Chris Gore writes a book called "The Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide". In the first 10 pages of the book he talks about going to Film Festivals all over the world and enjoying each and every one of them. I don't know about you, but this sounds like heaven to me. Whether you are a film aficionado or a filmmaker with a film entered, a film festival is an exciting experience and one you will want to repeat as often as possible.
There was a time when film festivals were far and few between. Studios controlled every aspect to filmmaking and there was not much of an independent spirit to be found anywhere. It seems however, with the rise of Indie films that every state in the country has it's own film festival. In California alone there must be twenty or more film festivals.
There was a time when films did not happen at all unless they were under the auspices of the studios. There was no real chance of the little guy getting his or her film out there. But now it is a whole different ballgame. The little guy likes to show his films anywhere he can, hence the rise of independent film festivals all over the country.
Sundance, Tribeca, and the Toronto Film Festival are the first and foremost festivals to submit your film to. However there are at least a hundred other film festivals that you can submit your film to. This is rather like the lottery; if you don't play you can't win. If you don't enter your film you can't get it shown. You must continue to submit your film as many times as you can until you finally get acceptance into a festival.
You might get quite a few rejection letters until you get your first acceptance letter. There are a few things that might help you out though. You must remember that a film festival board may have 800 submissions and only 40 spots for a film to be shown. Many a rejection letter has given the reason that they had far too many submissions to even view them all. My advice to you is that once you have your film done and you have the very first date they are opening for submissions then submit your film. Don't wait until the last minute.
Make sure your film is entered into the right festival for instance, you would not enter a children's film into an adult alternative film festival. I am not sure there is even the latter category, but you get the general drift. Also, read your application carefully. It may require your entry to be mailed, done online, or even in person.
In the category of short film, be very careful you adhere to any time requirements for your piece. If it is a little too long then do some more trimming. Just to be on the safe side if the film is to be 10 minutes long, make it for 9 minutes. Don't give them any reason to kick back a rejection letter.
Rejection is a funny thing with Film Festivals; there is art even in rejection. The Slamdance film festival came about as an answer to the rejections from Sundance. The Sundance Festival shows in Park City, Utah. At the same time in Park City, Utah Slamdance runs. This is a deliberate attempt to show the films that have been over looked by Sundance. I'll bet there's a lot of action in that town during the combined running of both festivals.If you get a chance to visit the Pacific Northwest during the end of May and beginning of June, the Seattle International Film Festival runs for almost a month sometimes showing as many as 300 films. They have great filmmaker's forums and there is their original "Fly Filmmaking Challenge" that they hold every year. Theirs is the longest running and shows the most films of any other film festival in the country.
I encourage you to do your own search of film festivals and check out their application processes. Do this research sooner rather than later. Don't wait until the last minute.
For the aspiring filmmaker film school is a joy. Not only does it serve to give you the rudimentary skill set you will need, but also it serves to mold your passion and give you the momentum once leaving school, to produce work that is fresh and new. There are several schools in this country that have outstanding reputations.
Of course California is going to produce more film schools than you can shake a stick at, with New York a close second, but there are plenty of film school opportunities in other parts of the country. I will discuss some of the heavies first as they are the "Pie in the Sky" for many aspiring filmmakers. The premiere school to go to would of course be the AFI conservatory. Founded in 1967, they provide 6 areas of course study: Cinematography, Directing, Editing, Producing, Production Design, and Screenwriting. AFI is particularly devoted to traditional narrative film.
California Institute for the Arts (Cal Arts), was created in 1961 by Disney in 1961, with an emphasis on animation. San Francisco State University has a film program, also created in the 60's amid the political expansiveness of that time and their course work is heavily influenced buy experimental film. Then there is always UCLA Film School and USC as well.
In New York you have Columbia University School of the Arts and NYU. Both have heavy rosters of Directors and Film writers that have come up in the ranks at these schools. I think of Spike Lee when I think of NYU.
These are the most famous of them all, the 'A' list, and to get into these schools is practically a miracle from god, but if you do, you just scored Willy's Golden Ticket. If you find yourself to be one of the many that are outside the golden gates looking at all the happy film students, do not despair. There are plenty of other film schools around the country that have great programs where you can get the skills and training you need.
There are some things that you must consider when picking a school off of the 'B' list. How much is the education going to cost? That is the bottom line, because if you get loans to get into school, you better be able to make those loan payments 6 months after graduation. To that end the next consideration is what kind of internships do they offer. See if you can have a conversation with the senior students in the film program so that you have an idea of what is in store for you once you leave school. Who else has graduated from this school that is noteworthy?
Film School is that wonderful island in the middle of an otherwise uphill battle. The equipment loan programs in themselves are worth the price of admission. Here you will have the opportunity to use cameras, recording, and editing equipment along with edit bays and sound studios. There will be a pool of actors and crew to draw from as you each help crew for each other. For this one brief time you have the benefit of all this. Once on the other side, however, you are on your own.
The Pacific Northwest has several film schools. University of Washington has an excellent film school. The Evergreen State University is notorious for their liberal/alternative education. Some take issue with the fact that there are no grades. Instead there is an evaluation system in place where the student and teacher write evaluations of themselves, the teacher, and the program. Greeners, as they are called, pride themselves in critical thinking and their program, MediaWorks, has provided the film community with radical, cutting edge filmmakers.
Whatever school you decide to attend, enjoy it while it lasts. It will be the one place you can experiment and have the support you need to get your projects done. Plan on sleeping very little and learn to love pizza and Top Ramen.
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