THE POST-FESTIVAL WORLD
After I produced my first feature (Tom Noonan’s What Happened Was…), I imagined what my next year would be like. I’d be flying all over the world going to countless festivals with the film. But I quickly realized two things. One, festivals don’t care much about hosting producers, and, two, I wasn’t flush enough to float myself on a year of globetrotting and had to get back to work.
In today’s diminished conventional distribution environment, film festivals are increasingly seen by first-time filmmakers not as tony travel spots but rather as cogs in a new machine that might connect them with actual revenues for their film. Christian Gaines began the dialogue with his “Do Festivals Matter” two-parter in Variety this Summer. In the piece, he suggested a new model of “festival distribution” in which sales agents would take the lead in pursuing smaller-scale revenue opportunities that would exist through film festival and associated regional distribution. Others, like Scott Kirsner, have been talking about things like using a film festival premiere as the publicity magnet for one’s film and creating a short download or online rental window alongside or immediately following this screening.
At his Truly Free Film blog, Ted Hope points to Paul Devlin’s current article in The Independent , “Making Films is Only Half the Battle.” Devlin has been on the fest circuit with his new science-themed doc, Blast!, and he straightforwardly recounts the highs and lows of this journey. Like Ted, I was left thinking by his concluding paragraph:
Of course, the film festival model will always serve some film very well. But diverging interests may mean that film festivals necessarily become a much less essential element of a filmmaker’s strategy for promotion and distribution. Just as we seem to be entering a “post-distributor” environment in which filmmakers eschew rotten deals and embrace DIY, we may be witnessing the emergence of a “post-film festival” environment as well. As more and more filmmakers become empowered through alternatives to business-as-usual, we must keep in mind that, as the artists, none of this would exist – the festivals, the press, the sponsors, the audience – without our films.
Read the piece to learn how an “alt-theatrical” exhibition circuit might be even more helpful (and remunerative) to the filmmaker than the conventional fest circuit we know and love. The trailer for Devlin’s film is below.
And while we are talking about film festivals, Chris Holland’s new book, Film Festival Secrets: A Handbook for Independent Filmmakers is available for free download as a PDF as well as in a purchasable hard copy. (Hat tip: Workbook Project.)