Re: festival responses

From: Caryn Cline (email suppressed)
Date: Thu Jun 04 2009 - 06:41:48 PDT

Dear Patrick (and everyone else who responded),

Thank you for your thoughtful response(s) to my questions about the film
festival notification process. I agree with Patrick that it should be the
standard practice for every festival to respond to entrants, whether they
are accepted or rejected. The idea that if you don't hear anything, then
you know that your work was rejected, is truly unprofessional. As someone
who has applied for academic jobs (and sat on academic search committees), I
know this is the prevailing model in the academic world, and it stinks
there, too.

I would like to hear from Frameworkers about recommended festivals and
venues for experimental film and digital work, the kinds of festivals that
offer their entrants a good experience, either in accepting a wide range of
work or rejecting films with professional respect.

(My former teacher and friend Joel Schlemowitz says that venues are
sometimes a better path for filmmakers than festivals. Maybe that is a big
city perspective, I don't know. I'd like to hear others' thoughts about

I think that I was cautious and realistic in my choices this year. I gave
myself a budget. I didn't send to festivals with big entry fees. I sent to
festivals that looked like good fits for my work. When I have heard back
from festival programmers, I've responded, thanking them for taking the time
to contact me. This prompted a couple of programmers who said supportive
things about my work even though they didn't accept it, comments for which I
was very grateful.

A couple of festivals miscopied my e-mail address, and were apologetic about
it when I contacted them.

One thought: if every festival asked the filmmakers to send an e-mail
confirming their application (as the Margaret Mead does, for example), then
the festival would automatically have the filmmakers' preferred e-mail
addresses, without having to laboriously copy them and risk errors. (This
is the electronic equivalent of the SASE.) Then, it is a matter of sorting
the e-mail addresses into "accept" and "reject" catagories for notification.

Another thought: festivals should make it crystal clear on the entry form
that entrants will not be contacted unless they are accepted, if that is
indeed the case. Usually, there is a notification date, but it is not made
clear that if you are rejected, you will not be notified.

It is ironic, isn't it, that in the age of e-mail, the sort of communication
that should be increasingly easy seems to be beyond some festivals?

My best to you all,

Caryn Cline
New York City

On Wed, Jun 3, 2009 at 10:56 PM, Patrick Friel <email suppressed>wrote:

> Dear Caryn (and others),
> I am the programmer for the Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival
> here in Chicago. My policy has always been to notify everyone whether they
> get in or not. I believe that is something every festival should do.
> It is the worst part of the job – I hate sending out bad news. And not just
> because of the very few nasty responses (I’ve had a couple doozies – one
> person – who I won’t name – called me a “fucking moron.” Needless to say
> that person will NEVER get shown now, even if they were to send something
> better than TEXT OF LIGHT or SERENE VELOCITY. But I’ve also had many very
> kind responses from filmmakers who were not accepted.) but because I know
> the time, and energy, and effort most film/video makers put into their work.
> Most of my friends are filmmakers (and I’ve had to send “rejection” letters
> to a fair number of them, too).
> The number of entries (over 600 in our case) precludes being able to offer
> feedback or personalized responses to everyone. I necessarily have to send
> out a “form letter” to those who don’t get accepted, but I do take the extra
> step of including their name in the salutation (Dear Frank, instead of Dear
> Entrant). It probably does not mean much, but it’s at least one small
> gesture I can make. (I could probably do this in some automated way, but
> that feels like cheating).
> In a few cases I do send personal emails or include personal notes with the
> “form letter” - usually to filmmakers I know or whose work I’ve previously
> shown. But, again, time constraints prevent me from doing this for as many
> makers as I would like.
> I have had the case where filmmakers don’t seem to get their notifications.
> Some probably go into a spam folder. I have no way of knowing unless the
> email bounces back. I’m seeing how I can try to notify one filmmaker this
> year whose email address was illegible.
> Generally it is a bad idea for film programmers or curators to offer
> unsolicited comments on someone’s work. There are exceptions, of course, but
> usually it is unproductive or unwelcome. Letting a filmmaker know that their
> work was really good but not appropriate for the festival (I seem to get
> many good and interesting documentaries submitted, even though it’s an
> experimental festival) and suggesting other possible opportunities in the
> particular city or elsewhere seems to be a reasonable thing.
> Onion City has the benefit of being presented by Chicago Filmmakers, which
> has a year-round weekly screening series. Frequently I would be able to
> include work I liked that did not make it into the festival in the weekly
> shows. Now that I’m no longer Program Director at Chicago Filmmakers I make
> recommendations from this pool of work.
> In short, filmmakers deserve and should expect a notification if they don’t
> get in and should raise a polite stink if they don’t receive one.
> Best,
> Patrick Friel
> On 6/3/09 7:01 AM, "Caryn Cline" <email suppressed> wrote:
> Dear Frameworkers,
> I’m submitting my experimental films to festivals again, after a hiatus of
> several years. When I submitted before, in the early 2000s, I always
> received a response from the festival, whether my work was accepted or
> rejected. Now, I find that festivals that reject my work rarely contact me
> at all.
> I wonder why this is the case? I’ve paid a fee to enter, usually, and it
> seems to me that the very least the programmers, or their interns, can do is
> to send me a form letter letting me know that my work didn’t make the cut.
> It would be even better to receive a thoughtful response with some feedback
> about my work. I realize that programmers often have a lot of entries to
> view and judge, but shouldn’t a response, even a canned response, to each
> and every filmmaker, be a standard of professional courtesy?
> I know that there are curators and programmers on this list. I will
> appreciate hearing their perspectives, as well as those of other
> filmmakers. I would also be interested to hear about festivals that do
> respond to all applicants.
> Thank you,
> Caryn Cline
> New York City
> __________________________________________________________________ For info
> on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.
> __________________________________________________________________ For
> info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.

Caryn Cline
For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.