Simple, But Deadly Mistakes in Short Film Submissions...According to Georgia Film Festival Programmers

The constant evolution of technology makes it easier and easier for anybody to do all sorts of things for ourselves. With video cameras continually becoming more available (you can even film on your phones nowadays) and affordable, just about anybody can make a movie. You can share your finished (or unfinished) product with all citizens of the World Wide Web, where fame and fortune follows.

Except that there are millions of people with the exact same goal. More likely than not, your baby gets lost in the shuffle.

Not only is the internet flooded with movies by wannabe auteurs, but so are film festivals. To covet one of these spots, it is extra important for your project to possess personality and originality.

What exactly makes a festival-caliber film? It is a multifaceted question that would get a myriad of answers depending on the tastes of the individual beholder.

I will touch on something more basic, not simply to cop out from addressing the more complicated answer, but because many filmmakers entering festivals get tripped up at the most elementary level.  

I asked three short film programmers at various Georgia film festivals what their biggest pet peeve in regards to the hordes of submissions they receive, and a surefire way to get one’s film into the slush pile.

Their response surprised me. The vexations all stemmed from the applicants’ failure to meet the general requirements!

What a shame because this is incredibly avoidable (which added to the programmers’ ire tenfold).

Who wouldn’t want to make the next “Thriller?” However, many festivals have a time limit to consider. According to Danielle Robarge Rusk, director of Film Athens and the upcoming Sprockets International Music Video Festival, many applicants disregard the time restriction (of 8 minutes) which is the “[surest] way to get automatically rejected.”

Jim Farmer, director of Out on Film, noted that the longer shorts (which can go to an hour) are harder sells because “short film programs are an hour and a half to two hours and one film that takes up half that time is problematic to schedule.”

Quentin Jones, a programmer at Wonderroot’s Mostly Local Film Night (I had the good fortune to attend the event this February. My review here), recommends that films be under 12 minutes.

“Research your festival” advises Jones as one film does not fit all festivals. Farmer’s biggest pet peeve is submissions that have nothing remotely to do with LGBT themes, which is the purpose of Out on Film (hence the “out” in “out on film”). To avoid this gaffe and increase your film’s chances, Quentin Jones recommends “[looking] at past programs to see what sort of content they put up.”

It is easy to get caught up in the midst of post-production stress disorder, but please read the guidelines of each prospective film festival and follow them to save yourself any unnecessary embarrassment (not to mention the entry fee). Hopefully we’ll be seeing your work at some of the festivals in the area.

Although the deadline has expired for Sprockets (happily there is always next year giving you plenty of time to plan out the dream music video, under 8 minutes please) submissions are still open for Out on Film until July 18th. Wonderroot’s has always got something going, so “like” their Facebook page to stay up to date.