over 20 minutes might have a shot; statistically, less than 20 minutes improves your chances of success in a shorts film festival.

      –In the early rounds of evaluation, 70% or more of submitted films will be eliminated. Evaluators will focus on ways to eliminate films that dont belong in the strong company of the final program. The most compelling stories will not overcome instances (whether occasional or persistent) of poor audio, unintentional out of focus shots, amateurish jump cuts within a scene, actors who dont get it. Anything not professional will dock points. During shooting, scenes should be evaluated on the spot, rather than discovered as problems at the end of the shoot. If a scene needs to be reshot in order to look good, either edit it out; or owe more favors to your friends or get more money from the Ford Foundation, NEA, or Mom and Pop in order to reshoot it right. If you edit it out, your film may be mistaken for an art film and make the next round. If it has mumbles audio or if the mike was placed under the chair making a (unintentional) whoopee cushion sound whenever anybody sits, your film wont be seen by the public at that festival.

      –Every established festival will have a system for evaluation of films. (Newer festivals receiving fewer films may be less structured in evaluating films, and less picky!) The system for DCShorts is to assign a max of 25 points for each of these categories: Originality, Technical (camerawork, audio, etc.), Content (storyline), and Style (effectiveness in presenting storyline, including acting). Our team of 3 submitted scores for each member for each film. The higher level jury will scrutinize film scores where an individual team member scored way above or way below the team average and may reevaluate those films because of the internal score gap. A score of 80 or more confirmed by the higher level jury would give a film a super chance of making the final cut.

      Happy Filmmaking!

      REGARDS … TOM 8)

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