"Birth of a Nation" breaks sales records for Sundance and festivals worldwide

"Birth of a Nation" breaks sales records for Sundance and festivals worldwide

From the Hollywood Reporter: The Sundance audience gave the slave-rebellion drama an extended standing ovation, which was followed by mostly enthusiastic reviews. By the next morning, Fox Searchlight had plunked down a jaw-dropping $17.5 million for worldwide rights to the film, the biggest sale in the fest’s history. It also marks the largest sum ever paid for a finished movie at any festival, including Cannes, Berlin and Toronto. 

Film Festival Secrets Podcast #30: Negotiating With Film Festivals

Film Festival Secrets Podcast #30: Negotiating With Film Festivals

Sometimes filmmakers face the classic "bird in the hand" problem. Case in point: my friend Amy's short film "Pickle" was accepted by one festival, but her "dream date" festival is still on the fence. That's a problem, because showing at the first festival to extend an offer might lessen the dream festival's interest. Should she go ahead with the sure thing, or wait for her dream festival to make up its mind? 

Interview: Head of Projection at Sundance on the Year 35mm Died

Interview: Head of Projection at Sundance on the Year 35mm Died

Holden Payne, Technical Director of Exhibition and Projection at the Sundance Film Festival, talks about the behind-the-scenes of festival projection on the occasion of the festival's first year without a single 35mm print.

Guns & sex toys - they're basically the same thing, right?

Guns & sex toys - they're basically the same thing, right?

This new advocacy campaign from gun-safety group Evolve shows two young gents fencing with a pair of marital aids they've discovered, much to the dismay of their onlooking mothers. I appreciate the humor (and the seriousness) of the message "if they find it, they'll play with it," and the initial embarrassment and horror of both women is perfectly natural. The drawn-out shame sequence, on the other hand, makes me weary. 

Three ideas you should steal from the Sydney Film Festival 2014

Three ideas you should steal from the Sydney Film Festival 2014

Here's a little secret: film festival directors everywhere are killing themselves to make their events "more than just a movie." As a filmmaker, you should do everything in your power to create a compelling live component that can accompany your screenings. Use it to sweeten the deal so festivals will program your film, or mention it after an invitation as an incentive to provide you with travel funds. Hell, do it because it will get more butts in the seats at your screening instead of the zombie flick playing across the hall. Read on for some ideas for your film.

Wanna put on a mini film festival for less than $1000? There's a grant for that.

Scott Macaulay for Filmmaker Magazine:

Simple Machine, the online distribution platform connecting filmmakers to non-theatrical venues, is offering quarterly $1,000 grants to new small, innovative film festivals.

The catch? The budget of the entire event should be completely covered by the grant. 

My usual advice for people who tell me they want to start a film festival is "don't," but I could see some really interesting "micro-festivals" coming out of this. 

Those interested in the grant are encouraged to send a simple email pitch to grant@smplmchn.com. See here for more details.

Filmmakers of Reddit: What are your festival experiences?

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Most of the threads in the filmmakers section of Reddit are pretty blah – people talking gear, novices asking for help (and not getting it), poor souls in the middle of crowdfunding campaigns trolling for backers.

This thread, however, got my attention for actually getting some good responses quickly. Keep an eye on it, I think it might get interesting.

Filmmakers of Reddit: What are your festival experiences? Which have you been to? Did it further your career?

Breckenridge woman charged with embezzling $200K from film festival

Jessica Smith, writing for the Summit Daily:

According to the affidavit, Foxx had been using film festival accounts from 2007 to 2012 for her personal use, in a manner not authorized by the board of directors. The affidavit stated that Foxx used fraudulent checks and credit cards for purchases of personal items, including clothing, rental cars, airline tickets, gambling and gardening supplies.

Gardening supplies? Their first clue that something was up should have been that a film festival employee had time for gardening.

Joking aside, the article goes on to say that the festival replaced its executive director and board of directors entirely in the wake of the previous administration's failure to detect that something was going on over a period of five years. It's remarkable that the festival was able to reboot in 2013 and is positioned to continue operating. Many festivals I know wouldn't be able to survive losses as large as the ones alleged here – which means they would be caught sooner, I suppose.

Film Festival Programming Is Like Cooking

 Cucalorus Film Festival

Dan Brawley, executive director of the Cucalorus Film Festival, in an interview with MovieMaker Magazine: 

I think people have the unfortunate perception that festival programmers are just taking the ‘good’ films. And that somehow if your film didn’t make the cut it means it isn’t very good, which is the farthest thing from the truth. The final decisions we make are entirely subjective. It’s kind of like putting a meal together, you know? Every course isn’t going to be blueberry cobbler.
Now that I live in Atlanta I'm going to make time to get up to Wilmington, NC for Dan's festival. (Though sadly, I won't make it this year.) I've heard that it's amazing. 

This year's Cucalorus Film Fest takes place November 13 - 17, 2013.

Why Do Film Festivals Reject Good Films?

Anthony Kaufman, writing for Indiewire, asks if some films get rejected for political or ideological reasons instead of just cinematic merit. I'm sure he knew going into the article that the answer is "well duh."