A Grassroots Revival?

by twhalliii
February 22, 2007 4:02 AM
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Since I've been back from Sundance, my blogging has fallen off the map as I have been buried in piles of film screeners, invitations, more film screeners, meetings, planning sessions, e-mail, phone calls and more film screeners. Preparations for April's Sarasota Film Festival are going well, and I have to give a huge THANK YOU to the majority of my colleagues in the April film festival pile-up who have been amazing collaborators regarding scheduling films and talent, print shipping and travel. It's exteremely encouraging to work with so many good people who are able to balance the best interests of their festivals and communities with the best interests of filmmakers and their movies. It feels like we're part of a grassroots community and that almost everyone is working toward a great event and forging a viable network for really great films in this country.

The best part of the whole thing? Not a single mention of a film's "premiere status" among the whole bunch of us. Not a word.

It makes me wonder how this will all be perceived by the community at large. Will havng a bunch of film festivals collaborating and co-operating on showing some of the same movies be seen as busniess as usual? I can assure you, it's not. It has already been a successful year for me because I think I am witnessing the start of a new festival network and I'm very excited by it. I'll come up for air once the catalogue is finished and I can get to announcing what we have in store for this year. In the meantime, best wishes to all of my colleagues and filmmakers (you now who you are) as you ramp up for a busy spring.

Banyan Trees, Sarasota, FL

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More: Industry


  • Sujewa Ekanayake | February 22, 2007 10:45 AMReply

    Hey Tom,

    Good answers, thanks. I think having limited availability of the DVD for sale while the film plays festivals may be a good compromise for now, in certain (many?) cases (between filmmakers who want a % of tix sales from screenings & festivals that can't afford to pay that). It is cool that you are cool with filmmakers having their DVDs for sale & signing at your fest.

    Film festivals do cost a lot of money to put on, and at the same time films can take a lot of money & time to make & promote, and each film came to be most likely due to a multi-year commitment in time & resources by several people.
    Basically, both festivals and filmmakers do risk a lot in making their respective projects happen. And without films, there would be no festivals.

    I am very glad festivals are around. Sometimes the only chance to see certain high quality yet perhaps-not-easy-to-exploit-at-the-box-office movies.

    Overall, indie filmmakers & indie festivals working together is a very good idea. And I do believe that festivals are a form of distribution, or at least a tool that aids in other distribution down the line - such as theatrical bookings & wider DVD.

    Best of luck with Sarasota '07 (maybe i'll come & check it out, have not been to Florida in a while, perhaps a Stranger Than Paradise style road trip to Florida is in order, or maybe not quite like in Stranger, in second thought :). I enjoy reading your blog, added a link to this & the fest from my blog last night.

    - Sujewa

  • Sujewa Ekanayake | February 22, 2007 6:42 AMReply

    Hey Tom,

    The fests working together & not worrying about premier status of a film sounds like a very good thing.

    How do you (& perhaps other fest programmer) feel about films that are being sold on DVD, on a very small scale, (let's say through internet, by the filmmaker, on his/her site), and programming those movies into your fest?

    Also, how do you feel about filmmakers selling the DVDs of their movies at the fest?

    For filmmakers who are not interested in getting a distribution deal and are self-distributing, the fest exposure can be good marketing for their DVDs I think. It may make the cost of submitting to dozens or even hundreds of festivals more affordable, and maybe, in some cases, ultimately a $s wise profitable thing for the filmmakers/self-distributors.

    Also, a slightly older question, how do you feel about film festivals sharing a % of their ticket sales $s for a given screening with the filmmaker or the owner of the film being screened?

    Thanks a lot.

    - Sujewa

  • Tom Hall | February 22, 2007 4:33 AMReply

    Hey Sujewa,

    Two interesting points. I don't tend to discriminate against films that have filmmakers selling DVD's on their websites (we have a couple in the festival this year) if I feel that this will not affect the local attendance for their film. If the film is in full on DVD distribution, it seems to me that the filmmaker has made a choice to release on DVD and the festival experience has probably already passed them by.

    I also don't have a problem with filmmakers selling (and signing) copies of their DVD at the festival. If someone sees the film and is interested in owning it, I'm all for cutting out the middle man. My concern is that the theatrical expereince is not undermined.

    As for your final point, about sharing box office with filmmakers and companies; I loathe the idea. We work year round to raise enough money to fly people in, put them up in hotels, install $80,000 in video equipment, pay our programming, marketing, publicity and box office staff, get our events in place etc. And almost all festivals lose money or barely break even. We are non-profits who use whatever box office we can generate to put back into making the festival itself go. So, after extending the courtesy of travel, accommodations and an audience for the film to a filmmaker or distributor, to have them asking to share money to help their films find an audience (when we have so many expenses in making the screenings happen) seems like a selfish, greedy thing to ask for. That said, it doesn't stop a ton of people from asking because they know festivals are desperate for high quality films that will draw an audience. However, a festival is not a form of distribution; We have way more overhead, its all based on a year round effort to secure sponsors and private donors, and we are not permanent in our screening space, so we have tremendous costs involved with making things go. I look at this "trend" as one of the worst things to come out of the "indie" film community in a long time.