Wednesday, January 28, 2009

'Genevieve' responds to my 'Rejection from the SXSW Film Festival' post

I was just about to pack it in for the night, when I had an inclination to see if I had any more responses to my 'Rejection from the SXSW Film Festival Blog.' And I am sure you can guess...I had a response that kind of blew me away. So much so, that I have to reprint here for you to read.

Blog Reader 'Genevieve' took the time to write out this full response to my post. (Genevieve, thank you! Your reply is dead on. And you know what. Since you started the dialogue with me. At the next opportunity, I will begin sharing some of my ideas for what I am doing and what I am going to do in an attempt to have as many people see my film as possible.)

My filmmaking partner is reading over my shoulder and his comment was, "Did we write that?"

We feel the same way. Our ultimate goal was SXSW because we shot in Texas. But we shot a short and hoped that even though we didn't have a top tier budget or big name cast, we could somehow slip in.

What hits me is that the festival circuit is becoming like American Idol. How so, you say? Well, when American Idol began, it was about discovering talent in the rough - finding amazing singers who would never have broken in or had a chance without the show. The last few seasons, however, the show has been planting its own contestants - singers who already have had deals with major labels, who have already released albums with million-dollar marketing budgets. This season, one of those passed through to Hollywood was Joanna Paccitti, a name I recognized because, as a teenage girl, I owned the Legally Blonde Soundtrack. Joanna has released two albums, and had her songs on four different film soundtracks - is she really that "undiscovered?" No. American Idol is no longer about discovering talent, but about marketing the talent they already have.

My point is, the features that get in to these festivals? They aren't really indie anymore. They have B or above level actors, they have directors with recognizable names, and they are getting million dollar funding from the big studios, just under the guise of "Searchlight," or "Focus," or whatever. They are studio films, trying to reach a niche market, and using the festivals as a marketing tool. And the fests, because they want high profile films, allow it.

So, what's a true indie to do? Who knows. Keep trying, maybe, hope that you somehow stand out despite having real funding or a big name? Or maybe we retreat and try a different tactic. The internet, for example. We can provide e-movies, similar to eBooks. Maybe if you get Netflix a bunch of professional looking DVDs, they will agree to list your film as available to rent ... there's got to be something.

Picture Lock and the Santa Barbara International Film Festival

Today was the monumental day for my first feature film, Night Before the Wedding. After several hours of polishing various scenes, I turned to my editor and nonchalantly let him know that we were done or I should more appropriately say 'Picture-Locked.' That means no more picture editing. It is now onto Sound Design, Color Correction and Music.

Although it was a low key moment. I am feeling great. I know my film is not perfect. After all the countless hours I have spent on it, I am fully aware of each and every flaw. Yet I can also take satisfaction in knowing that I have made it into the best film that it can be. It is easily my best work and something I am quite proud of. Now I know there will be plenty of people who hate it, but at the same time, there are going to be just as many people who love it.

My current goal is to wrap production on it and have the film completed in February. Just in time to submit it to the Los Angeles Film Festival. Speaking of Film Festivals, I am heading up to Santa Barbara tomorrow to see Ink, which is Independent Filmmaker Jamin Winan's second feature. It has it's World Premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. This is something I have been looking forward to for the last month. For those who haven't seen it, I highly recommend you read over this interview I conducted with Jamin a couple of weeks ago. Film Synergy Interview with 'Ink' Filmmaker Jamin Winans. There have been quite a few of you who have been anticipating my thoughts on Ink. I look forward to sharing them with you upon my return.

For those of you who want to stay updated on Night Before the Wedding, please 'Become a Fan' on our Facebook Fan Page which we have just started. NBTW Facebook Fan Page And if you are really courageous, maybe you will be the first or one of the first to become a 'Follower' of this blog off to the right.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Rejection from the SXSW Film Festival

Along with hundreds of other filmmakers, I had my film, Night Before the Wedding rejected by the SXSW Film Festival today. Now I will do my best to put some of my thoughts and feelings into words and provide you my immediate reactions. I can say that the rejection letter is very well written. The best I have received from any festival that has not accepted my work. The letter included the hard numbers; that they received 3500 submissions this year and accepted 110 Feature Films.

I am certainly disheartened by the rejection letter. This festival meant more to me because it was one that I targeted before I even shot NBTW. I wasn't even sure if I could make the deadline. I ended up submitting a 'work in progress' a few days before the final deadline. It is the only festival I have submitted to thus far, but that will soon change. I believe my film measures up very well with films that I have seen emerge from SXSW in the past years. As I think about that, what crosses my mind is...did anyone from the festival actually watch my film? Did they watch more than 20 minutes? I will probably never have these answers, so I will move on.

