A Note to Film Festival Programmers

By tully | "Boredom at Its Boredest" by Michael Tully March 23, 2009 at 5:06AM

A Note to Film Festival Programmers

I received this hilarious email the other day from my Silver Jew partner-in-crime Matthew Robison. Being even peripherally connected to the world of film festival programming, I know how difficult and uncomfortable it can be, for filmmakers are hypersensitive babies (that's putting it sweetly). But while comical, there is some truth to this point. I can see both sides, but I still wanted to share Matthew's email with the world.


I was thinking this morning on the psychology of rejection (as applied to film festivals) and the way in which rejection letters are composed. Take this typical rejection letter (which I received last night):

Dear Matthew,

After months of viewing and considering more than 1,000 submissions from around the world, we have made our program selections for FILM FESTIVAL 2009.

This email is to inform you that your film, We Fun, was not among those selected for this year's festival.

We truly appreciate the effort filmmakers put into their work, and we thank you for sharing that work with us. With a limited number of screenings available, many worthy films were not selected.

We hope you understand.


Program Director

I've grown accustomed to these letters, but I went back to this one because something wasn't sitting right. Upon a second reading, I realized it is the fact that the second paragraph in which I am informed that the film was rejected is written in the passive voice. As in "your film didn't get up and select itself; it was like it was sick or something."

Here is the "rejection text" from another festival: We're sorry to let you know that while 'We Fun' was given every consideration, it did not make the final cut.

My point is that I think rejection would be easier to handle if the rejector OWNED the rejection rather than leaving it to some nebulous force that affects the object making it a thing of rejection.

So please don't think me bitter or angry (I'm pleased with how my film is doing), but I do think festivals could take a lesson here and improve the way in which they break this simple news without having to expound on the form letter format.

Pass it on?


Matthew A. Robison

PS: I have noticed of late the frequent occurrence of the prefix meta as an adjective. I reject the use of meta as an adjective. Or, to use the festival format, meta as an adjective is not one of the words selected to this year's lexicon.