It is that time of year again when short form filmmakers start heralding the fact that their film is “playing in Cannes.” To the outsider, this seems like a monumental accomplishment because Cannes Film Festival is known the world over. But to those on the inside, there is a huge difference between being an official selection in the festival proper and participating in the Court Métrage (Short Film Corner or SFC).
This year, only 9 short films out of the 3,200 submitted will be in Official Competition. None are from native English speaking countries. However, close to 2,000 short films have been accepted into the Métrage. Registration costs €95, but is reimbursed if your film is not accepted. With acceptance, filmmakers have access to the festival hall, the Marché du Film(the official film market) as well as a multitude of panels with industry executives. One may also register for accreditation as an industry professional and not have any film participating in the event.
With all of that competition, what is the benefit of applying to Cannes (besides access) and what should short form filmmakers who are attending do to maximize on their effort? I spoke with several filmmakers who have been to the Short Film Corner with their films to find out if their Cannes experience offered value (besides visiting the French Riviera in May!) and what they advise for those attending this year.
“The Short Film Corner basically accepts everything, as long as it’s not pornography,” says John Trigonis, who attended in 2011 with his short film Cerise which was an early project that used Indiegogo to fund its production. “The year I went to Cannes with Cerise, there were over 1,900 other short films in the SFC. So it’s really, in my humble opinion, a way for the Cannes Film Festival to bring in ‘easy money’ from hopeful short filmmakers like myself, and they pay us back in free Stellas and no Wi-Fi and a hope and dream that our film may attract a big name who’ll somehow see your short film on a tiny computer screen. First, that’s a myth –– no celebrities or big-time producers even look down in the basement of the Palais, and second, if our shorts were really that good, they’d have made it into Cannes proper as an ‘Official Selection.’” Trigonis chronicled his trip on the Film Courage site upon his return.
Chris Jones, a British filmmaker and entrepreneur who participated with his Oscar shortlisted film Gone Fishing agrees. “The Short Film Corner is the best and cheapest way to get your pass for Cannes. And it’s also one of the silliest places to hang out. The reality is that your film will only be viewed by fellow short filmmakers in the short film corner, and if you are going to Cannes for a pat on the back from other filmmakers, you are in many ways, wasting money you could spend on making another short film.”
Ok, so if most projects can be accepted, regardless of merit, why go? What can be gained from the experience? “For me, the main advantage of attending the Cannes Short Film Corner was networking and meeting people who generally I would never meet face to face in my part of the world. For the 3 times I have attended, I made it a goal to listen, look and learn as much as I could about how people work at such a huge event,” said Ronnie Goodwin, filmmaker of Replay Revenge , Shooter and Fly, a Legacy. “Many people I have spoken to tell me they have gained nothing from going to Cannes, but if you don’t make the opportunity work for you, then nothing will happen.”
“Head over to the market [Marché du Film] and see how feature films, narrative and docs are represented and sold in the traditional way (with a sales agent). This trip to the market is worth its weight in gold. You will learn that films are bought and sold on genre, cast, poster, promo and little else. I personally sat in on a screening of one of my feature films where the buyer watched the film from start to finish, IN FAST FORWARD! He later bought the film too! It’s remarkably humbling, but it’s also empowering – there’s a lot of crap being sold really badly,” says Jones.
Roberta Munroe, a short film producer and noted author of How NOT to Make a Short Film says there are advantages to attending a world renowned festival like Cannes. She will be attending this year with a short she produced. “I think it provides filmmakers with the opportunity to be at a *real* film festival where business acumen is key. Primarily, I would say that filmmakers who have a feature script ready to go stand the most to gain from the experience. Though, those with or without a feature, who are interested in meeting the prime European programming staff from other top tier festivals as well as broadcast buyers would also fare well. Alongside meeting key programmers and buyers are the copious number of events that happen all day, every day for filmmakers to learn, chat and fatten up their community of peers, colleagues and admirers.”
“These benefits are greatest for those who truly want a filmmaking capital C, Career. I’ve found Cannes to be the one festival where no one seems to gives a fuck who you are or what you’ve done, they seem to most care about how to make a good film. So regardless of your past laurels, having a pristine script, a well crafted business plan, and the ability to have a conversation where you sound the least like an entitled western filmmaker are the only attributes that will get you anywhere in Cannes.”
