In this episode I talk to Brad Wilke, an award-winning filmmaker, produced feature-length screenwriter, and film programmer for the Seattle International Film Festival.
This episode I'm joined by Richard Gale, creator of the short film "The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon," which is on its way to becoming a feature film thanks to a healthy festival run and a rabid YouTube fan base. Learn how Gale turned festival success into a cottage industry and a budget for a feature-length horror comedy.
Kelly Williams is an independent producer (with Sundance-approved films like Pit Stop and Hellion) and a film festival programmer (the Austin and Lone Star Film Festivals) based in Austin, TX. Join me and Kelly for a conversation about having a foot on each side of the line and the filmmaking lessons to be learned along the way.
Jon Gann is the founder of the DC Film Alliance, a non-profit organization supporting Washington, DC's film and video community, and the creator of the DC Shorts Film Festival - one of the country's premier short film showcases.
Since meeting filmmaker and startup founder Emily Best in November, I’ve wanted to get her on the podcast to talk about her company Seed and Spark. This fundraising tool reimagines crowdfunding from the perspective of an indie filmmaker and takes the experience way past fundraising into audience building and distribution.
When Julie Keck & Jessica King (collectively known as "King is a Fink") tell you that they are social media experts, they can do so with straight faces. Chris asks them to speak in sentences with fewer than 140 characters as they talk about the interplay of social media with audience building, crowdfunding, and celebrity encounters on Twitter.
Episode #15, in which Chris Holland talks crowdfunding with Joseph Beyer, Director of Digital Initiatives for the Sundance Film Festival & Institute. As one of the founders of Sundance's Artist Services program, Beyer has worked with Kickstarter on the successful funding of more than 90 crowdfunding campaigns, raising more than 2.8 million dollars since 2011. Joe now faces his biggest challenge in his first personal crowdfunding campaign — and because of the nature of the project, he can't use Kickstarter as his platform. Tune in for an informative and personal look at the technical, strategic, and emotional aspects of fundraising online.
Matthew Bell, interviewing one of my favorite writers, Steven Moffat (Sherlock, Doctor Who, Coupling) for BAFTA Guru:
His advice to would-be scriptwriters is “just write. The big break is easy if you’re good enough. I hear people saying, ‘I’m desperate to write – I’ve written this script.’ And I want to say: ‘Why haven’t you written 50 scripts?’
“The first 50 will be shit and so will the next 50 and probably the 50 after that,” he continues. “You have to write all the time and not worry so much about going to the right parties or the contacts you have in the business – they’re completely irrelevant. And stop badgering people for advice because there almost is none – If you write a truly brilliant script, it will get on the telly.”
The same is basically true for getting your film into festivals – if you've made a truly brilliant film, festivals will play it.
Film Title: Diplo
Category: Doc short
Your name: Wing-Yee [Vinyé] Wu
Your relationship to the film: Director...Editor...Producer...one of those shoots...
The elevator pitch: If I met someone new they'd probably go see my film cus they liked me, I'm pretty nice : ) In Austin during SxSW chances are that anyone I'd run into would be familiar with my doc subject already...a no brain sell really.
Previous festival experience: Been to festivals since a while but don't go that often nor make that much of an effort once im there.
As a submitting filmmaker, what has surprised you about the film festival process? The politics as well as randomness of selections.
What attracted you to SXSW and what excites you most about having your film selected to play there? SxSW is getting stronger each year and "independent film" is still independent there. Sounds like a cliché right there but it's not.
When and where does your film play at SXSW? Sat Mar 12, 2:30pm Alamo Lamar C, Tue Mar 15, 4:15pm Alamo Lamar A, Wed Mar 16 2:30pm Alamo Lamar C
What's next for you and your film? I'm getting a lot of screening requests for Diplo which I'll of course entertain, but generally when I'm done with a film it's time to move onto other projects.
Film Title: Hello Caller
Category: Narrative short (Midnight Shorts Program at SXSW)
Your name: Andrew Putschoegl
Your relationship to the film: Director/Producer
90-second elevator pitch: 90 seconds? That's 25% the length of our entire 6-minute film! I can do it in 10 seconds! Hello Caller is a dark comedy about a suicidal woman who makes a call for help with unexpected and hilarious results.
Previous festival experience: About ten years ago I submitted my thesis film to a number of festivals with mixed results (to be fair, charming romantic comedies aren't typically film festival favorites...) - then in 2005 a film I co-produced and edited, Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party, made the festival rounds, including SXSW, and was a critical (and now, cult) success. I wasn't able to attend SXSW that year, but I made it to a couple of the other festivals and had a great time. I've been to Sundance a few times as a spectator, which is fun, but an entirely different experience than having a film in competition.
We premiered Hello Caller at Slamdance in January, which was such a gratifying adventure. It was the first time we had seen the film with an audience, and there's nothing more head-swelling than hearing an audience laugh at all the right moments (and some you had long forgotten might actually be amusing).
As a submitting filmmaker, what has surprised you about the film festival process? Honestly? I've been surprised at the festivals that have accepted the film and those that have not. You get into a couple of high-profile festivals, which creates an incredible euphoria, and then you get rejected from a small-town festival in the middle of nowhere, and scratch your head. It's entirely valid, of course, since film is so subjective and there are myriad reasons why a festival may not want to program your work, but you really do get addicted to receiving those acceptance emails.
Since we've only attended Slamdance with this film (it also recently played at Cinequest, which we unfortunately not able to attend - and which I loved when I attended with STBP), I can say that the bar has been set high. The programmers and staff for the festival were remarkable in their dedication to filmmakers. We met people with whom we will remain friends for life - so it's about much more than the few days we spent in the snow.
