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On a brief hiatus

I'm still here but on a bit of a break as I move out of my old apartment and into a new place with my family. The book launch at the Austin Film Festival went well and I've been getting lots of good reactions from filmmakers and festival directors, but there's a lot of work to be done getting the word out. Once this move is over (the end of the week) I'll be working to get back on track with new blog entries and a write up of the press mentions the book has received so far.

Until then . . . .

Cinekink wants your sex-positive films.

CinekinkCinekink is precisely the kind of niche festival that can provide your film with much-needed exposure if you're having trouble getting traction on the mainstream festival circuit. (Of course, that's only if your film fits into its particular niche.) While niche festivals like Cinekink often find themselves curating their programs from other festivals, most of them would far prefer to discover new talent and to present content not yet seen elsewhere. If you have a sex-positive film that needs to be seen, submit to Cinekink.

Call for Entries - CineKink NYC/2009

CineKink NYC - "the really alternative film festival" - is seeking films and videos, of any length and genre, that explore and celebrate the wide diversity of sexuality. Dedicated to the recognition and encouragement of sex-positive and kink-friendly depictions in film and television, we're looking to blur some boundaries and will be considering offerings drawn from both Hollywood and beyond, with works ranging from documentary to drama, camp comedy to hot porn, mildly spicy to quite explicit - and everything in between.

Cutting across orientations, topics covered at CineKink have included - but are by no means limited to - BDSM, leather and fetish, swinging, non-monogamy and polyamory, roleplay and gender bending. Or, frankly, given the current moral climate, as long as it involves consenting adults, just about anything celebrating sex as a right of self expression is fair game. (Far be it from us to define "kink" - if you think your work might make sense in this context, please send it along!)

Scheduled for its sixth annual appearance February 24-March 1, 2009, the specially-curated CineKink NYC will also feature a short film competition, audience choice awards, presentations, parties and a gala kick-off, with a national screening tour to follow.

The postmarked deadline for entries is November 15th.

For more information and to download an entry form, visit

Catch me this weekend on two panels at the Austin Film Festival

picAustin's premiere film event of the fall begins tomorrow, and with the Austin Film Festival come throngs of filmmaking and screenwriting talent, both emerging and established. It is a sublime mix of the experienced and the impressionable sharing stories, drinks, and a love of cinema. I got my start "on the inside" at the Austin Film Festival; that means it will always hold a special place in my heart. It also means they'll let me do wacky things like launch a book at their fest and moderate a couple of panels in the process. They are:

DIY Independent Film

Facebook event | AFF page

Write it, Direct it, Produce it. Do it. Independent filmmakers take the reins, executing the creation of a film from the concept to the big screen. If you have a script and need motivation to do it yourself, this session will tell you what it takes.


Cole Selix
Mark Potts
PJ Raval
Spenser Parsons

The Film Festival Circuit

Facebook event | AFF page

Are film festivals the new distribution? How do you navigate this world, anyway? How do you write a festival plan? What is the best way to utilize festivals to get attention for yourself and your film? In this in-depth panel, you will learn from people inside the festival world and successful fest filmmakers about making the relationship mutually beneficial and getting the most out of a festival experience.

James Faust (AFI Dallas)
Kelly Williams (Austin Film Festival)
Michelle Emanuel (Oxford FF)

I'll be giving a few copies of the book away at these panels and just generally enjoying the fest itself. If you're at the Festival this week, do stop by one of these panels and introduce yourself. I'll post some notes from the panels themselves here on the blog next week or possibly the week after that.

Embed "Film Festival Secrets" on your own site!

OK, this is nifty. Not only can you read the entire text of Film Festival Secrets online, but you can share it with your own readers by embedding the book on your own site or blog in this cool little flash reader from Issuu. The book is now available for sale at Createspace and Amazon (two faces of the same entity, but I get a better cut of the proceeds if you direct people to Createspace). On the other hand, you can earn a commission if you direct people to Amazon with your own affiliate code, so do whatever works best for you.

Austin Film Festival preview on Slackerwood podcast #4.

In Slackerwood podcast #4, Jette and yours truly spend a pastoral evening outdoors with Austin Film Festival programming director Kelly Williams, who shares news about some of the must-see events from the upcoming film festival and conference. We also reminisce about Fantastic Fest and talk about some upcoming events, like Home Movie Day. That's Kelly in the photo that accompanies the article below.

Listen to Slackerwood podcast #4 now.

A coffee with ... Kelly Williams of the Austin Film Festival

No Evil
The Austin Film Festival film programming team. From left to right: Jesse Trussell, Kelly Williams, John Merriman.

The Austin American-Statesman sits down with Kelly Williams, the film programming director for the upcoming Austin Film Festival. Apart from just being a nice profile of a friend (I used to work at AFF), the piece reveals the sorts of things programmers look for and the ways festivals might differ from one another.

"It's a long process. Thousands of entries come in, and it takes a good portion of the year to just get it down to a small group. I sort of look at it like a pyramid. You start at the bottom and figure out how to get to the top. Since the festival focuses on screenwriters, the main question we ask is how well is the story told. That's the No. 1 thing. The same goes for documentaries. We look for ones that are very narrative-driven."

Read A coffee with ... Kelly Williams of the Austin Film Festival.

