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Does the short festival circuit even do anything?


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#1 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 10 April 2017 - 07:57 PM

Been wondering about this for a while. Obviously in the year 2017, it's damn near impossible to find a film under 60 minutes that's gotten a distribution deal.

 

However, can having your shorts consistently do well in various film festivals across the country really be a consistent way of building connections to bigger jobs? Meeting producers? Are producers even checking out the shorts to any capacity?

 

Or perhaps it comes down to a select number of festivals which are relevant and irrelevant to the status quo of this industry?

 

Would love some insight from the guys with experience on this, thanks much.


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#2 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 10 April 2017 - 11:28 PM

I would say 99% not, but then there's always the 1% that does catch someone's attention... I'll give you a recent example. Twin, a commercial directing duo (who are actual twins) that I've worked with quite a bit shot a short a few years back called Bag Man. It caught the attention of some producers (it has a really commercial appeal) and end of last year they got to shoot it as an expanded feature film called Kin, with a $18 million budget... So, stuff like that happens. Eric Red and his short was another example - his short was a base for the cult classic The Hitcher. Some producer saw it and decide to give him the money for the feature. Is it common? No.

 

All the shorts I've shot have never amounted to anything much. They might win a little short film price at some festival here or there, or get a cinematography mention, but to actually garner any other work - no. Which is why I personally think the effort, time and money that goes into them would probably be better spent in a longer format. I shot three shorts over the last years and I kind of need a break from them again. They take so much energy and rarely get much attention.


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#3 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 11 April 2017 - 02:12 AM

As Adam says, 99% of the time they do nothing. If your short is good enough to win awards, then there is some recognition if you're at the big festivals. However, taking that and leading to a feature film career or even money, is a stretch. Plus, you've gotta be at the festivals which is costly in of itself. Honestly, you'll get more recognition on youtube if you click bait the title and spend the money on marketing. 

 

Here is the big disconnect that people don't quite get; If you're doing shorts, you're not making features. So when it comes time to make a feature, people will look at you and say... why should we hire this guy (or give money to his cause) if he hasn't made a feature yet. Same goes for writing, same goes for editing or cinematography... it's a catch 22. If you wanna move up the ladder, you actually have to make your own ladder to move up with. So if you wanna make features, you gotta write a damn good script and make it yourself. Which is, lets just say... a 3 - 5 year commitment and a lot of money. 

 

The only thing that separates you from the bloke next to you, is the fact he made a feature and you haven't. You don't have to be any good, you just gotta PROVE you can do the work. 


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#4 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 11 April 2017 - 02:29 AM

The 99% figure I have no problem accepting, but I guess I'm trying to find the reasoning behind this figure. Is it just because it's assumed 99% of people who call themselves a "filmmaker" simply don't have the talent/resources to make both a well written and directed short? Or is it because producers aren't even paying attention?


Edited by Macks Fiiod, 11 April 2017 - 02:31 AM.

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#5 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 11 April 2017 - 07:52 AM

Or perhaps it comes down to a select number of festivals which are relevant and irrelevant to the status quo of this industry?

If you go on slated.com and you sign up for a membership, you'll be asked to enter your filmography of things you've worked on.  The reason for doing this is that the site wants to immediately rank you in industry relevancy.  

 

While entering the credits, you'll have a chance to add awards and festivals each film or show has been in.    That list of options is all on a drop down menu and yes, it's curated.  In short, only a few festivals or awards actually matter.  And no, smaller festival award wins do not automatically open doors to larger festivals on their own.  Influencers have to see the work and recommend it.

 

If you're doing a film under 60 minutes. I'd just call it a pilot and pitch it as a series rather than a short.  Go for a development deal.

 


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#6 Justin Hayward

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Posted 11 April 2017 - 08:28 AM

If you make a short and it gets into Sundance, agencies and producers will contact you to set up meetings, but it will be up to you to make anything of it.  If I made a short now I would submit it to three or four of the top film festivals in the world.  If it doesn't get in to the very big ones, I wouldn't bother with any more.  Otherwise you're only paying for travel to watch your short screen in front of a handful of strangers.  Which some people like... not me.


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#7 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 11 April 2017 - 12:24 PM

The 99% figure I have no problem accepting, but I guess I'm trying to find the reasoning behind this figure. Is it just because it's assumed 99% of people who call themselves a "filmmaker" simply don't have the talent/resources to make both a well written and directed short? Or is it because producers aren't even paying attention?

 

The bigger festivals, the schedule is so whack, it's hard for people to even see the shorts. If you're a buyer or producer, why would you even waste your time seeing them, when you can see something that actually matters? 

 

Smaller festivals are where things truly get recognized, but no way will anyone worthwhile be watching. 

 

I'm jaded about festivals because part of me says they're cool and I'd do more in the future, but part of me says they're a waste of time. A lot of the stuff I've worked on has gone to festivals, 'A Fuller Life' has gone to two dozen, some of the biggest like Venice and Berlin. It's not a great movie or anything, but we didn't achieve very much with the festival run of any movie I've been apart of. 