Many times, filmmakers feel the pressure to print up posters and postcards, hire a publicist or sales agent to help represent their films, believing that it will lead to future opportunities or sales. While this may be true for films in competition at Cannes or other such prestigious fests, is it true for films in the Short Film Corner? “Because the Corner is a self contained and REALLY well organized space, my feeling is that a filmmaker could be their own publicist *unless* you’re a wall flower and *unless* you already have some financing (or producer, or cast, etc.) in place for your next film and your sole goal is to find European co-production monies or producers or both. It never hurts to bring a friend to such a huge event…so if that ‘friend’ happens to be your paid publicist, then good for you,” says Munroe.
“I don’t know what a sales rep would charge, but even at a low end, for a short film I don’t think it’s worth it at all. A short is either a calling card piece or something that you can self-distribute through online channels. There’s no real money to be made in shorts, and this is speaking as someone who got a distribution deal for one of my prior short films. I saw one check, and it didn’t even cover the coffee runs during the shoot ! So any money that’s put into a short film beyond basic marketing materials (postcards and posters) is essentially money ill-spent. We actually did have postcards made for Cerise when we were there, but posters, postcards and other standard promotional materials don’t really make a difference. You have to stand out. We actually gave out cherries with our postcards, and that, I’m sure, is what got us the bulk of our 17 views at the Short Film Corner,” said Trigonis.
“It was my job to get people to view the film at the short film corner where they have a database of all the films submitted, and as you can imagine, there are a lot of films. So with every opportunity, I would invite people to look at the film, and with only a week to do it, that was a pretty tall order. On returning from the festival, I received an invitation to screen Shooter at the Palm Springs Short Film Festival,” said Goodwin. Getting your film in front of festival programmers is definitely a benefit if you are looking for more festival circuit play.
How about reaching buyers and selling your short, will an appearance at the Cannes Short Film Corner help with that? Peter Gerard, co-founder of online streaming player Distrify, has some thoughts and some experience with it. “There are very few buyers for shorts in the entire world. I have sold shorts (my best deal was with Short Film Sales who’ve made several sales for me), and the way I got the films noticed and attracted buyers was by winning prizes at film festivals.”
“As at any market, there are hundreds of films in the videotheque library [a digital library of all the short films, accessible to buyers even after the festival is over]. I would doubt that having a short in the library at Cannes makes much difference to the buyers, but I cannot speak from direct experience since I’m not a buyer! The only time I’ve made a sale with a film in a videotheque was at Sunnyside of the Doc , where I had an hour-long graffiti documentary in the library and there was a buyer putting together a season of urban films for French TV so he selected it based on subject matter. If you have a topic-based film that could be used for a specific slot or season, then maybe a videotheque could be useful (though less so for shorts), but otherwise there has to be a reason the buyer already wants to see the film, typically a prize, great reviews, or festival buzz.”
Top takeaways for those heading to the Cote d’Azur next week?
“During the festival there are lots of things to do, and it is very easy to get yourself into a position where you want to do everything, see everyone and attend every party. My advice to anyone going to Cannes, focus on your objective, try not to deviate, and try to use the trip to move you further with your career. Get people to see your work.” says Goodwin.
“My feeling is that the skills necessary to make the SFC work for you (great networking skills, persistence, salesmanship, etc.) could be applied whether your short is in the videotheque or not. You are basically out meeting people and convincing them to be interested in you and your work. It’s far easier to send them a screener after the market than to convince them to sit down and watch it in the videotheque during a frenetic event like Cannes,” says Gerard.
“I do much better on Twitter in a day than I did [networking] in a week at Cannes,” says Trigonis
“Watching short films in Cannes is a waste of time that you should spend hunting down producers, scoping out sales agents (the good and the bad) and crashing the parties where the deals are being made,” said Jones
“If you get into Cannes (or another top tier festival), you can parlay that (with few exceptions) into being able to get your film in front of other programmers. Also, in my not so humble opinion, unless you have the funds and simply feel like spending a year traveling our great country [US], once you’ve screened your film at maybe 4-5 festivals domestically – what would be the purpose of spending money to submit to more? If someone said, ‘Roberta, I’ll give you $2000 to shop yourself and your short at Cannes Short Film Corner OR I’ll give it to you to spend on festival submissions…’ I would absolutely, without question, choose the former,” says Munroe.
