100 festivals!!! It’s officially a SAUSAGE FACTORY!
Just submitted to my 100th film festival! Why didn’t someone tell me what’s involved! Only half way through this admin feast, and def reaching for the indigestion pills!
Seriously, the message here is as great as the festival circuit is, have no illusions. There’s months worth of hard work planning and submitting to festivals. And no one else gonna do it for you!
Also remember cash! Some are free, but most charge between $20 - $50 per submission. In short - prepare to spent thousands of dollars.
Good news is If you did it again with another film it will get easier! But the reality is most only do it once, so commit and do it properly. Your film deserves it!
US gets its first taste of ‘Sausage’ in Feb
February sees the arrival of ‘Sausage’ to the USA with 3 festivals across the country that invented animation.
Feb 6th, tomorrow, sees the US Premiere in LA at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The following day in Mississippi at the Oxford Film Fest, and then up to Washington for the DC Indie Film Fest.
Sadly I can’t be there in person for any of these. Would have loved to be at the LA Premiere, and the other 2 offer a wonderful sense of hospitality. Oxford in particular saying “you organise the flight, and we’ll take care of you once you arrive”. But having used up much of my travel budget and holiday time on the Australian Premiere, I need to dial it in for a little while.
But there are dozens of US festivals on my list that I’m hoping to hear from. We just got accepted to Phoenix FF in April, and others that I can’t yet announce. However my wife Jess is holding out for a New York festival as she’s never been. A fair treat for putting up with all the weekends I spent animating this damn thing!
London and Sydney screen at same time! Which to pick?
The Australian Premiere is at Sydneys top shorts festival on the same weekend as it screens at Londons top shorts festival. London is my home town, and Sydney my wife’s. The two cities our lives are split between! What a delightful dilemma to have!
Both locations couldn’t be more iconic with FLICKERFEST at Bondi Beach in the deco pavilion, and LONDON SHORT FILM FESTIVAL showing Sausage at the BFI (British Film Institute) on the Thames. But amidst the depths of a UK winter, the calling of an Aussie summer just can’t be denied.
The clincher was the knowledge that as the Aussie Premiere, the Sunday lunchtime screening would be full of our friends and family, followed by a sausage BBQ on the beach. FLICKERFEST had been my goal from the start for the Aussie Premiere, so was thrilling to see it all come together. The festival, events and staff alone made the trip worthwhile.
Despite having left London behind, my wife was still in town and took parents, the sound designer and one of the composers with his kids. By all accounts it was a superb event with lots of ways to involve young film makers .
All the London festivals so far have screened Sausage at tricky times and have been at smaller venues, so not been able to invite all the people I’d like. Therefore I’m gonna organise a special private screening where I can get everyone in one place, feed them sausages, and get them drunk!
I’m off now to enjoy last weekend of perfect blue sky. See you soon London…x
3 awards in 3 weeks in first 3 UK fests! What a turn around!
In my last post I spoke of the dark months while waiting for a UK Premiere. Well then came the light, and what a gold sparkly light it was! In no time ‘Sausage’ had a barrage of screenings, awards and even qualified for the Oscars…!
November’s always been a favourite month as it’s when all my family have birthday, and the month starts with fireworks night. This year the fireworks continued as November saw the UK’s Premiere of ’Sausage’ at The UK Film Festival. It also screened at PROMAX UK and Foyle Film Fest, winning top awards at all three festivals. I should have guessed things might go our way when the month started with ‘British Sausage Week’!
The win at Foyle was the most significant as being an Academy and BAFTA accredited festival, ‘Sausage’ instantly qualifies for both. With less than 50 animated shorts a year qualifying for the Oscars, the odds are 1 in 5 to reach the shortlist in Oct, which secures huge exposure.
Without being too mushy, the biggest win for me was the psychological shift from depressed to ecstatic. You tell yourself festivals aren’t about competing - opinions don’t matter as you just want to express yourself as a filmmaker. All true - but a panel of international judges picking your film over Oscar nominated ones gives you a lift that no inner confidence can. Sometimes you need to be told by respected strangers - your film doesn’t stink, and is even quite good. I’ve certainly slept better since November…
Festival update for the new year
Let me quickly cover the few months that have swung from devastation to elation…
I took a break from blogging recently, and in truth it’s cos I didn’t like what I had to write. After the World and Euro premieres the festival process took a negative turn, with a barrage of rejections. I got very down, took it personally, and couldn’t face laying bare my insecurities online.
BUT THEN… things took an amazing turn with a barrage of acceptances! There was even 3 awards in as many weeks! Enough went on to distract me from blogging (well that’s my excuse!). So as I write this from Sausage’s Australian premiere in Sydney, I can enjoy reflecting on this dramatic end to 2013!
