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!
The perfect thumbnail - part 1
I recently made a post on facebook asking friends to vote for their favourite thumbnail that I’d use on vimeo and the like. It had a great response with over 60 votes. This was not only truly helpful but made me see the benefit of getting people involved with a simple fun task. Something that lets them feel their input drives a real life outcome, and is genuinely desired.
The winning thumbnail was #3, which although was my favourite too I originally had reservations about going that way based only on my own gut reaction. It’s one of those design tasks that can suffer from you being too close to your work, you want too much from one image.
Beyond the success of that one post it made me think a lot about the powerful role a thumbnail plays online. So I’m researching for a longer post to follow this up, that should help anyone promoting content online. Stay tuned…
Now tables have turned - can I get back in the cool gang?
I just had an important realisation about my mission to get cool websites to open their doors and invite me and my Sausage in…
I was feeling frustrated as it takes so long to build up any interest on websites like Vimeo and other online video platforms. It feels like a wall between those on the inside with the contacts, and us newbie’s. I found myself saying “it’s just so hard to get a break. What do they know that I don’t”. Sound familiar?
It’s the same complaint you hear from young people trying to get into the work place. There’s a world you’re desperate to be part of, but don’t understand the rules and nuances.
I’m sure you can sense the irony I’m about to point out. A scenario where thousands of ‘pro’s’ are trying to get in on a world inhabited by students and recent grads. Desperate to get them to take us seriously. It feels like we’re starting all over again!
All us seasoned pro’s can do is take the advice we’d offer to those trying to get into our industry… “be patient, make good work, keep building contacts, and it should all happen eventually.”
Doesn’t make me feel much better when I struggle to get a dozen people to view my latest project, and then watch a lame peice entitled ‘my first ever motion test” gaining 5,000 views per day. Each time I surf video sites I’m left genuinely baffled. But that’s the puzzle I must crack - get online communities to know I even exist.
When I find out the password to get into the party, I’ll be sure to post it up here…
Dealing with the FESTIVAL BLUES!
Bad day in the Sausage campaign… basically I got the festival blues!
Not helped that been a grey drizzly start to the year, but I’ve hit a moment of “why f’ing bother, who gives a toss about festivals anyway!”.
This negativity was set off by finding out that 2 of the 4 top animation festivals aren’t on this year. Stupidly it felt like an indirect rejection. Plus I’m waiting to hear back from the first 3 fest’s I’ve submitted to, so I feel in a lonely place.
But after a good sulk, I pulled my socks up researched more about mainstream festivals, and started making a plan for those. Being a vast and complex list of options, this is no quick fix to my current blues, but a new focus def helped. It’s also made me clarify the bigger plan with my campaign manager (aka me wife), and with her help we’ll get this nailed!
Beyond the basic need to whinge, this is also a reminder that the process of entering something you created into competitions is full of trepidation. I’ve heard from others directors to be ready for dark months ahead. But the alternative is hiding away and only showing your pictures to your mum so she can say “ohh haven’t I got a talented boy!”. Us softy arty folk aren’t know for bravery, I guess this is the closest we get!
No short films at ZAGREB in 2013!
Some frustrating info I’ve just discovered - ZAGREB (Europe’s No2 Anim Fest) is only accepting feature films this year, no shorts. This is actually how they’re structured, alternating between shorts and features every year. But I must say the website doesn’t make that too clear (it was only when I went to submit that I realised!). I’m very disappointed as this was a festival I really wanted to be part of. As Sausage will be a year old in 2014, I’m guessing there’s no chance of getting into Zagreb!
What’s also a shame is that I was looking forward to attending Zagreb this year regardless of whether I got in or not. But I just don’t want to go to a purely feature film festival, it just doesn’t have the same appeal.
But I got my application in to the London International Anim Fest, so fingers crossed there! Nothing to report other than the fact that they only accept hand written entry forms, which adds to my surprise at how un-embracing of technology the festival world seems to be.