When I really examine my feelings right now, I can tell you what stings the most. I am looking to prove that I can produce work that is welcomed and embraced by the Top 10 Film Festivals. This is a level of achievement I have yet to reach so this kind of validation is important to me. The SXSW rejection is one opportunity erased, similar to losing a million dollar case on Deal or No Deal. And it leaves me with the question, can I still reach my end goal?

Why does this rejection matter? One reason is that this is one of the premiere indie film festivals in the U.S. Another reason is that I have not been to Austin, TX and I would love to make the trip. The audience at this festival craves independent cinema and they flock to screenings. How amazing it would be to experience that as a participating filmmaker. I will stop there. I am sure you could fill in more reasons that we are all familiar with. There is something that has been on my mind for the past couple of weeks regarding these festivals...'Branding.' You see, I don't just think about filmmaking, I think about marketing and getting others to become interested in seeing the films that I make.

One of the main things that sucks about not being accepted into SXSW is losing the branding of a top tier festival. Let me explain. I will start with an example of a film I watched a few nights ago, Baghead by the Duplass Brothers. Here is the movie trailer for the film When you watch this trailer what is one of the first things you see? The story is quickly set up with a voiceover and some opening images and see the laurels and the words, "Official Selection Sundance Film Festival" In the independent world, Sundance is the KING for branding. It garners immediate interest from all around the globe. From there the trailer is followed up with more footage and quotes from various indie news outlets including indieWIRE and Film Threat. The quotes are nice but honestly, after the Sundance laurels, you can pretty much show anything you want and those who follow independent film are going to be interested. It is the ultimate stamp of approval.

What if you don't have that Approval/Acceptance? What can you do to create that kind of branding to sell your film? Of course there are other festivals out there, but is being accepted into the "Binghampton Film Festival" really making anyone stand up and take notice? To some degree it might cheapen your film. People think to themselves, "What the hell is the Binghampton Film Festival? (I made it up) Never heard of it. Film is probably trash." And once people are thinking that, it is extremely difficult generate buzz and get people to see your film. For me that's the bottom line. More than getting into any one film festival, my aim is to get people interested in my film and be willing to pay to see it.

What makes distribution in the independent world so difficult is that the top tier festivals are so competitive that only a handful of films receive the sought after branding. Indie films are a much tougher sell without this branding. This is the power that Film Festivals currently have. They have the branding power. This is what I have been thinking about, how do I recreate that kind of branding power towards my film, just in case it isn't endorsed by the festival gatekeepers of the Top Festivals?

What can you do? What can I do? What can we do? Let's create a dialogue together. Share any ideas you may have and I will share my thoughts.

Getting rejected stings, but it doesn't mean that I will not strike back.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Waiting Game

It's Friday morning. A little wet and murky here in Los Angeles. It is not until tomorrow where I will reconnect with my editor to put in some more touches on Night Before the Wedding. In my estimation, I have one more good editing session left or possibly two if the session runs short. From there I will picture-lock the film and concentrate on the color, sound-design and music.

This year's Sundance Film Festival is coming to a close on Sunday. I imagine soon after that the SXSW Film Festival will begin notifying it's filmmakers who's in and who's out. I submitted a 'work in progress' of NBTW to SXSW just before their December deadline. It is a festival that holds the distinction as the #2 independent film festival here in the US behind Sundance.

My previous 'festival' films never got into the major festivals. (Though I never submitted to all of them.) So more than anything, I am curious, no not curious. I can't say 'I want' either because when you say you 'want' something, you'll never get it. You'll just 'want it' forever. Let me say this, I have put a lot of sweat in, a lot of energy and time. I know how much my work has matured. I know this latest film isn't perfect. I know I have more to learn. Yet I believe this is a Top 10 Film Festival product. That is my belief. I have been studying these kinds of works for the past few years. Many of them have their flaws just as my film has it's flaws.

My film very well may be rejected. But unlike a lot of my fellow filmmakers out there, I do not expect it to get rejected. I expect it to get accepted. I'll leave it at that for now.

With that, I will be spending time today working on the 'beat sheet' for my next project. It's an idea I have been writing ideas for since April of 2008, maybe even before that. The full story is coming into focus. More on this project to come.

To my fellow filmmakers and artists, I would like to pass on this article, “Hope For The Future: Filmmaker and Exhibitor Collaboration” which was written by Ted Hope and published on indieWIRE. It is followed by commentary from Four-Eyed Monsters Filmmaker Arin Crumley. This is an article I have already read twice and will probably read a few more times.

