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Old 10-26-2016, 09:59 PM   #1
itsastruggle
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Film Festivals RIGGED?

Ok, I know I sound like Donald Trump. But, I keep hearing "my friend can get us into this festival", "i know someone who runs that festival", and similar comments. I know the prevailing wisdom will always be "if your film is good it will win out". That can't be true in every case, though. There have to be a lot of good films that don't make it into festivals because there is just not enough spots.

So my question is, what percentage of slots do you think are "rigged" in the sense that the people got their film in because of connections or another type of string pulling?

And, is there anything I can do as a person with no connections, other than submit my film and hope for the best? It seems most festivals ask you NOT to send marketing materials and PR stuff unless invited. What are the other options? Can I reach out to the programmers? Will that be annoying or welcomed?
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Old 10-27-2016, 12:21 AM   #2
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So, I have a connection with one particular festival. Not in the sense that I could get a friend's film into it, but in the sense that I have a direct link to the organizer of the fest. Basically, the organizer was so impressed with the film that they screened that they told me that if I'd ever like to screen another film with them that I should forego the regular submission process and send it directly to them.

Should I take them up on this offer at any point in the future, there will be no guarantee that they'd accept my film, but my odds would be greatly increased. As I understand it, most fests use a large staff of volunteer screeners whose job it is to filter through the huge volume of submissions that they get, and forward the ones they like to the next faze of the submission process, in which the "higher-ups" will watch all of the films that the lower-ranking screeners have given their approval to.

Depending on which fest you're submitting to, there's usually no promise that the initial screener(s) is even going to watch your entire film. So they might miss that really awesome thing that happens in the 2nd act, simply because your 1st act is kinda lacking (I might be speaking from personal experience on that one). Maybe they'll watch the whole thing, but maybe not.

With this particular fest, I have somebody really important who is willing to commit to watching my entire movie, and they're probably going to go into it with the predisposed notion that they're going to enjoy it. That is a huge leg-up, but I wouldn't equate that with anything resembling the rigging of an election. That's just a film fest programmer being smart.

It's also worth noting that basically every single film fest application wants to know if you've had a film screened by them before. If you have, this will give them the idea that hey, maybe this is someone whose movie we should make sure we pay a little more attention to in the screening process. Again, this is just a programmer being smart.

So how do you get that upper-leg? Make movies! Submit them to fests! When you get into the fest, maybe you can find a way to share a beer with one of the programmers. And if you're not able to make this more personal connection, at least you know that they'll probably pay greater attention to any movie you might submit to them in the future.

Best of luck on your endeavors. It's not an easy path you've chosen. Just keep pluggin' along, and do your best to make sure that you enjoy every step of the way.
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Old 10-27-2016, 12:24 AM   #3
itsastruggle
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cracker Funk View Post
Depending on which fest you're submitting to, there's usually no promise that the initial screener(s) is even going to watch your entire film.
that is SAD. They shouldnt take your money if they are not going to watch your entire film. Isnt that what youre paying for? Even if the film is shit and they know in the first 60 seconds its not going to be accepted, they should still watch it.
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Old 10-27-2016, 12:46 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by itsastruggle View Post
that is SAD. They shouldnt take your money if they are not going to watch your entire film. Isnt that what youre paying for? Even if the film is shit and they know in the first 60 seconds its not going to be accepted, they should still watch it.
I agree. Also, I have absolutely no clue how prevalent or rare a practice this is (to not entirely watch the film).

I do know, however, that I'll never submit to Sundance. I don't remember where I read this, but I remember reading an article written by someone who did the math -- Sundance gets so many submissions that they literally don't have time to watch all of the films submitted, simply because they don't have enough volunteer screeners to handle the sheer volume of films submitted.

I don't know this to be true, but I imagine something similar is probably true with many other fests. It's not that they're evil money-grabbers, but if what I'm saying is true, it's probably just because they don't have enough volunteers. Still though, that's a shitty scenario. I hope it's more rare.
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Old 10-27-2016, 01:20 AM   #5
itsastruggle
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I'll never submit to Sundance. I don't remember where I read this, but I remember reading an article written by someone who did the math -- Sundance gets so many submissions that they literally don't have time to watch all of the films submitted, simply because they don't have enough volunteer screeners to handle the sheer volume of films submitted.

How can you know for sure? The film that won best short last year Thunder Road, the director said he was floored that he got into sundance and that he had been trying for years. You just never know and the risk/reward, I'd say is too good to pass up. So much press if you get in and esp if you win.
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Old 10-27-2016, 01:26 AM   #6
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There are somewhere around 12,000 film festivals in the world, so I'd be surprised if there were not at least a few which are "rigged". Also, it depends exactly what you mean by "rigged", the major festivals are/can be quite political.

Quote:
Originally Posted by itsastruggle View Post
Isnt that what youre paying for?
No, you're paying for consideration to be accepted for screening in the festival, not for someone to watch or critique your film. The major festivals have many thousands of applicants, it would be practically impossible to watch all of them all the way though. If it's obvious in the first minute or so that a short is not going to make the cut, there's no point in wasting time/money watching it all the way through. A feature might be given a few minutes more or it might not, depending. A good filmmaker knows that first impressions are crucial (for festivals or commercial/public release) and makes their film accordingly!

G
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Old 10-27-2016, 01:31 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by itsastruggle View Post
How can you know for sure? The film that won best short last year Thunder Road, the director said he was floored that he got into sundance and that he had been trying for years. You just never know and the risk/reward, I'd say is too good to pass up. So much press if you get in and esp if you win.
Nah, I prefer Slamdance. They're what Sundance used to be, and you still get to have your film screened next to all the Sundance films.
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Old 10-27-2016, 02:55 AM   #8
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I get the impression you are asking about the top-tier festivals.
Yes, they are “rigged”. Films made by “famous” people get first
consideration, films or filmmakers that already have “buzz” get
consideration, but there are those that get in based on merit. Like
“Thunder Road”. It didn't hurt that he had the festival rights to a
Springsteen song. That made the interns watching the movie take
notice.

Create a buzz about yourself as a filmmaker. Make a couple of really
exceptional short films that do well in small festivals. Your third or
forth film will have some “buzz” when submitting to Sundance and
that will put you to the front of the line

You are correct, there are many great films that do not get programmed.
Sundance gets around 20,000 short film submissions each year and
they program about 30. If just 1% of those submitted were good...
Well, you do the math. And no, they do not watch each one in its
entirety. Again, do the math; at an average of 15 minutes how long
would it take 20 people to watch 1,000 films?

So, don't hope that this first film will get accepted into one of the top
festivals. Get that “buzz” going by making at least two (three is better)
truly exceptional short films and getting them into the smaller festivals.
Then hit the top festivals with your true masterpiece. THAT'S how a
person with no connections makes those all important connections and
riggs the system.
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Old 10-27-2016, 08:34 AM   #9
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I remember a former classmate being very disappointed when a filmfest he volunteered for didn't select his short.
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Old 10-27-2016, 12:00 PM   #10
directorik
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I volunteered at Slamdance for five years.

My feature wasn't accepted.
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Old 10-28-2016, 03:16 PM   #11
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And those 2 points reflect that it is not as rigged as the OP seems to think
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