Making your film is really only half the battle. Once a project is complete, it’s all about finding an audience and film festivals are, of course, an integral part of this.
Over the last few years, fuelled by the ease of online screeners and new submissions services such as Film Freeway, there has never been more of a choice when it comes to film festivals. However, this is not necessarily a good thing. Having done the festival run on many of my short films, you inevitably end up being accepted into a few duds. The kind of festivals that put no effort into marketing themselves or finding audiences for their screenings, that still screen from DVD’s or put no thought into projection or presentation of the submitted material. Luckily though, for the majority of festivals this is not the case.
When you have put a huge amount of blood, sweat and tears (and then more blood!) into your film, festival screenings must match the amount of passion you, and your team, share for your own project (and not just look at making a quick buck from submission fees).
During the festival run for my short film Driftwood, we were lucky enough to screen at over 50 festivals worldwide including large overseas festivals and smaller regional festivals, you name it, we probably screened there. But our experience with BUFF will certainly remain one of my fondest memories. The screening was well attended and Driftwood was shown alongside some strong films which, although all different, complimented each other perfectly. It was great to meet many of the filmmakers and some audience members afterwards and discuss the films screened.
Skip forward a few years, when I found out the film had been nominated for Best British Short in the 10 year history of the festival I was truly honoured to be considered. When Driftwood then went on to win the prize I was borderline speechless (anyone who knows me well will know this is an incredibly rare event). Especially as the other films nominated were fantastic shorts such as Jane Gull’s film ‘Sunny Boy’. It was a great evening and a true celebration of British filmmaking.
Often a good test of whether a festival is doing the right job is to examine the time before and after your film is shown on the big screen. There was significant press leading up to the day of the event, including a radio interview (which was more than a little nerve wracking!). On the backend, our screening at BUFF ultimately led to Channel 4 (who supported the festival that year) getting in touch to enquire about screening it as part of their short film programme the Shooting Gallery (once again alongside the amazing ‘Sunny Boy’) which was a fantastic opportunity. Very rarely do the main TV stations in the UK show shorts, so to be included was a honour and certainly a big moment in my growing career as a filmmaker, as it opened the film up to an even bigger audience.
The team at BUFF and the festival as a whole has been hugely supportive of me and the other filmmakers that have been screened there over the years. They have a real passion to help storytellers get their material seen by the public.
I think making any film, be it short or feature, is a journey and my experience at BUFF was easily one of the highlights. Roll on the next festival!
(c) James Webber
Follow James on twitter at: @directorjwebber