Re: Anthology Film Archives and Newfilmmakers Series and Withoutabox

From: Adam Trowbridge (email suppressed)
Date: Sat Aug 26 2006 - 10:16:49 PDT

On Aug 26, 2006, at 6:23 AM, Freya wrote:

> I have to say that Adam and a couple of other people
> are really starting to swing me on this issue.

I want to note I am not arguing for submission fees. I was only
arguing that they were not out of the ordinary, even at screenings
and that jumping on one venue for charging them doesn't address the
issue. I think it is an issue worth addressing, just not by attacking
a single venue.

> Withoutabox claims to not charge any fees, neither to
> the filmakers nor to the festivals! There isn't the
> setup fee that Adam talks about it's all FREE, FREE,
> FREE (in capital letters as the subject lines of spam
> often are). This is technically true I suppose, but
> the claim is somewhat akin to Hitler claiming that he
> never actually killed anyone in the Holocaust.

It's not even technically true as far as registering an event to take
submissions online is concerned. You cannot take submissions through
WAB without a minimum $500 fee up front.
I tried to register an event with WAB. This is from the first email:

"The FREE listing that you currently have DOES NOT activate your
festival in the system to accept submissions online - in our terms,
to become a "partner" event. In order to take this next step, and
fully access the power of the system, you must speak with a Festival
Liaison. Together, we'll go over the details of your event, and
decide whether a full partnership makes sense for your event this year."

So, surprise one is that the free listing is just a listing, you
cannot take submissions without paying. How much? (This is from the
PDF sent to me by WAB):

"1. There is a $500, upfront set-up fee. We will credit back the
$500 if your festival
reaches a total of $2500 in submission fees (that would be 72
submissions if your
regular fee is $40). If your festival does not collect $2500 in
submission fees, the
set up fee will not be refunded."

It's $500 one way or the other. If you get enough submissions, that
pound of flesh comes from the people who submit, if not it comes from
your event budget. Notice that they casually mention that you only
need 72 submissions if you charge $40, thus setting a bar for what
might be a "reasonable" fee. I think this speaks of the way that WAB
operates pushing events not only to charge fees but to charge
extremely high fees. The $40 fee is used in their other examples.

But that's not all, oh no, that's not all...

"2. After the set-up charge is paid, your festival can partake in our
Evolutionize Package, and you will be paid your published entry fee
minus the
discount rate minus the commission. For example, if your published
fee is $40 and
the discount rate is $5 at WAB, then on WAB submissions you will
receive $35
10% = $31.50. If your published fee is $75 and the discount rate is
$15 at WAB,
then on WAB submissions you will receive $60 10% = $54.00."

So let's say your event charges $40 per submission.

Film/video artists who have already PAID WAB ($129 per film/video for
Gold, $139 per film/video for Platinum) will get a $5 discount on
submitting to your event.
So we're down to $35.

Then WAB then takes 10% of that and you're down to $31.50. WAB made
$3.50. (Of course they also have the original fee from the film/video

Of course WAB has every reason to hope you charge as much as you can
get per film without affecting the number of submissions.
Economically it becomes the most submissions you can get for the
highest fee people will pay.

What about film/video artists who do not pay WAB? Their account is
free and to them it may seem like WAB is a helpful service.

For your event their submission fee is $40. This part I am not sure
about so I am making a supposition using what they say and logic. I
believe for non-paid WAB accounts, WAB takes the "discount" and keeps
it. Meaning they take the $5 in order to "make up" for the fact that
the person submitting hasn't paid for their account. If I am not
mistaken here, then the account is "free" in a very odd way. It's
technically a discount you're missing but it could be seen as a $5
(or more) fee you pay.

As a festival, you're still down to $35.

Then WAB then takes 10% of that and you're down to $31.50. WAB made

I left out the rest. There are several upgrades and the next one
advertised in the initial letter is a $650 upgrade package.

The point above is not to attack WAB for what they do. They are what
they are and that is, as far as I can see, an appendage of the
"independent" cinema world where "independent" means making on your
own film on your dime in the hopes that you can win the Hollywood
lottery and have the next hit dramedy or mocumentary. I don't think
they make any claims to be anything other than a service and the only
thing I would complain about is that they are not very upfront about
how the fee structure works for them or how it promotes festivals
charging high fees. Of course in the world they exist in, making
money is the goal of every film and every filmmaker so everyone
charging everyone else the highest fee they can get without losing
customers is part of the game.

> You might think I might be in favour of withoutabox as
> I hate filling in all the different festival forms
> which often ask the same boring questions, and often
> stop me from entering any festivals. Also being able
> to send a load of entries off at once would help me
> get my work out in those quiet patches between being
> seriously ill and people throwing bricks at my windows
> etc. However...

Critically, I would separate the functionality of WAB from the
financial structure. WABs functionality is fantastic and, as you
point out, very convenient for the artist. Beyond labor and perhaps
patent issues, a non-profit system like WAB could be created as an
interface between artists and venues (not even limited to film/video).


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