Sunday, May 12, 2013

Correspondence with a short film filmmaker
by Mitchell Block

The following correspondence took place with a filmmaker the week of May 5, I have never met this person. I have omitted any information that would identify the filmmaker or the work.

I have this conversation so often. The filmmaker has build a world on misinformation, not understanding how the industry works and building on the myths that a short film, the festival circuit are connected to a career as a feature film director.  While there is some truth to this, in reality is that Sundance had (for example) 6,000 plus entries in 2012/13 for its short film competition. (See my reviews of their winners in Indiewire.)

Initial Contact:

Hey, Mitchell!

I just completed pp on a 20-minute short that I hope to be a relevant festival film. Wondering if you could offer any advice for me in trying to move this project through the festival circuit -- and also if you ever liaise or act as Producer's Rep for short films like mine.

I've attached two stills from the fine cut and also the film's working poster.

Here's the synopsis:

Two men meet to discuss eliminating a woman. LEFT INTENTIONALLY BLANK by Block

Thanks, Mitchell! I hope we're able to open a dialogue on the subject!

The Filmmaker

My response: 

Happy to look at it, do you have a link?

I don’t think much of the  “festival circuit.”

Happy to talk with you about that.


The filmmaker:


Thanks for the quick response! The film is not currently online, as its audio is still being worked on by our sound designer, but we should have a final cut ready for private viewing by the end of the month. I would love to send it to you once we get it online!

Also, I'd love to speak to you about the festival circuit. I'm certainly open to alternative avenues for the film, but seeing as how it's a short, I'm not sure how to get it seen by as many people as a festival's programming could get it seen by.


My Response

I’d rather see in process not after lock. (Why not offer some help to make it a better film?)

The Filmmaker

Okay! Well in that case, I can share with you a fine cut, sans audio editing, by tomorrow evening. I'll email you!


The Filmmaker


Below is a link to the film. When I uploaded this a week ago (for the director to see), no color correction or post sound had been done. The still images I attached to a prior email are from after color correction had been complete. But in terms of sequencing and runtime, this is the cut we're moving forward with.

Password: film

Hope you enjoy it!

The Filmmaker

My Response
Thank you.

I screened the film

My Response

I ran your picture.
I am not clear what you want to do with film.
I do work as a consultant and can place works into distribution, festivals, etc.
Of course, one needs to start with the film.
This one has a lot of problems.
For free, my suggestion would be to finish it for as a little as possible.
While it might get some festival play, it is not commercially distributable and I don’t think it can be fixed.
The festival circuit is not something that means anything to anyone in the business. My last film which
got an Oscar nomination and two Emmy nominations I placed in just two festivals: Telluride and IDFA.
Both had to do with sales. (HBO funded it.)
Then all of the other festivals paid us or the director to participate.

Let me know what you’d like from me.


The filmmaker writes back: 
 My Response: in Blue - Filmmaker's text in Black
Thanks for taking the time to view the film!

You mention you're not clear what I'd like to do "with film." Do you mean with this particular film or with film in general?

If it's the latter, I'd like to make features; but, first, to find funding in order to make them. If it's the former, I'm unsure what you mean.

The short film has almost nothing to do with getting you a feature.
It exists in its own world.
Look at the 1000+ features or so released in the last 10 years by the studios.
How many of these were directed by someone based on their directing a short film?
Look at my article on Indiewire about the credits of the Academy Award nominated directors/producers of fiction
Short films for 11 years and see how their careers when…Their process. I think only 2 of the last 12 Oscar winning Short Filmmakers made features and both were in three years or so of their win and both got funding out of the US. I believe in

I'm also very curious what "many problems" you believe this film has. Obviously, being in the position that I'm in, I'd like to accrue as much constructive criticism as possible so that I can maximize my work and tailor my future projects. I'll admit, however, that, other than elements that will be fixed in editing (all audio, shaky camera, visible mic), the film turned out precisely to my vision and that of the film's writer and director -- and no word of dialogue or frame or movement is without a specific purpose.

I assumed that this film would be difficult to distribute, given its length.

No it’s not length it is content.

It is not commercial in the sense that it is entertaining. (look at the Youtube shorts that get 100,000 plus views.

The market for shorts is either television/cable or internet (entertainment) or educational.
I don’t think it will pull hundreds of thousands of hits on the internet and it’s subject matter makes it difficult for most cable. 

It has no educational value. (see my company website for sample educational films)

Look at the National Film Board of Canada’s site for sample short films.

Shorts Films International's web site, etc.

My intention with the festival circuit is not to find distribution, but is rather to establish some credibility behind my name and film company so that I may more easily find funding for future feature projects, which I will of course aim to find distribution for.

This goal while laudable is a myth. I reviewed the Sundance short film winners this year and even these winners will not likely

get much advancement with their careers. Where does ALL of this misinfo come from? What’s your model?

If you'd please share with me what problems you saw in the film, I can perhaps fine-tune the film so that it may be more likely to assist me in acquiring funding for future films.

Look at the Oscar nominated short films for the last few years and compare them to yours.
They are on Netflex, or the web, in my reviews (see blog above).
I do a short workshop called 33 ideas about short films.
Just observations.
I don’t have time to run a private film school.
Happy to consult for fee.
I don’t mean to be so cynical..
It would be best for you to check out the winners of Sundance and the Academy (nominees and winners)
See  what wins.
The film is nicely produced. a few actors, a limited location is good. All fine.
It’s the story, it’s lack of change in the characters,  the acting, the problem the characters need to solve, etc.
They are not sympathetic. Moving. Charismatic. Likeable.
Movies are different than theater and this is a very theatrical like work.

The Filmmaker

Thanks again for your time, Mitchell.

A Response from a Graduate Level Filmmaker

Hi Mitchell! 
I LOVE this blog about the conversation with the short filmmaker. 
It's what we've always talked about! 
Unfortunately, the film schools perpetuate this myth. my program certainly did. I get more oohs and aahs that my latest short has gotten into a couple film festivals than the fact that my film was shot as a calling card for television directing (and as you know directly led to shadowing gigs) and then got picked up for a Worldwide All Media distribution deal with Shorts International - 1 of only the 12 thesis films from my school. 
You are so right when you say that the industry doesn't give a hooey about film festivals. And on the feature side - it's the worst myth ever that filmmakers think that they can get distribution at festivals. You get distribution before you ever even go into pre-production. 
The Filmmaker

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