Chris Jones made a video about his journey to Cannes with Gone Fishing in 2008. It is still pretty relevant today and I encourage you to watch it if you don’t know what to expect on the ground in Cannes.
You can reach the participants in this article via Twitter (Chris Jones @livingspiritpix, Ronnie Goodwin @ronniebgoodwin, Peter Gerard @accme, John Trigonis @trigonis, Roberta Munroe @robertamunroe)
Once again my friend Jon Reiss will be heading to the UK for 2 events. The first is early this week at the Edinburgh Film Festival where he is giving the keynote at Short Sighted on June 22, an event that will educate you on getting your short film distributed. He also will be doing one on one consultations with filmmakers through Creative Scotland the next day.
He will then bring his 2 day film marketing and distribution workshop to the London Film School June 25-26. The workshop is a live step by step guide into to new world of hybrid distribution and marketing including how to create a release strategy that is unique for your film, the various markets that are available for your film, how and why to engage your audience as early as possible and how to think beyond the feature film to create new forms of content and/or to market and distribute your film. He will be joined by many special guest speakers including:
Terry Stevens from Dogwoof- Using a fresh approach, Dogwoof partners with filmmakers to help themselves giving them direct access to professional film distribution services, while letting them retain the rights to their film, controlling costs, and actually having the chance of seeing revenues and profits. The film experience is changing and they intend to help filmmakers set the new rules. Terry will speak about a new theatrical initiative that Dogwoof is launching.
Peter Gerard and Andy Green from Distrify- Via Skype: Peter and Andy will discuss DIY digital distribution. They created Distrify which is a revolutionary toolset for social-media marketing with sales and distribution built in. Share and embed your movie trailer with Distrify. With built-in VOD, downloads, merchandise sales, and audience engagement tools including an affiliate revenue program, Distrify makes every view of your trailer a potential transaction. Sell anything, anywhere.
Chris Jones- Chris Jones is a filmmaker and author of the The Guerilla Film Makers Handbook series and he will talk about the ever confusing world of deliverables that trips up so many filmmakers.
I will skype in to talk about creating your filmmaking brand – and promoting yourself to the world as an artist. If you have no audience around your work, you have no future. I want you to have a sustainable career.
Gregory Bayne- Gregory Bayne is a filmmaker who has run three successful Kickstarter campaigns to fund and distribute his films. Greg will talk about the dos and don’t for a successful crowdfunding campaign.
When we were there last year, all the participants raved about the quality and quantity of information they received. I am personally in touch with many of these people to this day! It was a very inspiring workshop for me as it was the first time that I really saw people get what I was trying to say and feel excited about it and determined to undertake this work. I think there is still a lot of resistance to having to undertake both the production of film as well as the marketing and distribution of work. I will never tell you that it is easy work or that you will hear the magic piece of advice that will work for every film. Anyone who promises that is a fool. But the days of artists moaning about how there isn’t a level playing field, that studios have all the power to reach audiences are over. ANYONE can use the tools available to make their work a success. It doesn’t “just happen,” there will be blood, sweat and tears so accept that. But if you are truly looking to take advantage of the tools available to help you and gain the knowledge of how to do it, then you shouldn’t miss this workshop.
To follow all of the workshop speakers on Twitter, here are their handles
@jon_reiss @shericandler @dogwoof @gregorybayne @distrify @livingspiritpix (Chris Jones)
In this last post based on the book REWORK, I want to address the chapter on using your web presence to teach rather than shill. I regularly advise filmmakers and artists on building their brand using online tools and one thing I always say is share your knowledge. Don’t use your website or social networking page to constantly talk about yourself and your projects. Everyone is an expert at something, so use that expertise to build relationships. Some get it, some don’t.
