Re: [Frameworks] Current situation with Film Festivals

From: Raymond Salvatore Harmon (email suppressed)
Date: Wed Feb 16 2011 - 11:15:10 PST

The degree to which festivals are being overwhelmed with submissions is nothing new. The ratio of people on a screening commitee to the amount of submissions to a given festival has been askew for at least a decade or more. The reality is that in much the same way that the music industry has been demolished by both the ability for anyone to make a record and the ability for anyone to download a record the film festival circuit is being (or maybe has already been) replaced by a new model of creation/distribution.

In the 80s I would go to the Black Maria and watch 16mm in a classroom at MSU. The projected image was about as big as the average widescreen tv is today. Sure, nothing beats a real theater, but there are not many of those left.

Youtube, vimeo, etc have provided a vast arena in which filmmakers of all backgrounds can distribute their works widely. Arguments over resolution/quality are quickly going the way of digital vs celluloid projection. (In the early 90s I once challenged a union projectionist picketing outside a theater in Chicago that some day digital would replace film altogether. That day is basically at hand).

I have worked with/for some excellent film festivals over the years and still curate programs. But as a filmmaker I no longer submit films at all. What is the point of having 50 people in a room at one time see my film when I get that amount of traffic per day online? The world we live in has changed dramatically and the experience of cinema has changed as well. Do you still use a rotary phone?

As for festival submission fees, this idea that most fests charge fees is only true in the US. With or without public funding practically no fest outside the US charges a fee. Many even pay you per minute to screen your work.

I still love film. I have about 500 16mm films in storage I can not find in my heart to get rid of, even though most of the rare pieces I have had dumped to digital. But the reality is that the festival model is dead. Small scale do-it-for-the-love film fests aside, the larger film fests are basically ego builders. No one goes to a fest (like Toronto or Sundance) to see films, its about social enagement, parties and networking.

Screening committees should be out actively looking for films online, not wading through the submissions. The best film fests I have been to have no submission process and are totally curated. Curration may create cohesion or thematic ideas in programming but the basic fundamentals of a time restricted festival (be here at this time to see these films in this order) is over.

Long live cinema.


FrameWorks mailing list
email suppressed