Film Festival Secrets Podcast #17 - Phoebe’s Birthday Cheeseburger

Film Festival Secrets Podcast #17 - Phoebe’s Birthday Cheeseburger

The Film Festival Secrets podcast is back with a new mega-cheesy theme song and an interview with Will Lennon, director of the short film Phoebe’s Birthday Cheeseburger and Program Manager for the Cinema Eye Honors. Plus: how many calories are there in a McDonald’s cheeseburger?

SXSW 2014: Do it Like a Local

Sadly, South By Southwest is a thing of the past for yours truly – at least until I'm not working for a film festival that happens around the same time of year. I do enjoy watching the internet turn its attention to Austin, though. One of the highlights is the "Do It Like A Local" video, which has become an annual tradition for the folks at Flow Nonfiction. I love the production design in these -- the subtle sound effects, the slightly over-saturated picture, the omnipresent bottles of Topo Chico. Tune in for restaurant recommendations and SXSW survival tips. 

The DIY on Short Film Exposure: Who's Got This?


That's the title of the panel I'll be sitting in on at South By Southwest this year. If you're in Austin for the festival on Tuesday, come by and learn what I and my esteemed colleagues (listed here) have to say about the state of short film and distribution.

Here's the official SXSW page for the panel.

A few other panels I'm looking forward to in the film conference include:

Tough Love: Why You're Still Not Festival Ready

Iron Sky: Forging the Future of Film

The Evolution of the Douchebag in Modern Cinema

Hollywood Lessons: What I Learned the Hard Way

SXSW 2011 FIlmmaker Spotlight: Wing-Yee Wu


Film Title: Diplo

Category: Doc short

Your name: Wing-Yee [Vinyé] Wu

Your relationship to the film: 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.

SXSW 2011 Filmmaker Spotlight: Andrew Putschoegl


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.

SXSW 2011 Filmmaker Spotlight: Max Weissberg


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

SXSW 2011 Filmmaker Spotlight: Sara Terry


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.

SXSW 2011 Filmmaker Spotlight: Rafael De Leon Jr.


Film Title:  Waffle

Category: Narrative Short

Your name: Rafael De Leon Jr.

Your relationship to the film: Writer/Producer/Director

Elevator pitch: A disfigured, science fair champion invites her new friend over for dinner, but as the night goes on, they discover very unpleasant things about each other and hell breaks loose.

Festival experience: My previous shorts have screened at various festivals around the country, but I was only able to attend the ones that were local.  For the most part, I have had a good experience, but I haven't gotten as much out of it as I feel I should be getting.  That's why I'm trying to go out of my comfort zone and attend more festivals farther away from where I live.

As a submitting filmmaker, what has surprised you about the film festival process? This can be both pleasant and unpleasant depending on a festival's decision, but what continues to amaze me is how someone at a festival might think your film is poor while another person at a different festival might think it's great.

What attracted you to SXSW and what excites you most about having your film selected to play there? Aside from having a reputation as being one of the best film festivals, SXSW seems like a really fun place and being there is an excellent opportunity to enjoy great, independent films and meet new people everywhere you look.  I'm especially excited about attending the Midnight programs at the Alamo Drafthouse theaters, which I have wanted to go to for a long time now.

When and where does your film play at SXSW "Waffle" will screen as part of the Midnight Shorts program on the following dates/venues/times:

3/11/11. Alamo Ritz 2. 11:30pm.

3/13/11. Alamo Lamar B.  11:15pm.

3/19/11. Alamo Ritz 2.  11:30pm.

What's next for you and your film? "Waffle" will continue playing the festival circuit throughout the rest of the year.  I have another short horror film written that will go into production later this year and I'm currently working on a feature screenplay.

SXSW 2011 Filmmaker Spotlight: Dustin Guy Defa

Bad Fever

Film Title: Bad Fever

Category: Emerging Visions (narrative feature)

Your name: Dustin Guy Defa

Your relationship to the film: director, producer and writer

The elevator pitch: Bad Fever is about a very lonely guy who lives with his mother.  He thinks he can become a stand-up comedian but it's a completely hopeless dream.  For one thing, he doesn't have a funny bone in his body.  He meets a drifter at a gas station.  She's bad news, somebody who is manipulative and somewhat abusive.  But because of his desperation to be friends with somebody, he attempts to befriend her, and the main thrust of the film is his plan for his debut as a stand-up comedian, and to get her to come to the comedy club to see it.

