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Film Festivals

Lesson 16 from: Producing An Independent Film From The Grassroots Up

Michael Gottwald

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Lesson Info

16. Film Festivals

Lesson Info

Film Festivals

So film festivals now, uh, I'm not going to talk about what film festivals air good, which ones you should apply for those that's easy to research and, you know, frankly, it's like I think that there's too much of a premium put on those vessels, everyone sort of treats I mean, if you it festival should be a moment to celebrate show in your film, too, on new audience is it's, not the end all be all and it's certainly I really don't think that we should go in tow thinking about festivals is like, this is the chance where I'm finally going to sell my film because that's increasingly just not true first fall, selling your film is sort of like just one of a ba gillian options of what you could do with a distributor. You think about it like you worked long and hard for three years on this thing, and one option should be to give it to somebody else entirely to take care of for the rest of its life. That's a pretty crazy option, though, and it's a but it it's just weird that that has become th...

e sort of like a pipe dream of everybody it's, like, we spend so much time and energy on these films like and it's easier to take care of it yourself. More than ever, it's just about flipping the mentality of it, you know, everyone's like I'm worked so hard and now I'm going to make all this money with it. It's like not not in this sort of neck of the woods, the film existing is that is the film existing is not you? I don't want to even want to say that's the end, but the film existing is should be they're hard to make and if you if you have a film that you like it, the end of the whole process, that's a privilege like you won the lottery because you like your film and people like it everything, and then the task just becomes getting it to the audience. You want to get it too, but there's just so much I you know, I've been in these rooms and in sundance's and everything and the opportunity to actually sell, sell your film at like a thing it at like a price that is lucrative for anybody as a filmmaker. Is it's so bleak? I mean it's, just not no one should be thinking about that anymore. And it's the borderline obsolete it's just like that's. Not how we should be thinking about this, um, so yeah, so let's, talk about the the application process so I don't want to tell you where to apply um you could you know, we all know the good festivals and we can talk about it. I would say though, that like, you know, every festival going to festivals even without having a film is a great way to meet those creative communities that we've been talking about. You know, tio to meet people were interested in movies, making them watching them, talking about them. That's, that's really key? Um it's yeah, it's it's so if your film, if your local area has a festival I know when I was a kid, I went toe this festival called flicker that was in richmond, virginia was the only real festival I knew about. And it was just so the mind opening experience or a mind blowing experience to be like, oh, there's just a whole I felt so isolated and by myself with my interest in movies and suddenly I was in my community with a bunch of people who just we're showing films for the sake of showing films. I mean, that was that was awesome to me. And so had I not been like sixteen aiken, maybe of, like, engaged with them in a conversation about making films together, so I think that's that's the use of the festival is gathering all communities film minded people in one place and also being exposed to films that just honestly are going to come your way otherwise um so glorious see so that's an image from gloria see that's the boat that we constructed for gorriti the gloriously beating meaning ben ben's short film that we made that lead to peace. So how did it lead to beast? Well, ben showed it at the hamptons film festival and mike and phil from center each like I said came up timmons just said that film blew me away like we want to make your next movie and you know, so if you do get a film into a fest, people always think about it as not the end but the beginning of your next project because shorts are going to be a calling card for whatever you're if you have a short film festival, it can be a calling card for the next thing you want to do. Not in terms of like the goal shouldn't be. I have two shorts or now like give me a feature, although if you can pull together the resource and you feel like you've got what you needed out your short, by all means do it, but maybe the next call the short is a calling card for the next short where you want to try something more ambitious or something less ambitious or whatever these air kind of it's like a lateral plainfield it's not ah don't think about it as like a ladder anyway and yes, so I you know, like I talked about then and centereach coming up to him also the people who I got to finance gloria see her to give money towards gloria seat, I could have met them at a film festival, they happen to be my friends and family, so I like through a barbecue for but it's the same environment, right? Like you're pulling a lot of people who have an interest in something and it's just about kind of going up and up to them and being up front with what you're asking for and what you're looking for. So, uh, if you get into a festival, mobilize the grassroots army basically, that means all the people help work the work on the film get, you know, tell them, invite them that's the thing is, like so many people just forget the step of, like inviting the whole crew to the festival premiere it's on them if they if they can't make it that's, of course, most of them won't be able to make it it's incredibly logistically challenging to get to a film festival but do the gesture of staying in touch with your crew and and really wanting them there I mean anybody who could make it to ah ah film premier who worked on it anyone who could make it to the premiere of a film that I worked on that they also worked on I want them there so just I mean it's just about thinking you are not like the most important person in the room and they're like like lesser than you you all are part of a group of people that work on the films that think about it like that and treat them like that they all have ownership over invite everybody um and like I said, so many people just go with the above the line team and not and by that I mean the directors of the producers like they're the only ones who show up or maybe one or two other people the actors etcetera um that that's the now this image makes a little bit more sense because that's the the bus of all the people who worked on beasts coming into the premier um now