The Little Film Guy

I’ve been thinking recently about the sort of mentality that usually comes with low-budget or no-budget filmmakers, and how that in its own way affects their perceptions of the world of independent film.  I think a lot of the time that the festival circuit seems so closed off because it tends to just assume that the people wanting to enter know how to enter, or that the people who are going to enter already have enough experience and a fair amount of contacts to help them get there, that their products are going to be somewhat professional and worthy of some kind of festival viewing.  The only problem is that the people described are not everybody, and usually almost everybody wants to get into film festivals.  I haven’t found a respected festival that gives real screenings of films and whatnot like a normal film festival that is known widely that accepts the uber-amateur filmmaker’s submissions.  In my very recent experience, you can make a film and submit it to a festival very easily, but to find out about the resources available to you to help in submitting and the places you can submit to, you need to have some experience both in the practical filmmaking field and the online indy community.  I’ve found recently that a resource online for submitting to film festivals is Withoutabox.com.  It’s a great resource where you register your film, give it all kinds of information, which amounts to close to twenty pages I think of information about the cast and crew, budget, various lengths of synopses, all kinds of information from who to contact for copies of the film to how it’s distributed (film prints, DVDs, VHS, BetaSP, etc.) and where it was filmed, details on all the cast and crew like contact info, etc.  Not all of this is required, however, to be able to enter in most festivals, there is a requested or required press kit, which includes photos, a trailer, synopsis, etc. that you can manage from the website, and all sorts of other easily manageable publicity tools like an audience page with info about the film for other members of the website to check out your film and see when and where it’s playing at festivals and whatnot.  Also, through membership with the website (which is free and honestly simplifies the process of getting into the festival circuit hugely) you get discounted prices on entries into lots of festivals, with the obvious option of upgrading from your free plan to various paid versions of the membership with exponential benefits.  The free version however, is incredibly useful in streamlining the process of promoting your film from registering it only once, and then being able to submit it to as many film festivals as you want, or that exist – provided you have the money to send it with your entry.  Now, the idea I was thinking of was basically this: a super-low-budget amateur filmmaker is often at a disadvantage in terms of not only money but effective contacts (people with experience who can help out with things from VFX to color correction to simple tips on set or model building), quality actors, crew members, effective props and costumes and makeup jobs, all of which severely limits their films right from the get-go.  These limitations can often hold back the telling of a great story, or work for the filmmaker, forcing them to become more creative in getting the story told their way, without spending tons of money like the heavy-hitter of Hollywood tend to do.  This forced creativity makes them even more capable filmmakers, simply because they come up with unconventional ways to solve very conventional problems, and often they don’t cost a thing.  Getting back to the main topic of breaking into the public’s consciousness, the audience of a film likes to be entertained, no matter how open-minded they are.  The constraints put on filmmakers to get their stories told well on a next-to-nothing budget (or a truly-nothing-budget) often make them work very hard to get their film completed, both wearing them down until the end where they’re happy just to premiere their film for friends and family and call it a good run.  That’s what I did.  The almost self-defeatist attitude of a low-budget filmmaker that often comes at the end of making a film I think is really what kills independent filmmakers the most, because the festival circuit does seem closed off when you’re exhausted from making the film and don’t know how to get into it.  I wanted nothing to do with my film after it was done.  I wasn’t very happy with it, though it was almost a $1400 that was 56 minutes long and got a great response at the local premiere.  A few months later, I put the film online on YouTube – the big kahuna of video promotion on the web – and got very little response, however the response I did get was wonderful.  The audience truly appreciated it.  The next thing I discovered was the usefulness of Withoutabox.  I conversed with my contact at an online filmmaking magazine, talked briefly with an ex film teacher of mine, and we discussed the availability of film festivals that didn’t seem closed off to small-time filmmakers hoping to find an audience for their work.  Essentially, there are none, none that we found anyway.  This whole thing feels very rambly right now.  I get notified because of my membership with Withoutabox of new festivals that have approaching deadlines, in case I want to submit something to them.  