festival responses

From: Chris Kennedy (email suppressed)
Date: Tue Jun 09 2009 - 11:21:16 PDT

On 6/9/09 12:42 AM, "FRAMEWORKS automatic digest system"
<email suppressed> wrote:
> When we switched over from mailing letters to email notifications a few years
> ago we started receiving numerous "hate mail" responses -- its part of the
> rejection process, but one that I'm sad to report continues apace. The hardest
> part of what we do is telling people their film didn't get in. We don't want
> to contribute to a culture of raised expectations + disappointment, but it is
> a part of organizing a festival. If someone has a better idea or system, we're
> all ears.

I know the phrase was put in scare quotes for irony, but I would be cautious
about using the term "hate mail" in regards to filmmaker responses. I know
that the curator side of me has been privy to some pretty scorching emails,
a sour newspaper article and one particularly brutal phone call, but some
complaints and frustrations are legitimate. Curators are gate-keepers, of a
sort, and that creates a power relationship that is sometimes difficult to
maneuver (and which has caused the artist side of me to behave shockingly on
occasion... apologies to those I have scorched). Curator's decisions are
often called into question (each town has their grumblings when a festival
line-up goes up; some grumblings are publicised on this list, or worse, in
newspapers), but the investment that a filmmaker has in a piece of work is
much stronger than any festival programmer can have towards that one
particular piece and the response may reflect that. One would hope that
email responses would have more grace, but it is difficult and emotional
terrain to navigate.

The strange part of this thread has been about the notion of "feedback". One
of my most mortifying early experiences was when I supplied comments and
critiques to an artist much more experienced than I when I rejected his
piece from a screening series I was involved in. His email response (rough
in tone from exasperation), was that he had supplied his film to be
considered, not critiqued. I think that's an important point to hold onto.
The notion that there needs to be feedback in the submission process carries
the danger of the the idea that the filmmaker is somehow an amateur (room
for improvement) or that something went wrong with the film along the way
(too much orange 3 minutes in?). It also forgets that curation isn't just
about selecting the "best" work, but about creating an experience for an
audience. Again, the curator doesn't have as strong a relationship to one
piece as the filmmaker does. Her or his investment is in a series of work
that work together in some way.

Do we expect feedback and critique when we've gotten in?

A simple "you're in" or "you're out", put nicely, is really the best way to
go. But notification is a must, especially if the filmmaker has paid money
to submit and ESPECIALLY (often not considered), if the filmmaker only has a
limited number of prints to traffic around. Not knowing if you're in a
festival because the festival is too ______ (insert excuse) to notify you
makes it very difficult sometimes to figure out how to ship the print
around. Fortunately most of the festivals that have inhabitants on this
listserv are very good about notification.

I think, in general, there's a ten percent rule: 10% of works submitted get
into a festival and your work gets into 10% of the festivals you submit to
(unless you're a BIG name, in which case you only have to write scorching
emails to the 10% that turn you down).


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