Sunday, December 29, 2013

Turning 17 - What Life Is All About

With the New Year comes a new season of Dances With Films.  While preparation for year 17 began as soon as the lights, projection systems, pipe & drape and posters came down on year 16, the work of screenings, preparing panels, promotion, more screenings, and choosing the final slate begins in earnest this month.  Which means it's time for me to dust off this blog and start posting again.

My regular readers know that the purpose of this blog was originally to help future submitters make better movies, so I wouldn't have to watch an endless stream of bad ones.  Life is, after all, all about me.  I still entertain the idea that I'm molding young creative minds, but I've also been where you are now – waiting for news on your submissions.  I understand that the real purpose of the blog might just be to give you something to do other than pace and bore your non-filmmaking friends with how anxious you are to hear from any of the festivals you've submitted to.  Your life is, after all, all about you.

Returning guests, please be patient while I explain to the new submitters what they can expect from this website between now and the time they are either in the festival, or, sadly, not. 

For the most part, I will post here once a week with a general discussion about the kinds of movies we're seeing in our screening sessions.  NO TITLES WILL EVER BE MENTIONED IN THIS BLOG.  Each year we see trends in bad filmmaking, which is what prompted this blog.  Years ago, it was Romantic Comedies that were neither, and tended to make you think the filmmaker (male or female) had some serious issues with their opposite gender.  Then it was the Mocumentaries – that trend continues.  The, "I'll make a movie in the style of the latest hit TV show / Movie" is always big.  There are also the technical issues, like unfinished sound, lack of any kind of lighting, etc.  The list goes on.
I call out these problems, but never for any one film.  If I complain about seeing long scenes of people walking to nowhere in particular while bad piano music plays, and you have a scene like that in your movie, I might be talking about your film, but I'm also talking about four others.  If you want the world to know it's your movie that sucks, then post a comment like, "It's unfair of you to criticize my movie that way, you jerk!"  But remember, a single problem in a film will not knock it out of consideration, while a bad attitude from a filmmaker certainly will.

On the good side, I will also say what jumps out in a positive way.  In those cases, I like to drop a hint to the filmmaker and anyone who knows the movie that, yes, I'm giving you a pat on the back.  It's not an official review, so I won't give the title.  I just feel that we all work so hard in this business, and we get so much rejection, that any compliment should be given – even if I'm really not supposed to.  But remember, if you think I've mentioned your movie in a good way, that doesn't mean you are in the festival.  This might be the official blog of Dances With Films, but nothing here is by any stretch of the imagination binding.

For official notifications, we'll communicate by e-mail.  If you've submitted to us, but haven't gotten an e-mail notification that we got your film within a week to ten days, check your spam filter.  If there's nothing there, CONTACT US.  Make sure we have the right e-mail address.  Nothing sucks more than us going through the trouble of finding a movie we love, then not being able to get in touch with the filmmaker.

Over the course of the next few weeks we will send out notifications that say something like, "your film has cleared to the second round..."  If you don't get one, don't worry.  We don't watch the movies in any kind of order, and final decisions are not made until all the submissions have been screened.  It's entirely possible that you could hear nothing from us even after the press release announces the "final" slate.  Things happen; films drop out; slots open up; we're forced to make a press deadline before we're done.

So, no news is not great news, but it's not a "no."  Until you get our famous pass letters, you're still in the running.

The reason we send the second-round, third-round, etc. letters is two-fold.  First, we want you to know we're interested in your film, so you don't go do something dumb like premiere at a festival that isn't one of the 25 coolest in the country just because they said yes before we did.  We're opening lines of communication with the round notice, so take advantage of it.  Stay in touch.  If another festival wants your movie, let us know.  We can't tell you what to do, but we can give you the advise that comes with 17 years of experience.
The other thing we're doing with this communication is a little sneaky.  We're checking on your professionalism.  Having a film in a festival is a partnership of sorts.  We want to know if you're going to get back to us in a timely manner.  Are you polite and informative?  Are you smart enough to admit that this is your first time in the festival circuit, but are willing to learn?  Are you the type of company that we would like to do business with?

By the way, you should use these early communications to make the same judgments.  Partnership is a two way street, and Life is, after all, all about us.

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