Ted Hope also writes a tremendously informative blog that is worth subscribing to entitled Truly Free Film

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My new Film Synergy Interview with 'Ink' Filmmaker Jamin Winans

On this awe-inspiring inauguration day where many of us feel a new hope, I am proud to unveil this new interview with a filmmaker that I admire, an artist who is passionate about his craft, and one who raises the bar for all of us in the world of independent cinema.

Jamin Winans has just completed his second feature film, Ink, a Sci-Fi/Fantasy Action Thriller about the people who come out at night and give us dreams and nightmares. It is the allegorical story of good and evil and those trapped in between. No matter how safe you feel, evil may find you. But no matter how far you've fallen, redemption is possible. (To really understand what this all means, the Must See Movie Trailer is Below)

premieres January 23rd, 29th, and 30th at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. It is one of a handful of films in competition. For screening information, please click here, Ink Showtimes

Filmmaker Jamin Winans on the set of Ink

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Film Acquisition - Night Before the Wedding

Where did I leave off? Yes, I had mentioned that I finally had received some industry feedback from Mark Stolaroff, the founder of 'No Budget Film School.' Read More.

The next night I held a private test screening of Night Before the Wedding. What kind of feedback are we getting? To be honest, it is mixed. Looks like this film will have it's lovers as well as it's haters. I can say that the film is screening pretty well. Many scenes get some great reactions. There are moments that are consistently funny. Overall the second half of the film continues to rate very high. As can be expected, some people are coming in with certain expectations for the film and that is affecting their outlook after they view it.

I am back to putting the finishing polish to the film in the editing room. I am doing my best to trim it down even further and to smooth over trouble areas. I am thankful I have had the luxury to screen it in front of a live audience and gain their feedback. To all of you who have contributed your time to this process, I thank you immensely. It is invaluable and I believe it is leading the film towards being the best film it can be.

I started this posting today because I wanted to mention that we have received our first 'film acquisition' email. I am sure we will be receiving quite a few of these requests for screeners from various distribution companies. It is great to see that though we have not released any video of our film, there are those out there who are interested in taking a look.

Now to those of you who may be concerned that we are going to make an abrupt distribution decision. Please do not worry. We are going to do our due diligence investigating and researching any company who intends on distributing our film. You never know, we may have to choose a similar path as Lance Hammer, director of the Sundance darling, Ballast as noted in this article, Lance Hammer tries Self Distribution. Something we are not directly opposed to.

Movie Trailer to Lance Hammer's Ballast

Regardless, film is not all the way completed yet. So no screeners are going out to Producer's Reps at this time.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Industry Feedback - Mark Stolaroff, No Budget Film School

For quite some time now, I have been craving feedback to how Night Before the Wedding was shaping up. Not from friends of mine, but from someone who doesn't know me or my work and yet specializes in low-budget filmmaking. When I thought of those parameters, the person that instantly came to mind was Mark Stolaroff who is the founder of 'No Budget Film School' (

I had contacted Mark initially back in the summer of 2008 and made him aware that I was going to be shooting my first feature for under $200,000 which is right in the ballpark for the films he has studied for years, currently produces, and teaches others how to make in his classes. In my message to Mark, I shared a little bit about NBTW and how I would love to share it with him at a later date. He welcomed the invitation and said he would be glad to see it when the time was right.

Well in December, I felt it was time to send Mark a copy. Good to his word, he asked me to mail him a copy. Being away for the holidays and the beginning part of the new year, the chances were looking slim for him to view the film before leaving for the Sundance Film Festival. To my surprise, he sat down and viewed the film (all at once, in it's entirety. think about how you can be so easily distracted or simply how a movie doesn't hold your interest) two nights ago. Mark was not only generous enough to view the film and take notes. We spent close to an hour where he provided me insightful commentary and valuable feedback with how he received Night Before the Wedding.

I must admit, this is a nerve-wracking time period for me. The film is rounding the corner on the final stages of post-production. There has been a lot of time and energy put into it. It's in that state of limbo where it is almost done, but no-one has really seen it. Of course I want people to receive the film well. There is that inner doubt within me and within a lot of artists that question whether or not we can do this for a living. I am already in pre-production on my next project, yet it helps to have some sort of validation that I am on the right path. And you really do not know until you start getting your work out there to people who do not know you and do not care.