Previous festival experience: I've been around but I've never been to SXSW.  This feels huge for me and mainly because I love the film so much and I want other people to love it too.  I'm super anxious about our first screening.

As a submitting filmmaker, what has surprised you about the film festival process? If you mean the actual submission process, sometimes it's grueling.  You don't have any money and so you can't really send the film to all the festivals you'd like to.  It's painful sometimes.   And then waiting to hear back can be tense, especially if you're looking for a place to premiere.  But I guess it's worth it, because attending a good festival can change your life.  I had a short film at the Maryland Film Festival a few years back, and meeting other filmmakers and seeing their films in that environment inspired me.  It's helpful to have the support of other filmmakers who are willing to look at your work and give you guidance and share their work with you too.

What attracted you to SXSW and what excites you most about having your film selected to play there? SXSW is obviously a great place to play.  A lot of independent filmmakers have premiered there, and the festival seems to have supported them throughout the beginning of their careers.  So to be premiering there is special for us.  And I imagine that the audiences there are sitting in those seats because they want to be excited by a film.  That's the sort of environment you always want to be involved in.  The programmers too, they seem to be into the films and sincerely care about the filmmakers.

When and where does your film play at SXSW? We're playing opening night.  Our screening dates and times are Friday March 11 8:45PM @ Alamo Lamar B; Monday March 14 4:00PM @ Alamo Ritz 2; and Thursday March 17 3:00 PM @ Rollins Theater.

What's next for you and your film? I don't know what's next for the film.  A lot of that might depend on the response at this festival.  I'd like to see a small theatrical run, some VOD and I'd like to see it get a good DVD distribution.  And we're looking ahead to an international premiere, don't know where that's going to be yet.  I imagine that this will be a film with a good European response.  I'm just ramping up for this year of doing the festival circuit, and writing my next feature.

SXSW 2011 Filmmaker Spotlight - Michael Langan


Film Title: Heliotropes

Category: At SX, it's a narrative short; at Ottawa it would be an animated short; at most festivals it's an experimental short; but I consider it a documentary short.

Your name: Michael Langan

Your relationship to the film: Director

The elevator pitch: "Heliotropes" is based on a non-fiction poem by a friend of mine, Brian Christian-- Brian rocked The Daily Show on Tuesday night promoting his new book on AI, The Most Human Human. The poem is a scientific/philosophical look at the relationship between sunflowers, airlines, migratory birds and human beings at large; namely, how they all follow the sun in elegant and sometimes incredibly elaborate ways. The film takes this idea and runs with it in a series of crisp, surreal vignettes reminiscent of my SXSW '08 film, "Doxology." Pair that with the Voice of God, and you've got "Heliotropes."

Previous festival experience: I got rolling in 2006 with a one-minute film that premiered at Ann Arbor, and I've been addicted ever since. I make films as much for the excuse to go to festivals as anything else. "Heliotropes" will be my fourth festival film as of its premiere this Saturday.

As a submitting filmmaker, what has surprised you about the film festival process? I leapt into festival submissions and got lucky, hitting about 100 fests with my second film, "Doxology." What I didn't expect to discover on that tour is how small the indie film world is, even on a global scale. I get such joy out of seeing the same filmmakers and programmers at different festivals... It's like a mobile, beer-soaked summer camp for adults.

What attracted you to SXSW and what excites you most about having your film selected to play there? It's a hell of a party. I keep hearing about how great it is to live in Austin, and SX does a great job of letting that spirit shine through. And despite the directors' anxiety induced by waiters dashing through a screening room, the Alamo theaters are an amazing way to watch movies.

Screenings for "Heliotropes:"

Alamo Lamar A
Sat 3/12 2:00 pm

Mon 3/14 11:00 am

Thu 3/17 1:30 pm

Official SXSW page

What's next for you and your film? "Heliotropes" is on to Ann Arbor Film Festival next. Meanwhile, I'm working on two longer films with Harvard professor Terah Maher, involving taxidermy, modern dance, and thirty-two duplicates of an actress.

