With the advent of the all-in-one film maker, it hardly surprises me to wake each morning to a fleet of new films on my Vimeo home page. The power of the internet allows anyone, anywhere to publish their film to a potential audience of hundreds of millions of people and in my opinion, it’s one of the most exciting times to be involved in this craft. But having created your film, finding an audience to watch it among the countless others on offer is not easy. The internet is a busy place to promote short films and so using more traditional means to find an audience might look attractive, but as I’ve recently learnt, it isn’t without its problems.
Film-making as an industry has become more accessible in recent years; the barriers to entry have been lowered. This could partly be attributed to the DSLR revolution, which has changed the game completely as a new camera is released on what seems like a monthly basis, forcing brands into a healthy pricing competition and driving down prices. All good news for film-makers like me! But without distribution of my short films to an audience that can both appreciate and critique it, that accessibility loses it’s shine. This is where film festivals can help as they have always been a great way to get your work out to both the public and other film-makers. I read a superb article on nofilmschool.com by Robin Schmidt who looked at the monetary value of short films and also touched on the topic of film festivals:
“Many no longer bother with the festival circuit because it’s just too much of a faff; it’s expensive and it’s the slowest process since glacial erosion. Which is a shame because festivals still represent the best way for any film-maker to really assert their credentials.”
As a film-maker who happens to be Sikh, I’m lucky enough to have several film festivals geared specifically towards the Sikh and Punjabi community: Sikh Lens, Sikh Net Film Festival, Sikh International Film Festival and Sikh Art & Film Foundation. It’s a fantastic feat to have four annual festivals for budding film-makers to showcase their talent, but sadly Robin Schmidt’s definition pretty much sums them up for me.
This past summer, my close friends and I submitted one short film each into all four of the festivals mentioned above, spending a considerable amount of time preparing and posting out the materials to the organisers who are all based in North America. A few of our films were accepted and have or are due to be screened; some of them not. The frustrating part wasn’t reading back the email notifying me that my film wasn’t accepted, but the submission process itself. There were far too many hoops to jump through just to submit our films, from pages of paperwork to excessive trailer requests (a 30 second trailer for a 3 minute short film is asking a bit much for a local event!) One film festival even decided to move the event date back by a year without any notice or public apology for the inconvenience caused; an absolute shambles!
Maybe having so many film festivals in the Sikh and Punjabi community has devalued the prestige of such events and lowered the importance of short films as an art form. Regardless, I have decided to change my approach. Never again will I make a film JUST to enter it into a festival. If I’m working on a project that happens to be picked-up or meets the set requirements for a film festival, then great, I’ll think about submitting. Otherwise I will continue to use platforms such as Vimeo to share my work on a regular basis and focus on what’s important: making films! I will continue to search for innovative ways to share my projects and I even have faith in the ability of film festivals (including those mentioned above) to serve as a pedestal for up-and-coming talent in film making once again. But from now on I’ll be concentrating on learning from each project and creating better films – finding wider audiences can come later.