And so what did Mark have to say? Well, for one he said he hopes this is not my last film. That was great to hear. He thought the acting was solid. He was complimentary of the production value and production design. It took him a little while to figure out what the film was shot on. It didn't immediately come across that the film was shot on HD. He thought it was a well told story and was really impressed with the way the film ended. I will note that he did not think the film was perfect. Nor do I. From there he offered ideas and suggestions about moments and areas that weren't hitting on all cylinders. Overall the conversation was more on the positive side. He really reinforced some of the issues that I have with the film along with all the positives the film has such as it's authenticity. It was also great to have Mark admit that even though the film primarily takes place in one location, it was something that never really jumped out at him. He wasn't bored, or claustrophobic or anything like that. I will admit that was one of the hardest aspects of writing this film and of course shooting it. Imagine trying to keep something interesting and entertaining for the length of a feature film where it all takes place in the same space. So far there has been no negative feedback regarding the lack of locations.

Mark said he has no problem issuing us a quote on the film. It will come sometime after he returns from Sundance, though I know he is also deep into production on his latest film, Pig
I want to once again extend my gratitude to you Mark for your generosity of time and expertise. We are going to give you special thanks in the film's credits as well as on IMDB.

I am following up Mark's commentary with another screening this evening where we are inviting a few more people in to evaluate the film. I am looking to finalize editing decisions so that we can picture-lock the film and move back into sound design and color correction.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Almost done editing or maybe not?

It was back in November when I declared "Night Before the Wedding" to be 'picture locked.' This is a term that refers to stage in the editing process where all visual edits are done and have been approved. From there it is time for the film to move onto the next stages of post-production.

It was in that 'picture lock' phase that I realized that there was a 4-6 minute stretch of the film that I was just not happy with. This past Friday, I was finally able to sit back in with our new Editor and one of the film's producers in our first attempt to shore up the weakest area of the film. We spent a good seven hours focused on enhancing that part of the movie. After giving it the weekend to breathe, I will be back to take a fresh look at the film in the morning.

This has been a very nervous period for me. We submitted a 'working title' to the SXSW Film Festival back in December. Decisions for that festival will be made over the next month. But aside from that, I have attempted to gain some feedback from various industry people who really do not know me or anyone involved in the film. Yet that unattached feedback has yet to come my way. It seems with each day that I am up and down with my feelings towards the film.

From those who know me and have seen the film, the sentiment has been mixed. Most speak favorably towards the film which can be expected. Maybe they do not want to hurt my feelings or whatever. There are also a few who feel that it didn't meet their expectations and are more negative towards it. Seems like I may really have a polarizing film here. I wouldn't mind that at all. 'The Blair Witch Project' was quite a polarizing film and was a tremendous success.

I am just hoping that people will connect with this film, find it entertaining and take something away from it. That's probably how a lot of artists feel about their work. The time is truly coming where people will begin to see this film and critique it. Editing is nearing to a close. The film will officially reach 'picture lock' very soon.

Before it does, I am strongly considering a test screening of random strangers. I will keep you posted on whether that comes to fruition or not.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Facebook and Film Distribution

Here is a Filmmaker Magazine article that I have come across that serves as a great note of caution to Filmmakers (or anybody for that matter) looking to have a high profile on facebook. These social networking sites serve as a great way for filmmakers to build exposure towards our film projects. So to my other artists and promoters out there, you may want to read this one.

By the way, if you are looking for the Facebook "Fan Page" to my film, here is the link

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The New Year Has Begun

You know what, I am starting today's blog with no specific agenda. We have now moved into 2009 and I want to begin this year with a posting. So I am just going to write with a free conscious and we will see what ends up on this page. If you are feeling courageous, maybe you will walk with me on this journey of the mind.

My first thoughts on 2009 do not have to do with the pursuit of my film goals, rather they are on the world economy and more of course what is going to happen here in the U.S. The outlook for many is mixed. With President Obama preparing to begin his candidacy, most are optimistic about 2009 and beyond. Many talking heads on television believe we will bury this recession and move back towards prosperity. That is one side. There are also murmurs of the United States going into a Depression.

I am certainly feeling the crunch of the economic times. Work at my day job slowed considerably this past year. One of my priorities in this new year is to find steady stable work or at least new streaming income. Attempting to balance earning an income and having enough time and energy to pursue my creative ambitions has always been the most challenging feat for me here in Los Angeles. I begin this year feeling the stress of balancing both worlds as much as I ever have.

And here I am, moving toward completing my first feature film. Without any complications, Night Before the Wedding will be completed in the upcoming weeks. The burden of finishing it will be lifted and replaced with the task of garnering interest and marketing the film, which is the phase where careers are made or lost.

Okay, maybe that is a little too melodramatic, yet it is the state of delirium I am in. I feel that we have made an impressive film. It is easily the best work I have done to date. The time is coming where I will see where it stands and at the same time where I stand as someone who yearns to make films for a living.