A little rant, and hopefully if you’re reading this, you already know better. But perhaps you know someone who should read it. If so, do every festival programmer a favor and pass it on.
As you may or may not know, I am co-director of the NHdocs Film Festival at Yale. We are planning our second event for this June, and just signed on to FilmFreeway so people can submit their films.
Now, despite it stating that we were seeking Connecticut films and/or films from Connecticut filmmakers only in THREE different spots on our page (take a look HERE), out of the 12 films that were submitted in the first 24 hours, all were disqualified because the filmmakers didn’t bother reading the rules. Not a one had any connection to Connecticut. Not even in the most remote way.
Not here is something to take to heart, because it is an absolute fact. If you have ever submitted to a festival without reading the rules and regulations, you are a fucking idiot. Period. End of story. I would smack you upside the head and break your camera if I could.
If you have spent all the time it takes to actually make a film, you should be looking for the right home for your baby. Sort of like finding the right college for your teenager. You should read everything there is to know about any fest that you’re considering. Look at what films have played in previous years. You should feel in your gut that yes, your film is a fit, and that the programmers will like it. You still might not get accepted, but at least you’ve done your homework.
If you don’t, you are wasting everyone’s time.
I reached out to a few of my programming friends this morning to vent. And every single one said it happens all the time. Many do not read the rules, or care what the festival is looking for.
If you’re one of these idiots, shame on you. You’re officially too stupid to make another film. Time to go back to bagging my groceries.
Take heart fellow filmmakers. If you work your film. If you treat it like a business once completed. If you get off your ass and not wait for “deals” to come to you, if you not rely on film festivals. If you realize that the work doesn’t not stop once the film is complete, that you’ve got another year or two to go. Well, then, good things might actually happen.
I’ve already two blog posts on how no to be a film fest douche. They are here and here. Study them. I’ve spent a lot of time taking to the people who run film festivals. They’re usually the ones at the fests I spend most time talking to. I know of which I speak.
Ok, now the first news flash. You’re not getting into Sundance. Not unless you have a major star, a major studio behind you, a major film rep, or your parents are rich and famous. But if you have one of those things, you probably aren’t reading my blog.
But y’know what? Submit anyway. It’s like buying a Lotto ticket. You can’t win if you don’t play. And sure there’re probably 4 slots saved for the almost 5000 feature submissions. And Lady Luck might be one your side.
Submit to SlamDance, if you’re a first time director. Submit to SXSW. Likewise for Tribeca and Toronto. And of course Los Angeles. And if your film is a documentary add Hot Docs and Silver Docs to that list. Those are the no-brainers. Those are your lottery tickets. But don’t hold your breath. And you probably are not going to submit to them all. If you’ve finishing your film and it’s November . . . and you’ve missed the Sundance deadline . . . do not wait a whole ten months to start submitting. Move on, submit to the next on the calendar list, and save Sundance for the next movie. Use common sense, there is no reason to let a film sit for almost a year. Even you will forget about it. And by that point you should be knee-deep in production with your next film anyway.
Ok, those submissions are in the mail. Now let’s find the fest that is actually going to screen your film. And here you need to do homework. There are literally thousands of film festivals. You need to find the ones that are a perfect match. You need to research what they’ve played in the past, what other filmmakers say about them. If all they do is play film with known actors, and seem to promote all their red carpet parties on their website, your little no-name film is not a good match. If they like art or foreign fare, your torture porn horror film is not making the cut. Hell, I know first hand, even if they specialize in rock docs, your critically acclaimed rock doc which breaks all the rules is not getting in. Really study the films they’ve accepted.
Likewise, look for warning signs. If you read filmmaking after filmmaker complaining about their treatment, bad projection, disorganization, take that as a red flag, and do not submit. There are plenty of fests that have their shit together, and who love well-made films, even without stars. But there are also festivals that don’t even acknowledge your presence when you’ve flown a thousand or more miles to attend and do a Q&A. There are festivals that project your 16×9 feature in 2:35, or worse 4:3. Watch the brilliant film OFFICIAL REJECTION to witness one of the most offensive film festivals of all time. (Actually, watch OFFICIAL REJECTION because it’s an amazing film on the film fest world. It is a MUST SEE.)
Remember festival submission fees are not cheap. I’ve dropped between $3 to $5 thousand dollars on submission fees for past features. (That’s PER film, not what I spent on all of them.) And you’re on a tighter budget than that.