And next is Anima Mundi in Brazil which I will submit this week.
the animation festival circuit
I declare the 2013 Animation Festival season officially open! Well for Sausage anyway as it’s started it’s festival run with February being the best strategic time to start! To understand why, here’s my research into the top festivals and how I intend to approach them…
I’ve got Sausage to a level that I’m happy to show the world’s most prestigious selection board: those at Annecy Animation Festival. The courier confirmed the DVD has just arrived, so all I can do now is wait and hope that the French like ‘Sausage’!
Well, that and apply to all the other hundreds of festivals out there! To prevent that mammoth task feeling so daunting - I need a plan! As mentioned before, the standard strategy is to pick the festivals you most want your film in, and offer them an exclusive premier. This requires research, thought and then of course a diary. Or you can just use my hard work as here is a list of the top 10 Animation Festivals (as suggested by people who know). It’s structured as a full year starting from now, Feb 2013…
ANNECY (France) submission by 15 Feb / Fest 10-15 June
* ZAGREB (Croatia) submission March / Fest 4-9 June
Anima Mundi (Brazil) online forms in by 8 March and DVDs by 26 March / Fest Aug 2-18
* HIROSHIMA (Japan) submission April / Fest during Aug
OTTAWA (Canada) submission May 17 / Fest during Sept
Fantoche (Switzerland) submission May 31 / Fest 3-8 Sept
Cinanima (Portugal) submission during July / Fest during Nov
Annies Awards (US - LA) / submission during Oct / Awards - Feb
Stuttgart (Germany) submission during Dec / Fest during April
Holland (Netherlands) submission during Dec / Fest during March
Brussels (Belgium) submission during Jan / Fest during Feb
How I will play the circuit
There are four main festivals that are considered the elite for the animation industry (in CAPITALS above). The first submission in the year is Annecy, which is fortunately the most renowned, and logically the place to start. If I get accepted there then I am over the moon! Then the other elites Zagreb, Hiroshima and Ottawa all require submissions in the three months that follow, so it’s a convenient cluster of the best.
*see updates on Zagreb & Hiroshima not happening during 2013!
Success of a film with these top four will surely dictate how to proceed. If you’re getting no interest then maybe just accept you need to play the numbers game and just apply for everything. But if one or two of these bites, then start planning for some positive momentum and build around that success!
Keep it personal
Now, as well as this top list (which is always subjective anyway), there are hundreds of festivals for animation and thousands for shorts (links below). They all have their niche appeal and although may not make the top list, they might offer something important to you. My example is LIAF (Lon Int Anim Fest / liaf.org.uk). As London’s my home town, this offers me a local showcase for friends and family as well as being where I work and thus should foster commercial opportunities. Therefore I’m willing to move LIAF up the standard list of importance and apply in Feb.
Appeal to the masses
One more thing to consider is what normal folk would think… Most of us reading the above list for the first time would have found a couple of places that meant nothing, and only on researching do they begin to sound impressive. Well that will be true of most people who will watch your your film. If your poster has an award reef from Fantoche or one from NYC, which will seem most impressive to the masses? My point being that we can all get too caught up in our industry bubble, so find a balance that reflects the real world.
Where’s the non-animation festival list?!
Well, in truth I’m still doing the research. Short film festival dates and which ones are most applicable to animation will posted here very soon…
Just found this - the Brit Councils list of key film festivals:
* ZAGREB & HIROSHIMA are not happening in 2013. VERY frustrating news. See later posts on this…
Festivals or Online, which first?
For anyone who’s finished a short film, a moment comes where you ask “what the hell do I do now?”. With any luck your questions will then evolve to something like “do I apply to festivals, just shove it online, or try for both?”. In 2013 one of the hottest topics for film makers is choosing between traditional festivals or World-Wide-Web, and it’s dividing the short film community. I’ve been researching it over the last few years, and below I’ve condensed all that I’ve found…
Strategise - As unspontaneous and uncreative as it sounds, every independent film (long or short) needs a strategy. It’s gotta be tailor made to the goals of each project, but for most short films (Sausage incl.) the main aim is to be watched by as many people as possible. Ideally by people who could be involved in your subsequent rise to worldwide success!
