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Midlands Spotlight Short film festival planning

By midlandsmovies, Jan 19 2015 10:48PM

“It’s a wrap!” This is a phrase that many first-time short filmmakers cannot wait to hear signalling the end of a shooting schedule. However, Midlands Movies talks to the writer/director of The Fort who explains that this can actually be the start of a long promotional journey. Mike speaks to Doug Cubin to find out more...

With the editing and production of Doug Cubin’s The Fort deep underway, Mike asks the local Leicester filmmaker about the next steps on seeing his creation on the big screen and how he is tackling the tricky topic of promotion.

“There is so much left to do with a film after it’s complete. With Finding Richard our priority was to get distribution - which not many short films do. Following a visit to Cannes we sold our film to Gonella Productions. Next on the list was film festivals,” explains Doug.

“Everything aside, festivals are a great opportunity to be seen by a large number of people”.

After producing Finding Richard which was shown with Keith Allott’s Flawless and Tom Young’s Shelter at The Phoenix Cinema in Leicester for a local film festival, Doug says one way to investigate your next steps is to use a variety of websites to identify the festivals that are out there.

“I’m not against shot-gunning your project out to festivals”, continues Doug, “but it can be hit-and-miss whereas it does reap rewards if you can find the right festival for your film. Really analyse what the festivals are looking for, whether it be horror, drama or comedy and even if they don’t have an overt subject, they many have a slant”.

We have already featured a number of festivals in the Midlands region (our full list here) including the New Wave Festival at the Broadway in Nottingham and the Beeston Film Festival in January 2015. For some films, the only place you’ll ever see them on big screen will be at a festival given their limited distribution. With low budgets though, Doug advises to start with free festivals first and then consider paying for more in the future.

“We paid about £70 to get into Cannes but we had budgeted this from the start”. Alongside Finding Richard director Rhys Davies he planned with his team to ensure he got the best possible version he could, working hard on editing and colour grading to ensure a high quality product.

“With Finding Richard we always wanted to get it into Cannes – co-writer Rhys Davies of Hive Films is an accomplished filmmaker with multiple features and what better place for me to learn about everything and do some ‘serious’ networking. Quality of production was paramount and when it came to editing we were shaving frames from the film to really try and nail it”.

Similarly Christopher Nolan also focused on high grade film stock when releasing his first feature The Following. Read more about the struggles he faced here.

However, Doug also recommends that setting a budget is a good way of ensuring you don’t spend beyond your means. As with all artistic endeavours, there is a balance of creativity versus the marketing and business side of things that zero budget filmmakers need to be mindful of.

The festival market and circuit can be a secondary thought but helps focus on your movie from a different angle – Doug ensure his film got the legal aspects in place (permissions, copyright and waivers etc) whilst a calendar of festivals may help ‘snowball’ the film along in promotional terms or at least keep you on time for a release date.

However, Doug does acknowledge the last thing on a director’s mind may be a festival. “When you are in production, and especially on set, a festival is definitely not in the director’s mind”.

Doug recommends that a producer can save the production time by helping to “position” the film for the most appropriate markets.

Doug also suggest that trailers, press packs and a poster can help your film when applying for festivals. If accepted festivals may ask for all of these. While festivals do not necessarily need a trailer of your film, the team made a finding Richard trailer for online marketing. We suggest that short film makers should not have long title sequences given their limited length. Doug agrees.

“You need to get straight into your film in the main. When you think about a short at a festival – you need to try and get the attention of the judge to accept the film. In Finding Richard, Richard Burton’s mandolin music grabbed the audience which helped sell the film’s style and genre”.

“With the shot of the shelf in the boy’s room and the model of the knight, we jumped straight into our historical tale”. We suggest Nolan stole the idea from Doug for Interstellar!

“Ha ha. That’s a good point though. Like Interstellar, filmmakers need to get their vision across fairly quickly given the limited amount of screen time”.

Doug reminds filmmakers to consider credits as well. With Kickstarter fund-raising, he feels it is important to give thanks to all has contributed. We also discuss European festivals and a global market which should not be underestimated as there can be a huge market to tap into.

“We also thought upfront about showing the film at a international film festival – it promotes the locality and the Richard III imagery is on there. This historical connection was transferred to the DVD artwork. In my mind we had to have Richards's crown in the centre of the disc”.

On the back of that we agree that showcasing a region can be a good thing for all involved. Currently Leicester has a big “buzz” about it which is creating more opportunities for filmmakers, actors and crew whilst also a healthy competition exists to push projects even further.

In summary, we discuss how supporting each other in a scene and working collaboratively does not necessarily mean an inward looking attitude. “It actually helps create a supportive environment”, says Doug. “People will find their own way to do their thing and learn more about the industry along the journey”.

And with that, Midlands Movies supports the local filmmakers who have aimed high and building experience is key as filmmakers begin festival planning. We finish our chat with Doug by agreeing that the real key is to give it a go and focus on enjoying the ride and whilst the actors are told to go home, please give some sympathy to the producer, who aside from having a coronary, is just starting their job of getting the film “out there”.

Midlands Movies Mike

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Photo of Rhys (2nd from left), Doug (3rd from left) and fellow filmmakers at Cannes 2014 (photo courtesy of Laura Wilkinson)

Photo of Rhys (2nd from left), Doug (3rd from left) at Cannes 2014
Photo of Rhys (2nd from left), Doug (3rd from left) at Cannes 2014
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