What attracted you to SXSW and what excites you most about having your film selected to play there? SXSW has a reputation as being a raucous good time, so who wouldn't want to attend? I've never been to Austin, let alone SXSW. I'm anxious to see how the audience reacts to our film - if it will be the same as it was at Slamdance, or if there will be any differences. I'm looking forward to meeting the programmers, attending the parties, and gawking at the drunk nerds from the interactive conference. (I should point out that I consider myself quite a nerd, I just don't really drink).
Screening times: We're screening on Friday the 11th at 11:30pm at the Alamo Ritz 2, Sunday the 13th at 11:15pm at the Alamo Lamar B, and Saturday the 19th at 11:30pm at the Alamo Ritz 2.
What's next for you and your film? We're in a number of upcoming festivals, including Vail and others that have sworn us to secrecy until their lineups are announced, so we're going to try to make it to as many as our benefactors at Visa and AmEx will allow. Also, our film won the theatrical distribution award at Slamdance so it will be paired with a fantastic feature and shown at a number of theaters around the country sometime in the next year or so. It's kind of unheard of for a short to get a theatrical release, so we're thrilled.
Film Title: Room 4 Rent
Category: narrative short
Your name: Max Weissberg
Your relationship to the film: writer/director/producer/editor
Elevator pitch: The film is about the problem of finding a place to live in new york city--- not an easy task. It's about a girl looking to rent a place from a guy, and she's not quite sure if she wants to live with a dude. Things are pretty awkward until they discover that they both love to dance. If you like dancing, you'll love "Room 4 Rent."
Previous festival experience: I was the co-producer of Hotel Gramercy Park, a documentary feature, which premiered at Tribeca in 2008. I am also in the film. The doc is about the hotel which my grandfather owned for 40 years and where my family lived. The hotel attracted a lot of rock stars which my family knew and the drug culture had a negative effect on us -- overdoses, suicides, and guns stored in the basement. In 2003, Ian schrager (of Studio 54 fame) bought the place.My experience at tribeca was good, but it's different when you're just the co-producer, not the producer or director.
As a submitting filmmaker, what has surprised you (pleasantly or unpleasantly) about the film festival process? Submitting to film festivals is surprisingly expensive. Second tier festivals can ask up to $100 to watch your film, and they probably only watch the first 10 minutes.
What attracted you to SXSW and what excites you most about having your film selected to play there? I know that SXSW launched the career of Joe Swanberg, among others. I think with Sundance being such a major star-studded event these days, it's up to SXSW to find the filmmakers who can still put something together that's watchable with the change in their couch. SXSW appreciates the filmmakers who can squeeze a nickel into a dime.
When and where does your film play at SXSW? Sunday, March 13th at 6:15pm at Alamo Lamar B Theatre, Monday March 14th at 4pm at Arbor Theatre, Wednesday, March 16th at 4:15pm at Alamo Lamar A Theatre and Thursday, March 17th at 8pm at Alamo Lamar B Theatre
Film Title: Fambul Tok
Category: Documentary feature
Your name: Sara Terry
Your relationship to the film: Producer/Director
The elevator pitch: Victims and perpetrators of Sierra Leone's brutal civil war come face to face for the first time in tradition-based ceremonies of truth-telling and forgiveness. As they revive their ancient practice of fambul tok (family talk), Sierra Leoneans are building sustainable peace at the grass-roots level -- succeeding where the international community's post-conflict efforts failed. Filled with lessons for the West, this film explores the depths of a culture that believes that true justice lies in redemption and healing for individuals -- and that forgiveness is the surest path to restoring dignity and building strong communities. (Is that longer than 90 seconds?? :)) )
Festival experience: I'm very new to the festival scene -- I'm a first-time filmmaker... I've been to film festivals to see films, but this is the first time I'll be one of the filmmakers.
As a submitting filmmaker, what has surprised you about the film festival process? I'm impressed by the programmers I've heard from, or gotten to know. They're really frank about the fact that curating a festival is a very subjective process -- and that just because your film didn't get in, doesn't mean it's not a good (or even a great) film. For the most part, they write incredibly thoughtful rejection letters (some filmmaker friends and I joke that the rejection letters we got from one festival were so detailed, in referencing the strengths of our films, that we could use the rejection letter for our press kits!). As for the festivals we've been accepted to -- I'm really blown away by the enthusiasm that everyone has for films, and the respect they have for filmmakers.
What attracted you to SXSW and what excites you most about having your film selected to play there? SXSW just has this amazing reputation for being a GREAT place to see films -- interesting work, the most appreciative audiences, edgy programming that's quirky but also committed. For me, being here with a social issue doc is particularly exciting -- we stand out a bit, but I think we're also a perfect fit with the rest of the programming. To be frank, I'm much happier to be making our world premiere at SXSW, with this film, than I would be at any other festival. I also love that SXSW was the world premiere site last year for "War Don Don,"a film about Sierra Leone. That film tells one side of the post-conflict judicial process in Sierra Leone, the western-backed Special Court, while our film tells the other side -- grass-roots traditions and values. So I feel like SXSW has created this two-year process of better understanding what justice looks like (or doesn't) in post-conflict countries in Africa. Also, festival director Janet Pierson and her staff have been incredibly helpful and kind.
When and where does your film play at SXSW?
Alamo Ritz, 1:15 pm March 14 -- world premiere
State Theater, noon, March 16
Alamo Lamar, 5 pm, March 17
What's next for you and your film? We head straight from SXSW to Sierra Leone, for the film's African premiere in the district where the war began in Sierra Leone -- and where the Fambul Tok program began 3 years ago, on March 22. Then on to more festivals, a book launch on April 7 (of my photos from the film, plus several essays), a community screening campaign in the fall, and the launch of our take-action campaign, "Forgive One Thing," which connects Western audiences with the film's message of forgiveness and apology in meaningful ways in their own lives.