I’ll add some details about individual fests and awards, including qualifying for the next Oscars. But for now I thought I’d share the results from the festivals I heard back from in 2013… (All in the order they happened)
It averages out at 1 “acceptance” to every 2 “rejections”, which is a fair hit rate at this stage. The theory is that the opening A-list stage is far more selective, and as your move to your B, C and D list festivals it’s easier to get in. But as your premieres get used up and the film gets old, then the acceptances reduce again.
I’ve submitted to almost 80 festivals so far, so 45 waiting to hear back from… Add 100 further fests on my current list (and that’s a list that’s constantly growing). So lets have a look in Jan 2015 and see what’s happened then!
Design by social media
When developing your marketing for anything, a film inc, there are key moments. Logo, Poster and Tagline among them. When you’re designing in isolation, it’s quite hard to know the best way to go. So I’ve found amazing results using Facebook.
By posting options and inviting feedback you can get instant and valuable insight to what actually grabs people. And for a poster that’s essential!
The added bonus is you’ve also engaged a bunch of people about your project. I don’t think it’s cynical to enjoy that your genuine need for feedback will increase interest in your film. If you’re faking it of course then that would prob cause friends to turn their back, people smell that shit a mile off.
I also added an online scoreboard for the first time I did this (had more time on my hands then), but it felt like the right payoff to a great couple of days of interaction.
If you go to https://www.facebook.com/Sausagefilm you’ll see my examples of this working.
The European Premiere - Oldenburg
It’s been a couple of weeks since I got back from the European Premiere in Oldenburg, but I’ve only just got round to writing about it. Months ago I imagined writing such posts from the festivals, but in reality we were just too busy there (and / or hungover) to fit it in.
The Oldenburg Film Festival is in NW Germany and is often called the ‘Sundance of Europe’ by the industry press. That basically implies it’s the most important event championing independent films in Europe. This is the perfect setting for SAUSAGE as not only was it produced independently but the story uses the street seller characters to explore themes of independence.
The city of Oldenburg is a funny spot for such an event, nothing edgy or avant-garde about it. But the people the festival drew certainly fitted the indie scene and the party in the Old Prison was brimming over with the ‘alternative crowd’ (in fact I was the only sucker in a suit, but it was my Premiere and I was going to glam-it-up darn it!)
The festival is mainly for features, but it had a few shorts with SAUSAGE the only animation among them. The theatre it screened in was a lot smaller than the theatre in Rio, but every seat was filled with an eager film aficionado. My Short was accompanying a feature by ‘the next Woody Allen’ about a NY Jewish guy with anxiety issues! Despite the cliché it was a really wonderful movie, but as the director couldn’t fly over I was told I’d be the guest speaker.
We weren’t allowed to introduce our films in the Rio festival so I hadn’t planned for anything here and surprisingly (for anyone who knows me) I’m quite fearful of public speaking. But something about the occasion meant I had zero anxiety (unlike the jewish guy in the feature) and I bounded onto the stage. The introduction I delivered was probably longer than my film, and I even managed to coax the audience to applaud my wife for her ‘contribution to filmmaking’ (i.e. putting up with me during the production). After the screening I then took my first ever Q&A. I was surprised how the interaction with the audience turned into a really genuine back and forth, unlike many Q&A’s that can feel REALLY dead and forced. I loved every minute of it!
Either side of this screening were many other films, talks, drinks and parties. The whole weekend was amazing and the festival team couldn’t have been more welcoming. We even had our own swanky Audis to drive us between events! The best bit that I’m discovering with these events is the incredible people you meet. Much less of the business card exchanging I imagined, instead more a case of “you must come and stay when you get to ….”. But industry contacts were also made and I’ve since had an offer to have SAUSAGE represented by a sales agency, but I still feel it’s destiny is to go online and be watched for free. Just seems right some how…
RIO & Anima Mundi - the personal bit (festival review to come…)
This event was big for me - THE SAUSAGE WORLD PREMIER. And being me, I had high expectations. As five days in my life go they were pretty darn fantastic, but as everyone knows, nothing’s perfect…
I watched tons of animation. 3 hour sessions a day is plenty though as it’s zapping on the brain. Also saw presentations by a couple of celebrity film makers that always offer great insight.
Then - Saturday was the screening of my film. Eeep! The venue was buzzing with families and animation fans. ‘Sausage’ was shown with 6 others that were all great and kid friendly. The queue built up, I joined and made friends with a lovely family. Being on my own this interaction was so important for me, and for them they could now connect with one of the films and say “that bloke made that”.
A very warm audience and for the first 3 films all responded well. I set the tone by clapping furiously for the first films. Everyone seems to follow, maybe just out of embarrassment? But they were laughing in a way no one can fake, and all were there for a good time.