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#8 Justin Hayward

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Posted 11 April 2017 - 01:46 PM

If your short gets accepted into Sundance, agencies and producers will contact you about what you want to do next whether they've seen your short or not.  I had a short film play in Sundance and the William Morris Agency called me to set up a meeting two weeks before the festival.   At the time, I didn't even know who they were.  My friend had a short film in Sundance and he got an agent, a manager, and immediately started developing projects (not to mention a sit down meeting with Harvey Weinstein at the festival).  Doors get opened, but they'll close very fast, so it will be up to you to follow through and keep yourself out there.

 

Small festivals are good for people that like to watch their movie with other people, which I do not.

 

Edit: Small festivals are also good for winning prize money, so if you submit to them, submit to the ones that have cash awards.  ;)


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#9 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 11 April 2017 - 05:48 PM

Perhaps it's more who you're likely to meet, rather than something directly coming from the film itself.

 

Heard a story about a top UK actor got noticed when as an art student (would be actor)he turned up drunk at a friends house, only to meet someone in the kitchen who told him to come to ro something in two weeks time. Turned out that the person was a feature film director and he got a part in feature film that started him on his career.

 

So 99% nothing, but you have to be around to meet people, some of whom may just turn out to be friends, if not major career changing meetings..


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#10 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 11 April 2017 - 06:41 PM

I can't think of much which has come out of any short I've done, fest or not. Shorts can be fun and challenging and a great experience to meet or test out new guys or girls you want to bring on your crew, with the hopes it leads to more, but truthfully, a feature done and shot, especially one "against the odds" in a way, is a game-changer. The real battle, though, isn't in shooting the film, it's in doing something with it afterwards. Just throwing these things on vimeo and into a few fests here and there isn't a viable  option no matter how long the project is. You have to market it, and moreso, market yourself. I'd give you advice on self-marketing, but honestly i'm awful at it or so I'm told constantly by mostly everyone (though none of them seem to have a solution either aside from get sponsored by some company x or y i probably wouldn't want to be sponsored by anyway)


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#11 Justin Hayward

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Posted 11 April 2017 - 08:40 PM

Macks Fiiod has himself listed as a director, so I'm only referring to the benefits of a director getting their short into the Sundance film festival.  I don't know what a cinematographer would gain from shooting short films other than experience and getting some good looking content on their reel. 

 

Of course I've seen many cinematographers start a career by shooting a feature that got into Sundance.  At least a few on this forum.  But I don't know about shorts.


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#12 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 11 April 2017 - 11:53 PM

Lets change the goal posts a bit, what would you guys list as the percentage chance of it just leading to more film work in general? Not some producer giving you a budget for a bigger project.


Edited by Macks Fiiod, 11 April 2017 - 11:54 PM.

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#13 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 11 April 2017 - 11:59 PM

That's really wholly up to you and your hustle; though ideally you'd want to meet a producer, you can do a lot on your own.


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#14 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 04:04 AM

Shorts are more about the director than the cinematographer, for them they're more practice pieces or a chance to use a technique that they may use in the future. 


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#15 Freya Black

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 05:10 AM

Shorts are more about the director than the cinematographer, for them they're more practice pieces or a chance to use a technique that they may use in the future. 

 

I guess the big advantage for the cinematographer might be more stuff for their reel if they make something really nice.

 

Freya


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#16 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 06:31 AM

Could also be their best shot at an Oscar winning film.


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#17 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 08:06 AM

I think the sad reality is that all routes into film and TV work are vanishingly, vanishingly unlikely to bear dividends.

 

The answer to all the "should I maybe..." questions is always "no".


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#18 Sam Javor

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 08:19 AM

I do industrials and event projects but pretty much all of my work is due to being noticed at local fests and screenings.

Getting an Honorable Mention Best Director at my local 48HFP got me some work at a local production company.  Doing a 48 on 35mm film and developing it in buckets got me the reputation of being the local mad scientist.  Being a finalist for a fellowship from my local arts council in got me to the point that I can pretty much count myself included in local screenings as long as I know the programmer.  Which has led to the odd situation of people I don't really know and have never worked with referring me to other production companies who need to fill a slot last minute... which usually leads to regular work.  I have placed in some international competitions... like Lomo's "My Analog Life"  which got me about $1K in 35mm still film.  But really, local people only care about local screenings.

Now... keep in mind I'm still poor... I'm self employed and have my share of clients going out of business and defaults. 

But to echo above... almost all shorts I've worked on in the past couple years have been practice pieces... if you learn a new technique
 then on set in a location you have for 2 hours in front of a client is not some place you want to 'hone your craft'. :) 
 


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#19 Justin Hayward

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 10:59 AM

I think the sad reality is that all routes into film and TV work are vanishingly, vanishingly unlikely to bear dividends.

 

The answer to all the "should I maybe..." questions is always "no".

 

Hyperbole?  I've found if I take your career advice and do the exact opposite, I'm always successful.   :P  :D


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#20 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 03:28 PM

Would you say the only festivals worth submitting to are ones people have actually heard of? Sundance, TIFF, Tribeca, etc? What steps/funds are required to submit into those?


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