Film Festivals have for a long time been a fantastic way for new and existing filmmakers to get their work seen by a more varied audience than their circle of friends. Though many festivals may have different focal points (foreign film, short film, animation) they share an enthusiasm for high quality and engaging film making.
There are over 3,000 film festivals currently active, the majority of these hosted in North America. One of the London based Film Festivals; Raindance – now in it’s 25th year – celebrates and supports new, independent and alternative filmmakers, screening over 100 feature films and 150 short films over 12 days.
In this episode we discuss the role of the Film Festival, why they’re so important for independent filmmakers, and how you can get yourself on the shortlist to win an Oscar!
David Martinez is a Producer at London’s Raindance Film Festival, and a promoter of Mexican and Latin Cinema in the UK. His previous experience includes working as a Guest Film Programmer at Glastonbury Festival for Latin America, and participating in the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
Raindance showcases features and shorts by filmmakers from all around the world to celebrate new and alternative filmmaking.
I checked in with David at the Broadcast Video Expo in London…..
SL: Thanks for joining me today David, what’s the prime purpose of a film festival and in particular your festival – Raindance?
DM: A film festival is mainly exposing, exhibiting the films and allowing the filmmaker to engage with the audience, the trade, the press. But also it’s their moment to showcase what they’ve done. Making a film is such a big effort and knowing to market yourself and position yourself and have your film as your calling card.
To make a name in the industry. In a film festival, we give you your space, we give you the audience. We invite the press and hopefully sales agents and distributors will be attending your screening. It helps a lot to progress in this business.
SL: Do you largely target those submitting the films, or those in the industry who want to buy and distribute the films?
DM: It’s a combination of many things. Raindance film festival is very open to the public, whereas other festivals like Berlin, Cannes – the A level festivals are mostly for trade with a small capacity for the film goers.
At Raindance we do, of course, invite the industry – we have our own industry days where filmmakers can learn directly from the industry professionals. But in general we invite the film lovers, we’re happy for Raindance to be positioned in a privileged position in the UK. People come back to Raindance knowing that they will see films they can’t see anywhere else.
SL: By inviting a lot more of the audience than other trade events, do you bring to your filmmakers a different sense of appreciation, rather than trade people thinking about marketing and money?
DM: Yeah exactly. In A level festivals, they have industry screenings and public screenings separately. But at Raindance you have your premiere and you are exposed to both of those combined.
So the industry can see the reaction of the public and the filmmaker can pitch to the trade, but also learn and absorb how the audience are reacting which is a high value to the filmmaker.
SL: What makes a great film festival?
DM: The festival lives from the films, from the creators. If there are no great films from great creators there is basically no industry or system.
A great film festival lives from the films, and from the eye of the programming team and from the industry perspective of what we have to offer the filmmakers and the attendees.
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SL: How do the different film festivals stand out from each other?
DM: It’s important to have your own identity, to stand out. At Raindance our tagline is ‘Discover, Be Discovered’. Normally we exhibit films that are edgy, that are proposing new ways of filmmaking, we discover new talent.
We mainly target first time directors, and debut features – that is what creates the Raindance taste. Powerful films that we can use to create the taste of the festival.
Highlights Film from Day one of Raindance 2015
SL: Raindance is in its 25th year. How does a good film festival evolve and keep up with what the audience wants?
DM: It is keeping up with the new trends. Last year we opened our very own VR section, with a VR arcade. This year we are opening for VR, and new mediuns including Augmented Reality (AR) and new channels to make films in.
A few years ago we pioneered opening a web series for the festival and last year we were the only UK film festival to open with Virtual Reality.
SL: David, you’re involved in international programming at Raindance, has the audiences taste for diverse programming evolved over the years?
DM: We are privileged to be in a very diverse city, like london. Our audiences are open for international films as opposed to any other part of the UK.
Our next step is getting the content outside of London, definitely. But in London, people demand and are eager to see what the rest of the world is doing, and are willing to read subtitles.
SL: Raindance is officially recognised by several awarding bodies. Does that mean that you can make films eligible for the likes of an Oscar?
DM: We are certified by the Academy Awards, by BAFTA and by BIFA, the British Independent Film Awards. For the Oscars we qualify for three categories; for Best Short, Best Documentary Short, Best Animated Short.
If you are the winner of any of those three, or even if you are on the official selection at Raindance you go to the Academy Awards shortlist.
SL: When you say certified by the Academy Awards, how do you get to that status in the first place?
DM: To be able to enter for recognition for the Academy Awards, if you show that you have been screened or won an award at a certified film festival (like Raindance).
Once you send your film for consideration, that’s how you enter, we put the stamp on your film.
SL: With internet distribution for movies, and the rise of the global single release date, where do you see film festivals in the future, in terms of getting people to come and watch something they could stream at home.
DM: I think what is exciting with film festivals is that you come face to face with creators. You can stream films on different platforms but if you want to interact with a filmmaker, if you want to network you need to attend a festival.
Meeting your colleagues, your public, the press, getting out there because it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. A film festival can put everything in just one place.
SL: There’s the extra experience for the viewer, watching at a festival is more immersive than watching a film streamed?
DM: Definitely, it’s the audience interaction with the filmmakers but for the filmmakers it is interaction with the industry.
Of course you can always watch the films at home, but the beauty of a film festival is that you have the human interaction which is very important.
SL: Do you have any tips for filmmakers getting their films into film festivals in general?
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DM: My advice is to believe in yourself. If you’ve made a film be ready to invest. Not just money, invest time and invest energy to get your film out there.
If you want a film festival to screen your film you need a very strong submission. It’s not just sending the link, it’s providing a very strong cover letter, make our programmers eager to see your film. It’s how you sell it.
SL: Making your film is just the first struggle, then the next struggle is to promote and distribute it and that’s where you guys at Raindance can be the start of that journey.
DM: Absolutely, I should add that Raindance is very open. Many filmmakers, they contact us directly to let us know about their films, to pitch their films, to let us know they’ve submitted a film to us. At Raindance we take care of political, of social topics and we listen to the filmmakers.
SL: Thank you very much for joining me today David.