Then the title came up - ‘Sausage’. I heard Brazilian parents whisper to their kids ‘Salsichão’. Then followed the delightful sound of everyone laughing and reacting at all the right moments. Sadly the audio was too quiet, but on the upside I could hear every audience reaction, and it didn’t reduce the effect too much. At the end it received an enthusiastic applause, dare I say the biggest of the session. Needless to say I was very happy indeed.
One annoying point - I was told by the Director of the festival to introduce my film, which is fairly standard. But on the day I wasn’t allowed. As the films were in competition (the winner gets on the oscar list) the manager thought it would be unfair. I see the point of course, but it’s how festivals work and one of the reasons any director attends. Also, like with the family I befriended, it helps kids to better understand that ‘some lone bloke’ made this, not a faceless corporation.
The same reason of competition meant that all the posters and postcards I’d prepared couldn’t be shown in a public area. Not what they’d said by email! This is VERY unlike any other festival, which normally a mass of film ephemera creating a rich collage.
On a travel note -
I could only afford to fly over as my sister works at British Airways so I got cheap flights. Standard prices meant my poor wife was left at home. I had a small apartment near the venue, and although that area’s a gauntlet of rubbish bags and the sleeping homeless, I’ve realised how important it is to be near a festival for popping back and forth.
The people of Rio are the most friendly and welcoming I’ve met. Like proud NewYorkers, that streetwise edge and desire for you to have the best time in their city. Plus a genuine interest in you and where you’re from, which is a huge deal when you’re alone and vulnerable. And in general I think it’s the most geographically beautiful city I’ve been to, with a wonderful mix of architecture to compliment. A must see city for sure…
RIO - are you ready to be the first to see my SAUSAGE?
Next week I arrive in RIO for the WORLD PREMIERE!!! Been getting ready to make the most of the festival, so this is a post about some of my prep.
As well as making my websites and youtube up-to-date, I’ve been getting some classy print happening. Posters, flyers and the all important business cards!
Business cards were clearly a big deal at the Edinburgh Film Festival (where I did some research last month), and from what I’ve read important at all such events. Handing out cards is not something us arty types feel comfortable with normally, but a whiff of Hollywood and everyone starts reaching for their blazer pocket. I have my own personal ones, but I felt a card based around the film (with me as contact) fits better at festivals. I’ll let you know the response…
Postcards - I’ll add piles to the right desks and racks as I find them. Hard to say what effect they’ll have in the noise of such an event, but I’ll find out next week…
And a similar approach with posters. The lush A3 prints will go up anywhere in the venue they let me. It’s not advertising the screening, just reinforcing the message, so won’t be easy to register the effect of those either.
As well as awareness of the film, I want people to come here and read this fascinating blog. As you know (my 20 followers): here lies a variety of life changing posts that it’s my duty to share, god damn it!
Other than print I’ll have the trailer and film on my iPhone and laptop. The ideal tool would be a HD tablet, but I can’t yet justify that expense. If people seem keen to watch films out of screenings, then probably worth it…
Now my list of tasks is looking very crossed off, I’ll start getting excited. But that sentiment I’ll leave for my next post…
It’s not what you know - It’s who you know!
Today I discovered the key thing with festival submissions - FIND SOMEONE ON THE INSIDE!
Although easier said than done of course. But there’s a Australian festival (i won’t mention which) that I really want to have my Aussie Premier at. As I worked in Sydney for ages I thought “someone must know someone”. I remembered a brief work contact worked for the festival so threw him an email. Turns out he’s on the selection committee, also likes my trailer and will gladly send the film to the woman who runs the who festival - with his personal recommendation!
Earlier today I tried same approach with a festival that I want to have my London Premier at. However I’ve a feeling the guy who runs that festival will send me via the official channels. But at least he knows the name SAUSAGE, and that might help the DVD go in to the ‘pile to watch’.
Of course the World Premier’s in Rio and I knew no one there, so it’s far from required. But if you can utilise your fiends or someones friends friends neighbours hairdresser, then do what ever you can to get your film noticed!
- ADDITION FEB 2014:
I’m now totally confused as to the benefit of knowing someone on the inside. All examples above turned out to be different to what I thought. If anything, I’m now encouraged that festivals are a meritocracy, they pick their best films. That might involved politics and their opinions might be crap, but it’s a fairly genuine process all in all. I think?!
Sausage website - official launch - sausagefilm.net
The website for SAUSAGE is finally complete - www.sausagefilm.net
It’s been knocking around for a couple of months, but I now feel it’s populated with enough stuff to invite people to visit.