we want to take action what's the biggest question that you guys have about vessels and this's for everybody back home as well, you know what's what's a mystery that you have about them there is no I will tell you right now there's no secret sauce there's no way to get yourself into a film festival of your film doesn't have the chops there's no there's no stacking the deck um you know, but I'm interested to hear what what kind of things people have always wondered what barriers they've encountered um I think everybody at home should research three festivals look at things around you look at ones that sometimes haven't that have a niche that might fit the vibe of your film and I think if you were in their shoes why they should accept your film and we'll start ah here and why don't we ask about the biggest question that anybody has enough vessels got any different festivals have rules for acceptance or even submission to them on dh sometimes you might you know, if you premiere it one you're not allowed to premier another right? So I guess kind of making the decision on you know which festival is you want to go to or if you get accepted to one but you still want to hold out maybe for the next year for another one um or you know if you premiere it one and then you realize you want to make changes and then maybe submitting to another one maybe speaking of that yeah, I would not get too bogged down and, uh, you know, you can always be up front if a deer san francisco film study I got into the mill valley film festival but I don't really pulling for years you know you could be upfront say would you care to take a look at my film before I would love to make a decision probably they're going to like sorry you just have to deal with cars cars that you have but that's fine don't don't overthink it I mean be strategic about when you start your timeline I guess of films but I don't know start with your target festival and then save yourself if I don't get into that one than this one would be the next right but if people start accepting your film um I don't know I just don't think get get outside opinions about the film and be realistic about its life you don't the last thing you want to do is waste a good opportunity because you're holding out for another one that you might get I would yeah that's what I wouldn't do that but but no this is something that I to this day I'm struggling with film that I just worked on is like where you know I want oh we want to have the best international premier right but what does that mean and what films what festivals can we say yes to yeah I'm doing the same thing it's not a problem that goes away necessarily but ah well yeah I don't know it's always tricky and especially not having been to a lot of international festivals I just don't I just don't know what makes the most sense and so it's still a thing that you struggle with but the end of the day it doesn't matter that much you getting your film to festivals and in front of the most audience is the most important not like oh gosh I I you know I wanted really wanted that one and I couldn't get you know um any other questions anybody way have some online we'll start off with just a general question that short cinema proposed here and they just want to know are festivals even worth it anymore with so many different ways to distribute the movie mean, what is the value of getting into a festival? It's a very good question I think festivals valid one I'd argue that probably not as valuable as the use of it but festivals like like any event are sort of ah provided a day of momentum you know they provide a thing to organize around and that's when you're looking out for the life of your film you're looking for these moments where you can capture everybody's attention and get them excited about something so it's the festival is really just another version of I don't know a film's theatrical run in new york for a week it's the same thing it's just a it's just a point on the on the map that's not even really the metaphor I'm going for that it's like a a moment on the calendar that you can get everybody like, hey, this is happening, and that will just engender more attention around you. But it being a festival versus it being a special screening somewhere versus it being a theatrical run all of these air just sort of like have I don't want to say equal value, but they're just that's all it is, you know, demand is not the end all beale okay, well, we had another question here this one's from bridget, and they want to know kind of small, maybe even free first time festival ruin the reputation of your film. Is there ever such things may be too small of a festival? No, no, I don't think so. I don't think that I would if a film is that impressive and is going to break out like that. I don't really think that they're going to hold it against you because you thought that the films in print was going to be less and so you applied to this other one first and got into it. I just don't. People are willing to bend the rules sometimes that they like a film enough.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Michael Gottwald - Keynote Part 1.pdf
Michael Gottwald - Keynote Part 2.pdf
Michael Gottwald - Keynote Part 3.pdf
Michael Gottwald - Keynote Part 4.pdf
Michael Gottwald - Call Sheet - Filled Out.xls
Michael Gottwald - Sample Low Budget Documentary Excel Budget Total Budget.pdf
Michael Gottwald - Sample Low Budget Documentary Excel Budget.xls

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

A top-notch presentation on indie film making. I learned a lot from this course which I hope to soon put into practice as I'm about to embark on my first indie film - as a screen writer for the first time out, but eventually I hope to write, direct, and produce my own film. Very easy to follow the presentations in this course, and the handouts I received when I purchased the course are quite useful.


Such a great course! Being an indie "Grassroots" filmmaker in the middle of three projects, I found what Michael shared to be very valuable. The way that he described the different aspects of producing and illustrated with examples was very clear and fresh. The course really opens you up to examine your own processes, what works / what doesn't and stirs up some new ideas on how to move forward. Thanks CreativeLive team for making the class happen!


This is a tremendous introduction to grassroots filmmaking. Michael takes you step by step through the various elements of film production and offers those so inclined a cursory understanding of what is required. Because filmmaking is a creative pursuit, the direction the individual filmmaker takes from there is entirely up to each. I would highly recommend this course to any one starting out in filmmaking. Well worth the cost. David W. King, Michigan Movie Magazine

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