Film Contests/Festival Thoughts..

Random sense of humor required. ;o

At some point in your journey throughout this field, you may run across opportunities to be involved in film contests/festivals. It’s a great idea to be proactive and look out for these events from time to time, while also having a great network will help alert you to times when you could submit a short film you may have previously done. I’d like to talk about some of my past experiences with them, maybe give a few tips, and explain why it’s important to put yourself out there with these type of events. Whether editor, sound, director, videographer, script supervisor, actor/actress, etc. Anyone involved in the film/video industry should try to participate in at least one!

Up to date, I have entered several contests where one of our films had the pleasure of being screened and enjoyed by others. To try to describe the experience would be immensely hard, not to mention it’s so relative to each person’s experience. However, to me, there’s really no other feeling out there when you see a film you helped create go up on a big screen. Your heart feels like it’s going to drop out of your chest in anticipation and excitement. It gives you something productive to work on that not only allows wiggle room for learning new techniques and more about yourself as *insert role*, but it is a definable space of time you can utilize networks, take on new roles (say editor to director for a change), and fill a particular genre in which you can gain new perspectives.

Throughout my participation in contests and festivals, I have been involved in some short films I never thought I’d do. I’ve had the pleasure of working with many people around the area that I may have never met otherwise. I have learned a lot more about the inner workings of production (since I am so heavily involved more in post). I’ve often found myself quite at home surrounded by other teams and inspired by their films as well. Film festivals can open you up to a lot of new networks and friends, from a simple conversation with a nice exchange of ideas to an offer for work down the road later, and it creates a welcoming environment that feels like a big giant push of encouragement.

Don't freak! :3 Who'm I kiddin? Freak out then fix it/make it work!

Not that this upcoming advice is anything new, because it’s certainly not, but perhaps I can say it in a way that makes sense to help you understand how to prepare for then enjoy them from start to finish.

First tip: Examine when thinking about entering these type of events what is required of you precisely. Can you meet the deadline without mostly a shadow of a doubt? Do you have the necessary equipment, time, crew, cast, etc to meet the film requirements? Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. No, really. Take your effort, ideas, confidence, and skills into it, you will get damn near close to what you put into it at the end (or so is the goal!), right? This is often overlooked by the thrill of excitement, but when “D-Day” comes, waves of panic roll on through. Without preparing yourself for the very best and very worst of the “what ifs” and audience reactions, you set yourself up to feel resentment and thus bitter towards this type of experience.

Second tip: These may require an insane amount of organizational and clear communication skills. From everything to casting auditions to crew calls, putting everyone on the same page, and just getting everyone in the same spot at the same time -on time- can be a real challenge. Many crews can fall into the black hole of lost communication. You have to find a way to keep your cast and crew motivated at wrong turns and late nights and hungry times (though if you plan it well, you’ll scrounge up at least enough to somehow feed them with pizza/snackies/water at the very least if they are not paid for roles) Not to overwhelm, but in addition to the mass organization, you’ll need to be quite tedious at managing locations, props, and anything else required for the film. There’s nothing worse than arriving and ready to film, but you’re missing a backup battery or important prop. Of course, making lists will be quite helpful for this process, so don’t underestimate and make sure you write out lists for your cast and crew so they know exactly what should be on hand and what they need to bring.

Consider hiring a juggler to entertain during the "hurry up and wait" filming days. LOL.

Third Tip: Remember this much, a happy cast and crew will make for happier production and post-production times. There is going to be stress involved. Feed them. Love them. Pat them…no wait, that’s pets. But you get the drift. You are going to pep talk yourself before that you won’t overreact or have anything disagreeable happen and then come the time, this all may go out a window. Shit happens! The important part is that you know how to continue forward despite any snags along the way. Once you find yourself in a situation when something goes wrong, or people are overtired and grumpy, you can continually try to adjust how you react to it. Take it all in stride, and you will find people will lighten up and move on. The longer you dwell, the longer it resides and leaves bad juju in the air. I will note there are extreme circumstances in timed contests (such as the 48 Hour Film Project) that is an entirely different beast compared to most other ones, considering you are not under the intensity of such a small span of time. Please see my earlier posts specifically about the 48 hour contest because you may need some different tactics there.

Fourth Tip: Backups! BACKUPS! Equipment/Cast/Crew. You never know what may happen between preparations to production day. You may have every actor/actress lined up then find out the day of that one of them can’t make it or something happens and it’s a no show. This is precisely something that occurred to us during one 48 hour film project that ended up working out in our favour, but in the future, you’ll want to make sure you have a few people who are good-natured, capable, and able to allot a day or two that they may need to be called upon. This shouldn’t be terribly difficult if you reach out to the right networks. One great avenue you could go is to hold some auditions with people from theatre and acting colleges. In the case of the my capstone project, we utilized several students that were at the theatre program at a local nearby college as our cast for several films. Also, enlist some friends to be on standby to assist as Production Assistants of sorts. Need more coffee? Forgot a prop? Need to pickup an actor who’s car broke down? You’ll find support in friends more than you think. This has created down the road many valuable and awesome connections we can continually pull from to flesh out cast. Which comes to my next tip…

Check. Double Check. Triple Check. EVERYTHING! xD

Fifth Tip: Always look to the future when considering your team. Change can be good. While you may have a dedicated team of crew, cast, and friends, it never hurts to look outside the box and pull in new people while some may go, and a few others stay constant.

Most of all, have fun with it and you’ll create something you can look back upon and smile! 🙂