Wanting to show a film at a festival? Here’s how…

Film festivals are vital for any filmmaker and getting your film seen and acknowledged by distributors is more difficult than originally thought.

Film festivals and markets play a useful role in the strategic planning of finding distribution for independent films.

For aspiring filmmakers, a festival is a place where their product has a chance of being spotted, but how do they get there?

Sarah Barrow, Head of the Lincoln School of Film and Media, said: “I would advise aspiring filmmakers to do their research on the wide range of festivals, to visit a few if they can and get to know some of the organisers, to read the criteria carefully and stick to them (if the entries have to be under 10 minutes don’t send anything longer).

“Be ambitious but realistic but maybe start with a reasonably local event that seems to be of good quality and go for that first. And if your work gets selected, do your very best to attend.

“Festivals are all about networking and learning from others.”

A festival is an established venue usually organized around screenings and prizes, dedicated to introducing movies of a certain style to a paying audience, attended by distribution executives seeking product and by opinion-makers and journalists seeking stories.

Festivals date back to the 1930s and 1940s when powerhouse festivals including Berlin, Cannes and Venice were launched to promote new films and talent to international filmmakers, audiences, and journalists.

Internationally there are more than one thousand festivals being held in Edinburgh, Tokyo and New York and many other locations.

Most festivals have their own specific genre of film that they show for example the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival focuses on short films and therefore research is vital.

The key challenge for filmmakers is to navigate among choices and match the right venue to their film project.

Putting your film on at a festival is a risky endeavour as taking it to festivals around the world will often take about two years and therefore it takes you away from developing future projects.

A good budget plan is a vital necessity for any aspiring filmmaker and some have fallen into the trap of running out of money before the end of production without taking into consideration festival submissions and expenditures.

Steve Montal, who has served on juries and selection committees of more than forty film festivals, advises filmmakers to create a budget line for ‘festivals’ with categories including publicist, travel and promotional material.

One could suggest that the success of a film is due to the appropriateness of the festival.

You need to spend time researching the festivals and narrowing down the list by visiting each of the websites and finding the right ones.

Each year, the major festivals (Sundance, Cannes, Berlin etc) are overwhelmed with entries and aspiring filmmakers need to be careful when submitting the application.

The easiest way to be disqualified from a festival is to fill out the submission materials incorrectly and in more cases then hoped, filmmakers send films that are not eligible, therefore researching the festivals is one of the most essential and important aspects.

Ray Barry, who runs the AFI National Film Theater at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., said: “Success at festivals involved being able to develop a plan for positioning your film every step of the way.

“You need to find the right festivals to submit your film to, budget accordingly and promote your film every chance you get.

“Even though Slamdance is one of my favorite festivals, I would not recommend a Hollywood romantic comedy to be submitted there. While this is an extreme example, it proves that filmmakers need to research the right venues for their film.”

Some people will be wondering what the purpose of a film festival is and why it is important for filmmakers to have their projects shown.

At festivals there is a whole range of distributors whose executives scour them for complete movies to acquire.

According to Montal, there are two types of executives; the divisions of large studios (Disney/Time Warner) and the stand-alone independent studios (Lions Gate/Newmarket).

Both large and independent studios use festivals in order to acquire new products and to announce deals to the press and the rest of the industry.

Not only are there film festivals that honour and celebrate the creation of film and TV, but recently a new development called Web Series Festivals have entered the world.

The winner of two awards at the Melbourne Web Series Festival and one at the LA festival, Mission Backup Earth is an online, independent sci-fi TV series.

Creator Alexander Pfander said: “For any aspiring film and TV directors, I would advise that you have a specific topic that you enjoy and for me it was sci-fi, so I went ahead and created the online series.

“With a limited budget, we decided to use YouTube to allow viewers to watch the show and from that, and the hits we received, we won the prizes at the Web Series Festivals.

“I would say that nowadays with social media and the internet, it is easier these days for people to get noticed than it has ever been.”

Festivals can be the best and most stressful times in a filmmaker’s career and is filled with friends but also with tough critics and tight deadlines and decisions but for success research is essential.

Actor/producer of Purpose Pictures, Jennica Schwartzman, said: “I tell young/school age filmmakers to attend festivals BEFORE entering works and to take their time at each stage making their best work.

“They also need to market their work to the other filmmakers attending and festival sponsors by using Facebook/Twitter for personal invites.

“After the festival is over, they need to stay in touch with the festival runners for next time and over time build personal relationships with them.”

Success at festivals is about strategy but the best advice, according to Montal, is try to have some fun while you’re at it.


Sara Pascoe: Comedienne, feminist, revolutionary?

For the last gig on her most recent tour, comedienne Sara Pascoe gave it all.

The short performance, with two 45 minute pieces with an interval, flew by and it showed that she clearly knew how to please an audience.

Like any performing comedy, she bashed out well-rehearsed jokes one after the other but still kept the theme of sex and more or less her life.