The book chapter is again about a page and a half and it spends some time talking about how to outmanuever the big guys. In the case of the book, they are talking about corporations. In your case, I am talking about Hollywood. Studios have large marketing departments with large budgets to spend large amounts of money to buy people’s attention. You know why that is a problem? They are doing what every other studio is doing. They buy advertising, they sponsor events, they hire agencies to redouble the efforts of the people hired full time to do that job and then complain that marketing costs are just skyrocketing. They go to great lengths to outspend each other. What they don’t do is teach.
“Teaching forms a bond you just don’t get from traditional marketing tactics. Earning loyalty by teaching forms a whole different connection. They’ll trust you more. They’ll respect you more.”
I know several filmmakers doing this right now. My friend Jon Reiss was doing this on his blog before he finally gathered up all of his writing in Think Outside the Box Office. He still blogs. Well before that, my friend Chris Jones and Genevieve Jolliffe gathered up their filmmaking knowledge into a series of books called The Guerilla Filmmakers Handbook. Chris still does this on his site and through his bi monthly internet TV show. Gary King regularly shares his experiences and thoughts on filmmaking on his blog An Indie Life. Screenwriter John August devotes his personal site to sharing his knowledge of screenwriting; he even has a tag line that says “A ton of useful information about screenwriting.” It would be so easy for them to use static sites that are completely devoted to one of their films, so much less work, but that isn’t how people get to know them. All of them can’t spend tons of money to get attention for their work, but they can spend time and energy which is not something studios are willing to do. Besides the fact that big corporations are obsessed with being secretive. Everything they do has to pass through lawyers and publicists and upper management. When you are small and niche, you can outmanuever that, you answer to yourself.
I know what you are thinking, you want that studio type success so you will emulate what they do. You can’t, you don’t have that kind of cash and the type of films you are making do not compete with the multimillion dollar extravaganzas they make. Take those thoughts and put them away. Celebrate the niche, OWN it. Where is it written you must scale big to be a success? Believe me, if the Hollywood dream is still your main goal, become a small success. They will come to you to get a piece of that. Isn’t that a better position to be in, having them come to YOU?
Now, consider how do some people become “personalities” and capitalize financially? Often it is by being a respected expert. Do you know Emeril Lagasse, Paula Deen, Martha Stewart, Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith? You do because they freely share their knowledge and opinions, they are respected as experts in their industry. You may not like their work, their food, their movies but you have to admit you know who they are. They didn’t get into your consciousness by being secretive and hoarding their expertise. They put it right out there along with their work. Shouldn’t it scare Paula that copying her recipes might give someone else a competitive advantage? No, just following her recipes isn’t going to result in a competitive business model. Paula is a unique talent and so are you. Share your knowledge, champion other people’s talents more than your own. You empire will grow much faster that way, rather than by toiling in secret obscurity. And be patient for god’s sake! It will take some time for you to capture attention; it won’t be immediate gratification. All of the above personalities spent long, hard hours working and sharing long before TV studios and film studios picked up their work for wide distribution so that everyone knows their names and so it will be with you. First, you have to start.
Today was the season finale of Chris Jones’ webshow The Production Office. When I visited him in May, we shot this interview and it aired on the show today. In case you missed it, here it is again. To watch all of the past shows, encore presentations are available on his site www.chrisjonesblog.com
Now that I have been back for almost a week from the Cote d’Azur, I have been meaning to relate my experience from my first ever Cannes.
First, I horrified my roommates by continually telling them I had no particular agenda. This was absolutely true. I did not set up tons of meetings ahead of time, I wasn’t there to buy or sell a film or to watch any in particular (and I didn’t see any either). What was my purpose there then?
One, I was in the area anyway having participated in two TOTBO marketing and distribution workshops in Europe just prior. Two, if you are in the industry you must be where the industry congregates. In mid May, that is Cannes. Three, the Cannes market is immensely educational. Think your film is something special? Something never seen before? Will absolutely set the world on fire, people will clamor to see its genius simply because it is so amazing? Yeah, so do the thousands (THOUSANDS!!) of other films being touted at the market and you have to see that to believe it. For all of those who proclaim if you create an amazing story, people will simply discover its genius, they are the most in need of a visit to a film market.