Crawford's premiere: on Hulu

Rather than spend a lot of money on a theatrical release that would almost certainly leave him further in debt, Crawford director David Modigliani and indie distribution company B-Side (my employer) has released the film on Hulu, betting that the exposure of free views on the web (combined with the timing of the upcoming election and the publicity of being the first film ever to debut on Hulu) will drive DVD sales. I'm hoping he's right, because I'll be following a similar model with my book, Film Festival Secrets: you'll be able to download the book as a "try before you buy" PDF version and if you find it useful you can donate directly or purchase the print edition.

More to the point, however, is the fact that Crawford is a very, very good movie. No matter how timely the topic or novel the distribution strategy, a quality film is an inescapable prerequisite to success (unless you're making a movie that involves zombies or vampires, in which a sub-par picture can be part of the fun). Please take some time to watch Crawford on Hulu, and if you like what you see consider buying the DVD for yourself or a friend.

Chris Jones chronicles his short film's road to the Oscars

Chris Jones (author of The Guerilla Film Makers Movie Blueprint, among other things) has done a great job of taking his blog readers along for the ride on his latest film's journey. The movie, a narrative short entitled Gone Fishing, has played a number of festivals and Jones has posted video blog entries for many of them on Vimeo.

Jones' latest set of entries have to do with entering his film for Academy Award nomination consideration -- that's right, once you've qualified to be considered (one such way is to win an award at an Academy-accredited film festival), there's a whole process of campaigning to be included in further rounds of consideration before your film can ultimately be one of the five nominees in its category. Chris lays out the timeline for application here and talks about the voting process here. It's all good stuff for short filmmakers, I definitely advise you to check it out.

Creating video blog entries might feel a bit silly if you're self-conscious about appearing on camera, but if you're not a great writer they can be a simple and fun way to tell your film's story -- and to generate new material for your web site -- without having to turn out reams of text.

Jackson Hole Institute, Film Festival shut down

The Jackson Hole Film Institute closed its doors Tuesday following the nation’s worst single-day points drop of the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Monday.

“Funding dried up pretty quickly because of what’s been going on with the financial markets,” said Todd Rankin, managing director of the Jackson Hole Film Festival, the primary program of the institute. “Even leading up to this summer’s festival, things were tight.”

The film festival had board and staff committed to raising a sizeable percentage of the full festival budget for 2009, estimated at $1.2 million to $1.5 million. To date, sponsors and support were in place for only about $300,000, and with the worsening national financial outlook, board members were not comfortable going forward, Rankin said. Even streamlining the festival to an $800,000 event didn’t seem feasible.

The sad state of the economy seems to be leaking into everything these days, including the film festival circuit. For those filmmakers suspicious of the way festivals seem to be "raking in" the submissions fees, this should be a bit of evidence to the contrary -- for a festival to survive, they need a few more revenue streams.

Read the full story in the Jackson Hole Daily. (Via indieWIRE.)

Why test screenings are important

There are many incompetent people in the world. Dr. David A. Dunning is haunted by the fear that he might be one of them.

Dunning, a professor of psychology at Cornell, worries about this because, according to his research, most incompetent people do not know that they are incompetent.

On the contrary. People who do things badly, Dunning has found in studies conducted with a graduate student, Justin Kruger, are usually supremely confident of their abilities -- more confident, in fact, than people who do things well.

Many filmmakers who face repeated rejection from film festivals don't understand why it's happening to them. I've seen them blame the festivals, blame the economy, blame the weather -- anything but themselves or the quality of their films. Maybe this is why: they honestly can't see that they need to start over and make a better movie.

Private test screenings with objective feedback are a crucial component in evaluating your film’s quality. Test screenings need to happen when changes can still be made and you need to be open to making those changes. Conduct as many of these screenings as you can reasonably hold, and take steps to ensure that the audience’s input is as objective as possible. Don’t take Mom’s word for it! You need to hear some approval of your film from people who don’t know you. You may discover that your picture needs just a few tweaks or that you’re in for a serious re-edit. Either way give yourself time to accomplish what needs to be done.

There are a number of common filmmaking mistakes that will almost guarantee your rejection from the film festivals to whom you submit. Chief among these: an unremarkable story, hackneyed dialogue, poor sound, a lengthy running time, inappropriate style for the festival, and bad acting. Your test screenings should help you determine if your picture needs adjustment in any of these areas.

Read Incompetent People Really Have No Clue, Studies Find / They're blind to own failings, others' skills.

B-Side presents "Crawford" on Hulu!

Here's a first: an indie film that plays festivals, gets some great buzz, then premieres on Hulu instead of in theaters. That's exactly what's happening with Crawford, one of the hit docs of this past year's South by Southwest film festival, courtesy of distributor B-Side (my employer).

There's a lot of talk about how indie film distribution will work in the future. In my opinion it really boils down to a simple equation: the more people see your movie, the more people will buy it. (Given that the potential of any indie film to saturate the market like a Hollywood film is practically nil, the idea that an indie film can be "overplayed" is laughable.) Congratulations to director David Modigliani for taking some brave first steps in the new world of progressive distribution.

See the indieWIRE blurb on the Crawford acquisition, and check out the trailer below.