However, these festivals are often bigger festivals or ones that don’t seem to have a very good chance of getting my film shown at their venues – they seem pretty closed off to the bigger filmmakers of the low-budget arena.  This is the problem.  However, after registering my film on the website, going through all the steps and providing as much information as I could, setting up an audience page and a press kit for it, I was able to search through all types of festivals and qualify my project for their showing.  It takes the festival’s requirements and the information I gave about my film, matches them up, and lets me know if they’re compatible, if I need to change something or if they’re asking for something like a 35mm film print of my film for submission – which I couldn’t and wouldn’t do.  Essentially, the point is that small-time filmmakers often feel closed off simply because they don’t know where to look for a wider audience for their films.  Withoutabox definitely solves this problem, but not without some work on the part of the filmmaker (registering and inputting all the info) and then a little searching around their site for some good festivals.  If it’s just an audience you’re after, you’re all set once you’re registered to start submitting.  If it’s monetary awards you’re after, you’ll have to look into more of the bigger festivals, which often means you’ll need an impressive product.  It’s definitely worth looking into and definitely worth getting a membership, but don’t have the defeatist attitude of just a local premiere and calling it a good run.  Once you’ve registered your film on the website, there are so many doors that open up, so many festivals that are calling for entries that your project will likely fit.  I think the point is small-time filmmakers don’t have many connections or much experience, but are the ones most anxious about getting attention; people with a bit more experience, especially in a small town, like me, are often more used to the idea of a small local premiere or none at all, and calling it good when it’s sent out to friends and family.  The interesting thing is that the ones seeking more attention don’t have the connections or information or resources they often need, and the ones with the connections and resources don’t seem to notice them and utilize them to their best interest.  I think that’s just one way that disheartens the small-time filmmaker, just the fact that they overlook their opportunities to be heard of because in their mind, they’re done with their film.  The anxiousness for attention is gone somewhat it seems, and that’s what I thought was interesting, that I still definitely want recognition for my films, but I’m accustomed after being around a small town with little audience and few people who care about my projects that I’m just used to being done with a film and moving on to another one, instead of pursuing the completed one and promoting it, telling people about it, and hoping for new connections and new contacts to be formed that may come together for a better final result on the next one made.  The littlest film guy is the one I guess with the hugest dreams, simply because they don’t always know or see the realistic process of making films and getting known; the small-time filmmaker with more experience often still has those dreams, but leaves them be for the future, because they see more of the difficulties in getting known and recognized for films well made.  It’s interesting how just the location of the filmmaker themself can influence their productivity and attitude toward pushing a completed project through the festival circuit.  This is really badly written and it doesn’t quite outline the idea very well but it helped to think about it I guess.  At least it’s progress in my research paper and in my journals homework assignments.

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2 Responses to “The Little Film Guy”

  1. Blake: let’s hear it for those little films out there…and the people who make them out of love, not with one eye on selling them. I recently picked up a batch of old Super 8mm films on eBay, people recording their summer vacations and family get-togethers 30-40 years ago. Slice of life vignettes, people mugging self-consciously in front of their camera. I’d like to cut them into some semblance of a weird narrative…a rainy day project.

    Our local library sponsors a short film festival and it’s always fun to see the works produced–one of my sons actually nailed a “People’s Choice” trophy last year for a stop motion piece–he proudly displays his trophy in his bedroom.

    A bit of a suggestion–you should break your posts into paragraphs with spaces between to make them more readable for old codgers like me who can’t absorb too much text at one time or they’ll be scrabbling for bifocals. It will draw a lot more people to your site as well and keep ’em reading…

  2. […] unknown article, brought to you using rss feeds. I found it informative and I think you will too.Here’s some of the articleI’ve been thinking recently about the sort of mentality that usually comes with low-budget or no-budget filmmakers, and how that in its own way affects their perceptions of the world of independent film. I think a lot of the time that … […]

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