There’s artwork and early sketches as well as more detail about the production. Some bits that aren’t on the blog…
Last night I was reading about Search Engine Optimisation, so I’ve already realised some changes that need to happen. I’m missing a trick if I don’t make it easy to find in google. Same goes with this blog, so need to improve my ‘keyword’ processes. In fact I’ll do that now…
WORD PREMIER!!! it’s gonna be a Sausage Carnival…
SAUSAGE DONE GOT ITS FIRST ACCEPTANCE!!!
(yep, that’s me on my first bottle the night I found out)
The world premier will be in BRAZIL at a Anima Mundi. Although not a house hold name, it’ll be one of the world’s largest animation festivals in 2013. Excitingly, will be in the ‘competitive’ category and the winner of that goes on the Oscars short list! But let’s not get carried away, just getting in is huge. A big player taking Sausage seriously will hopefully open doors to other festivals and influential websites. Not forgetting a trip to Brazil in Aug! As good a start to my festival circuit as I could have hoped for! http://www.animamundi.com.br/en/
Now I need to take into account what that means for other festivals. e.g. I’ve applied to Ottawa which I imagine is quite keen on having the world premier. If I’m lucky enough to get in their program then all I can do is negotiate the North American premiere. I’ll do some further research and post the results…
For now - WOOOO HOOOOOOOO!!!!!!
Festival submissions update - 4 months stage
In truth I’ve gone quiet on the topic of submissions for a while - The reason being that I’m still in that uncomfortable phase of one submission a month to the world’s top festivals and feeling unrewarded in the process. Not the glamourous barrage of high-fives I dreamed it would be. But I’m not here to moan, I’m here to update you…
This is the list of the top festivals currently considering SAUSAGE:
Now they might not be household names like ‘Sundance’, but they are top tier names taken seriously by industry and other festivals. A couple are due to get back to me VERY soon, and others could be months.
There’s an actual result that I held back on telling people, which seems a little silly now. I heard from my first choice of festival, Annecy - and it was “NO”. My first response from any festival was a rejection which, although not surprising, was very deflating. Four years of production and a world premier at Annecy had been my goal throughout, so a certain sense of failure was unavoidable. By applying to Annecy I was reaching for the stars, which is highlighted by the fact that only two UK animations were selected in my category, and zero Australian films (hundreds of from each country would have applied). The reality is that with 3,000 entries for only 250 places, it’s just incredibly hard to get onto the world’s top stage.
But you only have to look at the thousands of great festivals out there to see endless opportunities, so I’m still full of excitement and anticipation. Just a little bit impatient!
Here’s a look at my submissions wall. Each post-it note is a top tier festival that I’d be happy to play host to Sausage’s premiere. As you see June is a big month, so with DVDs a-ready, here we go…
P.S. There are also some details on a couple of major festivals that didn’t happen this year - I’ll post about that soon to complete the picture…
VIMEO - which countries actually press PLAY!
Last night I added my animations around some ‘groups’ on Vimeo, and having reviewed the stats I found some interesting results…
Essentially the US are by far the biggest users of Vimeo, so perceived wisdom is to work around them. I picked what felt like the right time, just before lunch when people will be looking for online distractions. I put half my animations around all the relevant groups I could (Vimeo allows your film to be on 10 groups at once).
So, after a good nights sleep I checked in. First I have to say that of the people that get thousands of views a day, I am not one. I’m starting this process of self promotion with a minimal following and online rep. But over night I got 200 more ‘views’ than I normally would just by circulating around groups, and 40 extra ’likes’. But that’s not what’s interesting…
When you delve into Vimeo’s stats you see how each country behaves. Although the US has 10X more Vimeo users than the rest, they don’t actually watch that much. My work loaded on 772 US screens last night, but only 25 clicked ‘play’ to view anything. In the UK only 99 loads, yet more views than the US with 26. But the astonishingly positive results came from Brazil. They had by far the most views with 36, and that’s from only 50 loads - that’s half the UK and 6% of the US loads.
I’ve heard a bit about the creative energy coming from Brazil, and from this you can see they have a genuine hunger to engage with new work and not just aimlessly surf. And while talking about emerging markets, you have to acknowledge a similar hunger from South Korea who although have fewer users and thus fewer loads, always have a view rate that challenges the US.
It’s impossible to time it right for all these markets, so you need to find the balance between the regions you care about and the ones that will actually watch what you’re offering. My next challenge is to work out what to do with this info and feed this Brazilian hunger! I’ve been getting ready to approach sites that discuss animation, so maybe I should spend my time on Brazilian sites rather than US ones, anyone speak Portuguese?
p.s. The Dutch kinda won albeit on a small scale. Of all the 11 screens that loaded my work, 11 dutch people pressed play. That’s pretty committed surfing!