Using anecdotal references as filler in the show, we got an in depth recount of her life including first boyfriends to her current boyfriend.

There were some parts that made it seem like the show was aimed more at women than men, which is understandable from a female feminist, yet that did not stop the men in the audience laugh along at the jokes, despite the male gender being joked at.

A lot, if not all the sketches, were about sex and you had to feel sorry for her boyfriend who was mainly the butt of her jokes but as he is a comedian as well, it makes the empathy slightly move to one side.

Like all comedians/comediennes she spoke directly to the audience and asked if someone was alright after a cough was heard.

The audience who were both students and adults but mainly the latter were laughing the whole way through from the very opening piece to the final and it was clear a lot of effort had gone into producing what was a fantastic comedy act.

It was well rehearsed and despite there being sometimes pauses where she ‘forgot’ what she saying, it enticed the audience to laugh even harder. However, it did make one wonder whether the bits she ‘forgot’ were part of the show itself but either way it worked.

Some of the sketches were relatable to all audience members and her use of historical contexts and references showed that she spent a fair bit of time getting the show to what it was.

One main criticism that I couldn’t push out of my head was the slating of the male gender. I get that she is a feminist and there is still issues of equality in the world but does that mean someone can abuse and offend the opposite gender for comedy means?

If a man stood on stage and said similar things to what she said within this show, feminists around the world would be grabbing the torches and pitchforks to hunt him down. So why can it be the same for a female?

This is not saying I didn’t enjoy it. I did. But this is one thought that kept coming into my mind at every sexualised joke she said.

As it began to draw to an end, it became more philosophical than one was expecting.

The concept of the world coming to an end really made one think about their life and what will happen when the world ends.

This, once again, showed that Sara managed to produce a piece of comedy that was not just joke after joke but instead made the audience think about life, something that not all comedians/comediennes can do.

Sara is without a doubt someone who will attract more and more audience numbers as she excels in the comedy world.

Alice’s Journey In Wonderland – YMCA Youth Musical Theatre Production

Two young YMCA members took to pen and paper to put on their first debut production.

Alice’s Journey in Wonderland is the debut of two young writers, Sam McNeill, 13, and Beth Eltringham, 14.

The YMCA production follows Alice who journeys into Wonderland where she meets the iconic characters including White Rabbit, Mad Hatter and the Red Queen.

The show is a mixture of both the classic story written by Lewis Carroll in 1865 and Tim Burton’s film adaptation in 2010 and it works.

The two writers, who asked for the opportunity to write a show, clearly knew what they were doing when they produced the incredible script at such a young age.

The set, which contained two thrones on both sides and curtains that showed specific areas across Wonderland including the Red Queen’s castle, utilised the space by filling every corner with visuals including the decorated backdrops providing vital scene changes.

And to add to this, the young performers knew how to fill the stage. There were no sad faces in the audience but the show was probably more catered for parents with young children or parents who had children performing.

The limited stage space did not hinder the production and the talented team managed to produce a play that had everyone stood up and dancing by the end.

Liv Harrison, who played the lead role of Alice, managed to keep the audience engaged throughout the entire production and her confidence to get out on stage and sing held her role in the professional demeanour of an aspiring stage star.

As this production was a pantomime, the role of the dame character was brought in.

Sam McNeill, who played Deidre the Washer Woman, kept the children, and in some circumstances the adults, laughing the whole way through.

As one of the writers of the production, Sam performed his role perfectly and would expect to see him in the next upcoming productions reprising his role as the dame.

However, the role of the White Rabbit performed by Grace Taylor, really stole the show.

She was truly magnificent and her confidence performing solos was inspirational. She was an asset to the cast.

The rest of the performers tried their hardest to get the show to the highest possible performance and it was great to see.

They all knew their roles and to perform at such a young age was both great to see and an enjoyable piece of theatre.

The show had a bit for everyone with songs that varied from pop hits such as Your Song right through to traditional pantomime songs including The Washer Woman which had the whole audience standing up and dancing along.

One of the most memorable parts of the production was the opening dance sequence after the interval that reinforced the talents that these performers have.

The experimental dance sequence, performed by the older members of the cast, told the story of Alice and her journey through Wonderland without any use of dialogue or songs.

The younger audience members were not so keen on this part of the show but it felt like it was put in for the older generation and showed the variety of talents based at the YMCA.

The group dance sequences and songs really brought to life the fun and enjoyment that these children had whilst performing.

It was a production with limited budget and space yet they managed to use creative elements to show how Alice falls down the rabbit hole and when she shrinks after drinking some liquid, which really showed the talents of the writers and directors.

The production was choreographed by Holly McNeill and was produced by Steve Marsh and Graham Ibbotson, who has just celebrated 30 years at the YMCA, and was part of Y Musical Theatre.

The audience were engaged throughout the production like a typical pantomime would plus the cast saying ‘hello to the Steve’, meaning me was both embarrassing yet great to hear.

The cast should be proud of what they achieved; it showed the talents and dedication of the cast and crew involved.