Vote for these awesome panels at SXSW 2011

picIt's that time again: South By SouthWest PanelPicker voting is open, which means you get a say in the panels that appear at the Film, Music, and Interactive Conferences. Voting closes on Friday so get yourself over to the site and vote.

For your approval I humbly submit the following:

Both Sides of the Fence - Festival Programmers Who are Also Filmmakers: When you watch hundreds of films a year it makes you want to grab a camera and make one of your own. Programmer/filmmakers discuss the how working in the festival world affects their filmmaking and vice-versa. Proposed by Jesse Trussell and me. Vote for it.

Regional Filmmaking: Revenge of the Flyover States - The best film festival in the U.S. is in Texas, so why should the best filmmakers in the country have to live in New York or Los Angeles? Working filmmakers from the so-called "flyover states" talk about the challenges and advantages of making movies outside of the cities traditionally associated with filmmaking. Also proposed by me and Jesse. Vote for it.

Sex it Up! - What’s the difference between art and porn? The old joke is that “one is in focus,” but it’s also an aesthetic distinction that is increasingly irrelevant. Just as more “mainstream” indie filmmakers are utilizing explicit themes and imagery in their works, a new school of directors working on the adult side of the industry are creating works that defy the porn clichés. Even if you’re not looking to bare all, here’s your chance to learn from each and tell stories that move past the bedroom door to embrace the full range of our experiences. Proposed by Lisa Vandever of Cinekink. Vote for it!

Brian Chirls explains Crowd Controls at SXSW 2010

Yet another in our series of South by Southwest 2010 videos, this time with Brian Chirls, creator of Crowd Controls. This venture is based on his work with Four-Eyed Monsters and is currently powering some of the fan engagement with Iron Sky.

Thanks to Mark Potts for shooting and editing this video.

IFF Boston's Brian Tamm at SXSW 2010

The third in our series of South by Southwest 2010 videos features Managing Director of IFF Boston Brian Tamm. Brian talks about the reasons he and other IFF Boston staff members attend other festivals like SXSW.

The Independent Film Festival of Boston starts tonight with their opening night film, The Extra Man. Kevin Kline will be at the Somerville Theater after the screening to receive a career achievement award from the festival. If you live in the Boston area and you hadn't made plans to attend, I highly recommend showing up.

Thanks to Mark Potts for shooting and editing this video.

Film Festival Secrets Podcast #6 - In line for "MacGruber" at South by Southwest

Headphones In this episode Jesse Trussell and I are joined by filmmaker Mark Potts and a surprise guest or two while waiting to see MacGruber at SXSW 2010. This was a really fun episode to record. The background noise of the crowd and a few friends wandering by – one of whom stopped in to contribute substantially – really made it a great experience. We're going to have to do this again. Listen now.

Links mentioned in the podcast:

Download the MP3 now or subscribe in iTunes.

Photo credit: flattop341

Interview with Sundance director of programming Trevor Groth at SXSW 2010

Trevor was kind enough to duck out of the convention center and spend a few minutes talking with me about the first Sundance on his watch as Director of Programming, and about some of his favorite festival moments.

Kudos to Mark Potts for shooting and editing this series of videos.

A sense of belonging in Austin at SXSW

I'm fond of telling filmmakers that friendships and business relationships are the real rewards of the film festival circuit. Seeing a dozen or so collaborators stand up in front of the awards audience at this year's South By SouthWest reaffirmed that feeling. They were the filmmakers who came together to help Lena Dunham make the festival's 2010 grand prize winner, "Tiny Furniture."

Typical of the smaller films premiering at the festival is "Tiny Furniture," a story of female post-collegiate ennui playing as part of this year's narrative feature competition. The movie marks a personal and professional leap that could only have been achieved through the support of SXSW, which played filmmaker Lena Dunham's debut feature, "Creative Nonfiction," in last year's lineup.

While at the festival in 2009, Dunham not only met cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes, but also her key collaborators for "Tiny Furniture," producers Alicia Van Couvering and Kyle Martin, editor Lance Edmands and costar Alex Karpovsky.

The festival "was really the connective tissue for my relationships with a lot of these people," Dunham says. "I just wanted to connect with other filmmakers but I don't think I expected it would be such a gold rush."