The Establishment - For many decades, film festivals were the place to show your short, with a lucky few making it to TV or accompanying a feature in cinemas. But then came the internet, with YouTube and now Vimeo gaining more viewers than any festival could dream of. Yet acceptance to major festivals maintains its allure for every short film, with the ultimate dream of a prize propelling your film to legendary status. The quandary is that traditionally speaking, festival selection panels wont allow films that are already online as that dilutes their exclusivity - who wants to go to a festival when everything they show is available to view at home? The accepted model became to tour your film around the festival circuit for around a year, then publish your film online once you’ve milked all the potential kudos.
Times are changing - Last year seems to have been a turning point in the battle between the physical and cyber outlets. In 2013 a film maker needs to ask if an online success would offer their film more than any festival success, and therefore which platform to commit to? There’s plenty of examples of films getting huge online audiences with zero festival hype. Maybe a better compromise is to dedicate only a hand full of months seeking maximum success at the major festivals, then quickly launching the film to the online world while it’s fresh as possible. If the film goes viral (that holiest of grails) then surely plenty of festivals should want it in their promoted line-up? Won’t they?
Where it’s going - This general change in attitudes by viewers and film makers has made even the biggest festivals rethink restrictions on their submissions. Even Annecy (world’s top animation festival) is open to films with a web history according to Susie Wilson, one of their committee members. Going further, it seems that many festival curators are using websites to source content for their lineup. Yet only two years ago I heard a seminar at AFTRS on ‘promoting your short film’ categorically state that no top festival would receive films that exist online. How fast opinions change!
Gathering annecdotes - With such a changeable situation, your opinion can shift with each new account you hear of the festival process. The last two directors I’ve spoken with said having their films online had indeed proved a problem for certain festivals! But then how does one even prove that? I’ll just have to keep gathering anecdotes and then I’ll post the results on this blog.
The Final Bastion - It seems the last institution standing still on this issue is the Oscars. They will not accept anything that first appeared online, or with an online clip showing 10% of the film’s duration. So if you have a five minute film, make sure the trailer’s less than 30 seconds, or all those Oscar dreams will be shattered!
Oscar fav Paperman is online during the nominations, and has a trailer far longer than 10%. It all changes every year!
So what’s my plan? - Well, I’m keen on the strategy indicated above…
- Try to get Sausage in at least two major festivals within as few months as poss.
- Strive to win prizes and any notoriety for Sausage in the festival world.
- During this time, build interest with trailers, blogs and involvement with online communities.
- Then upload to vimeo and spread the promotional net as wide as possible in the shortest amount of time.
- Then of course build a network that leads to my next big thing!
From all I hear, truncating your marketing is key to building the snow ball effect. So I’ll be allocating two weeks when I release the full length Sausage online, and have a plan of all the forums I want to hit. As well as drawing on a friendly team of online helpers.
I must state though, this whole plan could well change depending on festival reaction and ongoing advice. This is, after all, the fastest changing landscape that’s ever been, so we’ve all gotta remain flexible.
You can learn as I learn - Every step on the way will be tracked on this blog, thus offering you a chance to learn from my mistakes in real time. I’ll also collect articles from others on the issue, and interview people with valuable experience.
As a treat for sticking with this extra long post, here’s some blog and forums from film makers and festival curators on this subject:
Cartoon Brew - 2 great discussions going on about this topic:
So whats this job I do?
I’m a freelance Animation Director, regularly creating projects for the likes of BBC, History Channel, Red Cross, and last year the Olympic ceremonies.
On any given day, you may also call me a Motion Designer, After Effects Animator, Broadcast Designer, Creative Director or Motion Illustrator. My point being it’s an industry that requires some flexibility from job to job. It’s also not easily explained at dinner parties when someone asks “so what do you do?”.
It’s best to go and look at my website for a full picture… www.robertgrieves.com
I’m currently finishing off graphics for the BBC, a opening animation for the RAD Awards ceremony which I’ll blog about here very soon…