Also, if you’ve gotten into a few fests, won awards, or have amazing press, forget the fees, email the festival directors, tell them all about your film, and it’s acolaids, tell them how you feel the film would be a great fit for their festivals, send a trailer link, and finally ask for a waiver of their fees. Worst case, they say no or never answer. But after 6 months on the circuit with COLOR ME OBSESSED, I decided no more fees. And it worked. A good email, backed by packed houses and great press, and guess what, we got waivers. With my Archers of Loaf doc I decided no fees at all. So far, so good. We premiered at NXNE in Toronto last week, played another Canadian film/music fest on Monday, and are having our American premiere at the CBGB’s Festival in July.
I was down in Tampa for the world premiere of Color Me Obsessed at a festival where my own Friends (With Benefits) won best feature the year before. I was waiting in line like everyone else to get into the closing night film, talking to a friend and one of the volunteers. Suddenly the director of another doc that was playing the fest (a doc that also played HBO), interrupts, and rudely announces that she’s a filmmaker, and she wasn’t about to stand in this line. I’m not joking here, she was really rude.
The volunteer of course brought her into the theater, and as she walked away I said (a lot louder than I thought), “what a fucking cunt.” No one in line disagreed.
I hold to that sentiment. And actually wished I had found myself on a filmmaking panel with her, because I would have gladly told her to her face.
There’s no reason to behave as she behaved. It certainly won’t make anyone in line want to see your film. It certainly won’t make the fest organizers want you back. (Or course, she was dealing with a volunteer, whom I’m sure she felt was subhuman.)
There’s just no excuse. Treat people that you yourself would want to be treated. Seems like common sense. Doesn’t it? (Perhaps they should teach THAT in film schools. And remove “Entitlement 101” from the curriculum.)
I’ve been on the festival circuit now on and off since YOU ARE ALONE broke in 2005. Lately even more so because I seem to have hit a nerve with COLOR ME OBSESSED. And I’ve realized that a lot of my fellow filmmakers are, well, douche bags. Plain and simple.
“What makes them so douchy?” you ask. Well, two things in particular in regards to festivals.
1. Most festival are limited in the amount they can spend on bringing filmmakers to their weekend of film. So, it’ll usually be a handful of us mingling. Now, I will always try and see everyone’s film. Attend the Q&A’s. Even ask questions. I try to get involved. I’m there to work. Festivals might seem like a vacation. Ask my wife, they’re anything but. You have to be on, you have to schmooze, you have to be selling yourself and your film every moment. Part of that involves seeing other films, supporting other filmmakers. I’ve even been told by fest directors that every time they turn around they see me walking into a screening. And nothing makes them happier. But what pisses me off (and even more so fest directors) are the filmmakers who take all the travel perks, come into town, screen their film, do a half-assed Q&A (you can always tell the douche bags by their Q&A’s), then sleep, drink, sightsee…basically do anything BUT watch other films. They expect you to watch their masterpieces. But can they return the favor? No. Of course not. (And these are usually the same film school assholes who at their Q&A expound on how filmmaking is such a collaborative art form, and how great it is to be involved in the filmmaking community. HORSESHIT!) These filmmakers annoy the piss out of me because they don’t realize filmmaking is a job. Instead of being thankful for being flown and put up in a strange town, they believe it’s deserved. Such is their sense of entitlement. Of course these are always the one “hit” wonders who soon discover filmmaking isn’t for them, and are soon making bad cappuccinos at Starbucks. Karma is a beautiful thing!
2. The other inexcusably douchy thing filmmakers do all the time: cancel on festivals at the last minute. I know one fest director who paid for flights and rooms for three members of a specific filmmaking team, only to have them not show. And look, I know shit happens. But fellow filmmakers, unless someone VERY close to you is dead or in the hospital dying, likewise for yourself, or unless you house burned to the ground, THERE IS NO EXCUSE. You’re fucking over not only a fest director who liked your work enough to invite it to their fest (and remember the director of a small fest today, is often running a much larger fest tomorrow), but also the audience who might have wanted to ask you a few questions. And mostly you’re fucking yourself in so many unpleasant ways. The fest director has identified you as a douche, and will never go near one of your films again. They’ll spread the word to other fest directors that you are Douche of the Year on their short list. Plus you lose the chance to mingle with potential fans, potential buyers of DVDs and VOD. And you miss out on sleeping through the screenings of the other filmmakers, which you would have skipped anyway.
Actually the more I think about it. The festival, the other filmmakers, and even the patrons, are better off without you there. Stay home. Practice your barista skills. They’re going to come in handy for you one day.
