[Frameworks] Current situation with Film Festivals

From: Chris Kennedy (email suppressed)
Date: Wed Feb 16 2011 - 23:29:44 PST

Going back to Dominic's original post:

Let me start by saying if I had 1 in 20 odds at the lottery, I wouldn't be
making films. I'd be on a south sea island somewhere practicing my Gauguin.

1000 entries! Isn't that great! Although, I know from experience not all of
them are experimental works and I know from subjectivity not all of them are
good (and just to be clear, I'm not speaking as a current employee of any
festival), there's a lot of people making work! And from what Matt and
Raymond pointed out, that's not even including what people are making and
putting up on the internet or are just circulating in another way. That
means there's a LOT of people making work.

So, how do we deal with it? I think there's the local scale and the
national/global scale. I think the local scale is the way that artists get
their work shown, come hell or high-water, even if it means doing it
themselves. I think SF is a good example of a place that has, over the past
fifty years, a bunch of different venues to accommodate a bunch of different
DiY attitudes (and serve as an inspiration to us all, thanks to that nice
Radical Light book). Incidentally, I would argue that the 'net is a
variation of the local, because interest is most often created through
social networks, ie. someone tweeting or emailing someone a link (sometimes
more than once). It's just a larger local.

But sometimes the local doesn't translate beyond the local. Take the Spanish
Experimental programming traveling around right now. Some of it is quite
good, much of it is lovely to look at, but not a lot of it is any "better"
than the stuff that I see in my local community. The stand-outs reinforce
why we have heard about them before (the Sistiaga, for example). Watching
the work in Toronto was kind of similar to the feeling I had participating
in screening of Toronto work being shown in Korea. Some of the work that was
shown I was awful proud to represent "us", but much of the work
did-not-translate-at-all (I embarrass easily). But yes, the exchange on both
accounts was valuable, and the work was "good to see", but...

And so, yeah, the festivals. There's a ton of them, too, as anyone who's
joined withoutabox knows (and hey, never knew about the one in Durham). It's
great that Albuquerque has one and Gainesville has one, but I understand why
I have a one in 350 odds of getting into those festivals. I would imagine
they would cater to their audiences (either sympathetically or didactically)
and figure out what works best for them. And its really important that they
exist--and they probably create more filmmakers to add to the submission

And for the more major festivals, as Dominic calls them (not to diss FLEX
or Experiments in Cinema), I would expect it to be more competitive to get
in. Judging by the strutting each October during Views--the only time of
the year you see normally slouching filmmakers stand up straight--there's a
bit of pride in being among the chosen.

RSH and Matt may disagree, but I don't want to watch the thousands of
submissions submitted to a festival unless it's my job (in which case, I'm
HAPPY to do it, and I'm available, by the way, come June). I KNOW a general
audience doesn't. I learn which festivals I trust to be making the right
decisions and then follow their programming and I trust they are robust
enough to handle the 1000 submissions. I think we rely (in part) on those
festivals to be a bit of the taste-makers for the year--to help establish
what's important to see this year. And they often make resounding decisions
(that's why we've seen Daichi Saito's Trees of Syntax, Leaves of Axis in so
many festivals this year, including FLEX). And sometimes, they really are

I don't think the answer is to make the festivals longer. Can you imagine a
longer version of Views, more than 6 programs of Wavelengths at TIFF, more
than 10 days of Images, unlimited access to stuff on the web (I have yet to
sit down and see more than one on Ubuweb)? As any filmmaker knows, editing
within a given structure is how a work gets stronger. Very seldom have I
heard someone say, "man, I wish it was longer". The same goes for festivals
(and, I would submit, well curated distribution catalogues!). I think the
artform gets stronger if we don't take our screenings as a given.

What we DO need (and I'm to blame for this one, too) is more people to write
about films. Having curators/programmers/your-tweet-buddy be the only
arbiters of taste is a disservice to the artwork. I know very little about
the film festivals from the 60s and 70s, but a lot about the films from that
era because of the writing about it. There are some scribes out there
serving the current crop, but not a hell of a lot of them. And I think
that's the real culprit.



On 2/16/11 12:49 PM, "email suppressed"
<email suppressed> wrote:

> Message: 1
> Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2011 08:38:12 -0800 (PST)
> From: DOMINIC ANGERAME <email suppressed>
> Subject: [Frameworks] Current situation with Film Festivals
> To: Experimental Film Discussion List <email suppressed>
> Message-ID: <email suppressed>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
> I am noticing an alarming trend these days with experimental film festivals
> throughout the world. I received a notice from the Images Festival in Canada
> that they received more than 1,000 entries for exhibition. I am sure that Ann
> Arbor Film Festival received far more entries than the 150 films they are
> viewing. Since is seems that almost everyone is a filmmaker these days that
> the
> structure and procedures of the major experimental film festivals should be
> changed in major ways. Virtually all festivals charge an fee for entry. 1000
> entries can mean $25,000 going to the festivals for admin/pre-screening, etc.
> This does not include the donations, governmental grants, and other sources of
> income. I used to run a couple of festivals and understand the purpose of
> entry
> fees to help defray costs. However, since the number of entries for many
> festivals has risen more than 3 or 4 times the amount the festivals need to
> consider extending their exhibitions to accomodate the amount of entries. Most
> filmmakers are now facing a 1 to 20 odds of having their films shown in major
> festivals. This is less than playing the lottery.
> It is distressing for me, having been making films for more than 40 years to
> see
> the festival situation become so debased. The volume of work being entered is
> drowning these festivals in both admin, and creative decisions. I have served
> on
> juries in many festivals and noticed when I looked at the list of the films
> rejected by pre screeners that many great films had been rejected. As a judge
> I
> requested to view those rejected and found most of the films selected by me
> were
> shown at these particular festivals. Since the volume of entered work in most
> well known festivals far exceeds the festivals ability to manage this volume,
> that a new structure needs to be put in place. This would be a great service
> to
> the filmmakers entering their works into these festivals.
> Dominic Angerame

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