This education seems easier to grasp at Cannes than at AFM (haven’t been to EFM, so can’t comment) because it is much more trade show in spirit. The market floor is open with stands and it is easy to navigate the aisles. AFM is housed in hotel suites and less open to perusal by the non buying filmmaker. Everywhere you look is key art of every genre of film. Some with “stars,” lots with blood and zombies, family friendly animals and fantastical animation. Some with strong imagery but most with the utterly forgettable. Lots of people in suits, some even having meetings. I did not even go to the hotels along the Croisette where the more recognizable sales agencies and distributors house their offices. I had seen enough to know that if your film didn’t have its audience identified and gathered before it reached the Marche floor, you were in for immense competition for attention from buyers.
I did attend many discussions in the UK Film Center Pavilion on succeeding in festivals, the future of microbudget filmmaking (I tweeted that one, see #micromovies), success in short films. All free and very intimate. If nothing else, visit Cannes just to hang out in the International Village pavilions to meet the speakers, heads of film funds and film commissions to talk about co production opportunities. There was also lots of talk about the need for better marketing and distribution opportunities for independent film. You know I was all over that discussion, but our European counterparts do seem a few years behind in their thinking about this issue. Maybe it is all of that film fund money clouding their entrepreneurial judgement. From the workshops we organized and meeting some of the filmmakers on the ground, this issue is one that is slowly gaining prominence as the digital revolution spreads to Europe. VOD, mobile and digital platforms are not as developed as in the USA, and I consider ours in infancy. Not to mention crowdfunding. That has to be the next big subject for discussion in Europe.
I attended an informal brunch in the lovely hills above the Croisette to discuss what shape the digital revolution will take in Europe. Those in attendance ranged from old school film commissions intent on keeping everything as status quo as possible to forward thinkers who could imagine a world free of territories and windows for content. The discussions we had there will continue online and I look forward to participating in them even though I am not from Europe so my perspective is less government support dependent.
One of the highlights was watching the antics of filmmaker Chris Jones as he worked the place to chronicle every part of his Cannes journey. The yacht blag was my favorite story! He did his best to make sure that his readers, and now viewers of his LiveStream show, could see exactly what goes on at one of the world’s most glamorous events. Chris is a filmmaker after my own heart as he shares all he knows with other filmmakers and ultimately he is building up a fan base for all of his future work. A role model for sure to those aspiring to build a sustainable career in independent film.
So, as Chris would ask, what are my top 3 takeaways from Cannes? 1)Go, especially before you make a film. It is very valuable to realize that what you are asking to do when you pursue filmmaking is participate in a business. A very competitive and conniving business. That point is made crystal clear when you enter the Marche floor. 2)Soak up as much knowledge as you can from this or any major film event. Try to go without preconceived notions of how things work. At the moment, everything is in flux, no matter what anyone is trying to tell you. Everyone from the most stalwart studio to the newest venture is trying to figure out the future. Your ideas are just as valid as anyone else’s and you have every right to choose and pursue your own path to success. 3)Cannes is very inspirational. The films that play in the festival are considered among the top in the world, no matter what their gross ends up being. It is exciting to feel a part of this industry and I am not sure you can feel that any better than at Cannes. I am not talking about the fame and the glitz. The true artistry, the creativity, the meeting of the minds. All of this really crystallized for me why I would be drawn to such a bizarre profession, visual storytelling. There is so much energy and hopefulness in being around filmmakers from around the world that it sends you home with the feeling that you aren’t alone in your struggles and that your game has to come up so much more to compete.
See you next year on the Croisette!
I’m headed to London to work with the incomparable Jon Reiss and Chris Jones for the first TOTBO (Think Outside the Box Office, get used to seeing it) workshop. It will take place at Ealing Studios on May 8-10, 2010. We are all so excited to bring this to our British friends and I hope many of you will turn up. It is a knowledge packed 2 days with an optional 3rd day with Jon live workshopping actual projects in need of customized marketing and distribution advice. The price for that 3rd day, is less than his normal hourly rate, so if you are ready to go into production, you gotta take advantage. Here’s the deets. Sign up!
