Many thanks to Katie McCullough of Festival Formula for moderating our sixth COVID-19 conversation: Reading the Relationship Temperature: Filmmaker & Festival. Out of this conversation came much thoughtful discussion and many questions to ponder (see below). Watch the call here.
Festival Formula is a consultancy company helping filmmakers navigate the world wide festival circuit, giving support on strategy and submissions.
FILMMAKERS EXPECTATIONS: (general points but important as it’s the baseline to paint your co-collaborator)
- Seeking validation by being screened in festivals
- Want announcements they can share about their career
- By their very nature they are laurel hunters
- Fighting a tidal wave of other filmmakers to be heard and seen on the circuit
- Battling with smaller budgets than they’d like for festival submissions
FILMMAKERS CONCERNS: (I’m going to read out some of the questions or statements we’ve been posed)
- “all festivals are cancelling, why should I bother?”
- “other festivals don’t want my film online so I can’t opt in if a festival goes virtual”
- “doesn’t that mean that the end of the year will be really busy?”
- “can I get refunds if a festival doesn’t go ahead?”
- “all festivals are moving dates so it’s a waste of money”
- “I’ve missed a big chunk of the circuit, my film is now too old”
FESTIVAL AREAS TO HIGHLIGHT:
- No matter how large or small your team is, keep talking about working out what your plan a, b, or c is even if they are all the same thing!
- Respect and honour your filmmakers – they deserve to have communication from you first rather than find out on social media
- At at time like this there is no such thing as too much communication – you have a captive audience and if they are a selected filmmaker they will want to know what the plan is, even if you’re not 100% confirmed something is better than silence
- If you are in the process of selections and there is a delay, let everyone know
- That communication needs to be existing otherwise you lose the trust of your co-collaborator – give them something great to talk about you for, not the opposite
COMMUNICATION & VERBIAGE:
- FFA chat previously mentioned about using the term “virtual” rather than online. I completely champion this, “online” panics filmmakers and also distributors. They envision YouTube and Vimeo links open to all. It won’t correspond to *all* festivals though, but it’s something to nip in the bud to stop panic and also increase those who opt in.
- Be clear in what you are actually wanting to say – are you cancelling? Postponing? Going virtual? Are you just getting in touch to say you’re going ahead as planned for the foreseeable? Make the message clear so you don’t get a plethora of responses asking questions, and therefore giving yourself more work.
- Allow filmmakers time to respond and ask any questions – they chose you to submit to and you selected their film so it’s a two-way street of you working together.
- When possible try not to group the features and shorts into the same process – shorts will be easier to get to opt in, features will possibly be reluctant or tied up with distributors – so treat them accordingly.