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Semi Pro Festivals

Posted: Sat Apr 21, 2018 7:54 pm
by Michael Slowe
I don't know how many of us enter our films these Semi Pro Festivals of which there are many, throughout the country. I just had one of my BIAFF films of this year selected to be shown in the London Independent Film Festival which was run from the Kine Cinema in Bermondsey, near Southwark and the Tate Modern. There were many programmes of these films shown throughout the week and mine was in a group of five short documentaries on Friday evening. The cinema has a large bar / cafe and there was a lively crowd of youngsters enjoying the balmy night. I reckon I must have been at least three times the age of the average attendee, although my favourite film of this group was made by an ex advertising agency chap who looked to be about forty years old.

The audience, mostly consisting either of the film makers involved, their teams and friends, were very appreciative and I thought quite knowledgable. I was amazed at the quality of projection on a big screen, considering that they had taken the H264 files either from Vimeo or the specialist film competition sites such as Withoutabox or Filmfreeway. The compression for these files is enormous, my 35Gb ProRes file coming down to 2Gb!

I urge other film makers to put their films on to these two sites and then enter some of these festivals, it is fun and the rare 'selection' makes it all worthwhile.

Re: Semi Pro Festivals

Posted: Thu May 03, 2018 12:43 am
by John Roberts
Michael, I'm so pleased you had made selection of what is a thoroughly fantastic film festival :D

Obviously I don't have the experience or expertise that shows so brilliantly through your cinematography, but despite the modicum of success I have achieved through BIAFF and the amateur / non-commercial festivals I have only succeeded in depleted my finances by entering festivals on the semi-pro circuit, with not a single film ever being selected even for pre-judging in any festival, despite an IAC Diamond, two 5-star and a number of 'Best' award films.

I have no doubt it is a combination of subject matter / genre and my own limited ability that is the issue. You might remember my Romanian friends who entered BIAFF 2015 and gained a 4-star award (with the film 'Irreversible') and subsequently travelled from Romania just for the festival on the grounds that BIAFF was the only festival that had even selected their film, let alone given it an award. They were, even then, quite disillusioned with the issue of constantly paying out entry fees for festival after festival with zero return - not even a critique of any kind - especially when budgets are tight and cashflow is limited. Unfortunately, a great many festivals have no intention of showing even a percentage of submitted films (some which run into thousands) but will happily take and keep your £10 or £20 submission fee.

If any filmmaker has some spare cash, doesn't mind losing it and is willing to accept no-end of "sorry, your film has not been selected for inclusion in the festival" emails, then go for it! The results could be life changing. Unfortunately, I can no longer afford to do that. Thank goodness for BIAFF, its judging system and the organising committee's (particularly David Newman's) juggling of films to ensure the maximum number of the top films are shown :D

Just my two-penneth :D

Re: Semi Pro Festivals

Posted: Thu May 03, 2018 8:01 pm
by Michael Slowe
John, your opinions about these festivals accord very much with mine, they are, I am convinced, very largely money making ventures. Nevertheless, if one is very selective in choosing which ones to enter, you can have some fun and at the same time learn a lot from seeing the other films. I generally look for London based festivals, or at least, UK. Also, I avoid the obvious 'super festivals' which attract the very best professional productions. You refer to subject matter and I think that this is key nowadays, and I'm referring to my own field, documentaries. I was once told by Channel Four that they want "cutting edge" films. They mean controversial, revealing, antagonistic films. They saw my film on the elderly famous musician which won a Diamond at BIAFF (I think) but thought it too anodyne. However, my Hounds film (Five at BIAFF) was picked up by one of the minor Sky channels and was shown a number of times and they sold hundreds of DVD's (a percentage went to the IAC, not me!). It's now on their American site they tell me.

The conclusion that's impossible to ignore is that we are still some way behind the commercial world in terms of quality of our films. They match them technically pretty well, but it's the subject and treatment thereof that is a touch old fashioned. Just look at some of the youngster's films to appreciate that.

Re: Semi Pro Festivals

Posted: Fri May 04, 2018 5:14 pm
by ned c
First; there is no such thing as a "semi-pro"; you are either paid for your work which makes you a professional or not in which case you are an amateur.

What we need from FilmFreeway and Withoutabox is a definition of what percentage of films are screened. There are some truly outrageous results of which Sundance is the one of the worst with less than 1% of short films being screened, but they happily take your money. At DOCUTAH this year we will probably screen between 15% and 20% of the entries. There are only two categories of entries - Professional and Student; Michael's entries have been categorised as Professional and two of his entries have been screened. (I have absolutely no direct influence on the screening selection).

There are an increasing of one day festivals put together by local film makers and this seems to be the best way to get our work out to the local population. We have 3 Guerilla Festivals here in SW Utah each playing all the entries to a packed house.

ned c

Re: Semi Pro Festivals

Posted: Thu May 10, 2018 11:05 am
by Michael Slowe
Ned, thank you for your correction. Yes, I understand that you are either a professional or not. What I meant by 'semi pro' is to differentiate between the big money producer financed films and the lone or small group film makers who, whilst not currently making a living from their film making, intend to pursue a career doing just that if they can. I know that you have always used the phrase 'non commercial' for this purpose but it does not quite cover what I tried to define.

Your comments about some of these festivals are spot on. All most of us see is the "thank you for submitting your work but......." with little indication of the whys and wherefores. There are occasionally opportunities to obtain a written critique (the main strength of BIAFF), and when I've had these they have been brilliant and so perceptive. You mention Sundance, but this is one of the major festivals, alongside Cannes and Venice, none of which I regard as being in our sphere at all.

Thanks for telling me about showing my suff at Docutah, I only thought that "Thump in the Eye" was shown, and that was last year. Isn't the festival happening later this year?