‘Revealing the new distribution and marketing realities is of critical importance to film makers and our community. Media content creators of all types need to understand that the days in which you could merely “create” and let someone else distribute and market are nearly over. A new paradigm exists in which making films and finding a way for that film to reach an audience are not merely equally important, but need to be organically integrated into a seamless whole.’
Jon Reiss, Los Angeles March 2010
When we wrote the first edition of The Guerilla FilmMakers Handbook back in 1994, people wanted to know… ‘how the heck do you make a film?’ Now in 2010 and six books later, we know that you can make a film. In fact, we are pretty sure you can make a terrific film. But making a film is no longer the problem.
For the first time in the history of commercial film making, YOU THE FILM MAKER, can create powerful, sustainable and income generating distribution models WITHOUT THE EXCLUSIVE NEED for third parties such as a sales agents, distributors and even broadcasters.
Your film CAN succeed or fail based on YOUR HARD WORK, TALENT, THE STORY YOU CHOOSE TO TELL AND THE BUSINESS MODEL YOU BUILD.
Finally, we are in full control of the flow of money back to us… the entrepreneurs and creatives! It’s never been more exciting to be a film maker.
This groundbreaking event is headed up by possibly the most important voice in independent cinema right now, Jon Reiss, and supported by Chris Jones of The Guerilla Film Makers Handbook, and LA based cutting edge film marketer Sheri Candler. Three voices. One powerful message and toolkit.
Saturday kicks off with us showing you how to create a 21st century ‘no budget’ (but lots of elbow grease from you) marketing strategy that will create deep connections between you, your film and your audience.
Key to the success of your film is this groundwork – in the past, this used to be a screenplay. But now that work is interwoven with a marketing campaign at concept stage. The good news is that this early marketing also acts as a cash attractor, so it could be funding your project from day one.
We will take you through the quagmire of the effective use of social media tools, creating and maintaining blogs, managing SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) to get you ranked at the top of Google, using industry sites likeIndieGoGo.com, OpenIndie, IndieScreenings and many more.
You will leave day one with a clear strategy that you can begin to implement that very evening.
Sunday and the focus shifts to the creation of a dynamic distribution and marketing strategy that is unique to your film, offering insights into the ‘real’ markets that are available (in which to release your film), how and why to engage your audience as early as possible, and how to think beyond the feature film to create new forms of content.
Key to these strategies is the understanding that you MUST generate multiple revenue streams and adopt a HYBRID distribution model.
Jon is truly a visionary who can see not only how distribution ‘is’ but also ‘how it can be…’ We are lucky that he has chosen to stop off in London on his way to Cannes to deliver this career and life changing seminar.
Jon will assign “homework” to each project after Day 2. On day three he will thenworkshop a distribution and marketing plan for each project in front of the group with the group’s participation. By sharing in this group dynamic, filmmakers will not only create the beginnings of their own strategy, but will start to see the broad range of approaches that they can apply throughout their career.
This will give each attendee the chance to have an accelerated consultation on their film, and they will leave with tailored concepts, insights in to the projects weaknesses and strengths, as well as a clear path to follow.
Jon’s book, Think Outside The Box Office, has transformed the strategies and careers of thousands of film makers since it was published just a few short months ago. His thinking is radical, but supported by his own real world experience as a multi award winning filmmaker. You can buy Jons book here.
Sheri Candler recently handled the marketing for micro budget Slamdance horror, ‘YellowBrickRoad.’ Here’s what they had to say about her…“Sheri is very knowledgeable about social media and viral campaigns, understands the current state of independent film marketing, and always has the best interests of the film at heart.”-Eric Hungerford, Producer,YELLOWBRICKROAD
We will NOT be running this event again in 2010 so this is your ONLY chance to attend. Good luck with your movies and we hope to see you at the event!
Today, my friend and filmmaker Chris Jones posted a great podcast with Hollywood scriptwriter and instructor John Truby. One of the things John noted is how the practice of the “spec” script is dying in Hollywood. A screenwriter has to think of him/herself as an entrepreneur/producer. Your best chance of finding studio work, an agent, or having your feature script turned into a studio financed film is to make a short film piece that showcases your talent. It will make you stand head and shoulders above the standard script submissions that agents receive every day and prove that you have a solid, marketable talent.
You can listen to the full podcast here.