Re: [Frameworks] Current situation with Film Festivals

From: Chris Kennedy (email suppressed)
Date: Sat Feb 19 2011 - 09:44:27 PST

Again, I really think the "thousands of submissions" is a bit of a red
herring. I have noticed that a couple of experimental film festivals have
extended their deadlines recently, so obviously there's a sense that they're
not getting enough work. A festival like Ann Arbor or Images in Toronto are
focal points of national interest, so they get the brunt of each of their
nation's active film/videomakers. They also cater to a wider audience than
the experimental hard-core, so submissions reflect a slightly wider range of
work (doc, video art, media installation, experimental film).

Incidentally, Oberhausen (which includes all types of short films) gets over
4000 submissions! It's also the best festival to get a rejection from, as
they have a mediatheque of all their submissions and programmers from around
the world go there to look at those submissions (some spending most of their
time in that room). I've gotten programmed from the rejection pile from
someone who thought my work fit into their festival.

I was a programmer at Images for four years and found that watching so many
submissions galvanized your sense of what was relevant/important/amazing in
that year's submissions. Films that were good became great in relationship
to other submissions and films you enjoyed may have been blunted by the
artfulness of another piece. Receiving a large number of submissions, and
soliciting even more, gave us as programmers a broad sense of what was going
on in the medium in the year and we could make decisions based on our
audiences and our subjective research into the state of the medium at that
moment. We had to cut stuff out, sure, and made people unhappy, sure (some
of our local audience thought we were showing too much international work),
and made people happy, sure.

I would submit that the majority of programmers know how to handle 1000
submissions. They may grumble about it, but everyone grumbles about work.
There are thousands of images out there, how do you choose what to point
your camera at. There are thousands of film frames in your collection, how
do you choose what to edit. There are thousands of films out there, how do
you choose what to show (or, distribute, Dominic, because this question
you're raising also has implications for Canyon!). The answer is, those of
us who shoot, edit, program or distribute develop ways to make decisions.
Sure some of us aren't that good at shooting, editing or programming (or, to
put it kindly, have different subjective tastes), but lets not assume that
we ALL don't know what we're doing.

We're part of a tradition that developed a history because a small group of
gatekeepers (Uncle Fishhook and Sitney to name a few). Some of their
decisions where upheld and some of them have been challenged and the field
has been opened up. Each generation had their gatekeepers and chroniclers
who were then challenged (how about gatekeeper Carmen Vigil and the No
Nothing challenge, SF?) or expanded upon. Thanks to preservationists, we can
see what happened around the edges.

Nowadays we have a huge amount of festivals, so we have a hell of a lot of
gates. Which is great! Lots of different stuff gets shown in places we can't
all travel to. I read a lot of festival catalogues and every one has films
that I don't recognize. And a few pieces get shown everywhere (Horizontal
Boundaries, anyone?), allowing for the field to gain some masterpieces via
popular opinion.

But, again, why are the festivals the only ones that have to deal with the
"influx" of talented artists? We need venues. Damn if I'm going to wait
until once a year to see experimental films. If you make something, figure
out how to show it (even if it's Youtube). Start a microcinema, create
David's video aggregator, start writing about stuff. Almost every
institution (distributor, exhibitor, festival) in the experimental film
world was started by artists, so if there's not enough venues for the
current crop of artists, then they've gotta start doing something about it.
Thankfully a lot of them are.

I kind of remember a post by Dominic just a couple years ago on how there
were too many festivals. Now there are too may films? It's all too much! :)


On 2/19/11 10:45 AM, "email suppressed"
<email suppressed> wrote:

> Message: 1
> Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2011 18:21:26 -0500
> From: David Tetzlaff <email suppressed>
> Subject: Re: [Frameworks] Current situation with Film Festivals
> To: Experimental Film Discussion List <email suppressed>
> Message-ID: <email suppressed>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
> If festivals really are flooded with thousands of entries that can accurately
> be called 'experimental' my first question is, why is so much stuff being
> created? Not how is it able to be (cheap camcorders, ubiquitous computer
> editing, etc. etc.) but WHY? Why do these folks want to make things? Why do
> they want to make moving pictures? Why do they want to make 'experimental'
> moving pictures? Not rhetorical questions... I'm really asking, and I'm hoping
> for some kind of explanation beyond cliches about the fundamental human need
> for expression blah blah blah.

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