I’ve finally come to the realization that I’ll never be a blogger. And I’m okay with that. I think back to a filmmaking couple that did a very sweet little film that premiered shortly before my You Are Alone did in 2005. I saw theirs at the festival where my premiered. They started blogging about the fest circuit, about making their film, about being broke, pretty much about anything that came to mind. Regular blogs, video blogs, they were even quite popular.
But what I felt at the time was that they had stopped being filmmakers, and had become professional bloggers. Which is fine. If that’s what you want to be, and that you realize it’s what you really are. I’m not sure they ever realized that.
Since then we’ve really seen no other features from this talented couple. I’ve made Friends (With Benefits) and Color Me Obsessed, and I’ve already started work on three others. A weeks or so ago, when I was in Madison for the truly wonderful Wisconsin Film Festival, I had enough down time where I figured I’d get some blogs written. Instead I worked on the script for a film called Broken Side Of Time, which is part three of my planned Alone Trilogy. (Hell, it might end up being part two.) I worked on the script not because I needed to, there was no rush, no deadline, but because I wanted to. It’s what I like to do. It’s what I do. Blogging on the other hand feels like work. And I have no desire to become a professional blogger. I’m a filmmaker. And happy to be one.
Our first official press release, our first four screenings…
March 7, 2011
Documentary on indie-rock legends The Replacements set to premiere.
NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT & TAMPA, FLORIDA: COLOR ME OBSESSED, the first documentary about famed 80’s indie-rock band The Replacements, will have its World Premiere at the 5th annual Gasparilla International Film Festival in Tampa, Florida. Gorman Bechard, the film’s director, took top honors at last year’s GIFF with his romantic-comedy FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS).
Told through the eyes of fans, friends, and contemporaries, COLOR ME OBSESSED breaks from the traditional music documentary format of music and performances. Not looking to make a VH1/where-are-they-now style documentary Bechard took a unique approach, “I decided to present the band in a more iconic way,” he explains. “I thought, people believe in God without seeing or hearing him but rather through the passion, faith, and stories of others. After watching COLOR ME OBSESSED, I’m pretty sure music fans will believe in The Replacements in much the same way.”
Telling the band’s story was a project close to the heart for Bechard. Like many who were weaned on punk music he latched onto this brash young Minneapolis band with fervor. Dubbed “the last best band” by Spin Magazine, their live shows could be miraculous or downright disasters. Their fans, unwaveringly faithful. As critic’s darlings, their albums were wrought with angry guitars and passionate well-written lyrics that hinted at potential commercial success. Yet, somehow, the band managed to continually shoot themselves in the foot. Their relative obscurity was a motivating factor in presenting their story on film. “The Replacements should have been the next Rolling Stones,” Bechard says, “And to the people who loved them, I think they were.”
Combining over 140 interviews with rockers (Colin Meloy of The Decemberists, Craig Finn of The Hold Steady, Tommy Ramone, Grant Hart and Greg Norton of Husker Du, all three members of Goo Goo Dolls), journalists (Robert Christgau, Legs McNeil, Ira Robbins, Greg Kot, Jim DeRogatis), and fans both famous (Tom Arnold, Dave Foley, George Wendt) and not, Bechard delivers the obsessive tale of the most influential band you’ve never heard of, The Replacements. And though containing not one note of their music, COLOR ME OBSESSED is a documentary that really rocks.
COLOR ME OBSESSED screens on Saturday, March 26th at 7:30 PM at the Gasparilla International Film Festival in Tampa, FL. On Saturday, April 2nd at 6:45 PM at the Wisconsin Film Festival in Madison, WI. On Friday, April 15th at the Chicago International Movies & Music Festival in Chicago, IL. And on Wednesday, May 4th in Minneapolis, MN as a special presentation of Sound Unseen’s monthly screening series.
Somehow almost a year went by, as I needed to finish up the tax credit paperwork (don’t get me started) for FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS), complete the film, do the sound mix, begin submitting to film festivals, then actually hit the road on the festival circuit. (I could blog about that, but instead watch the amazing indie film OFFICIAL REJECTION, and you’ll learn more than you will ever need to know about film festivals.)
But in August 2009 I posted an ad on Craigslist stating that I was looking for a co-producer. I got one worthwhile response from Jim Leftwich, who not only wanted to learn about production but was a huge fan of The Replacements. We sat down over pizza at Pepe’s and hashed it out. Jim would work the East Coast interview schedule.
I believe Adrian Correia, my cinematographer on FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) had always been on board. I had been turning Adrian on to new bands since hiring him to shoot that last film. Despite no up-front pay, Adrian jumped at the chance to work on CMO.
Sarah, Jan, Jim, Adrian…that was my crew at the start. It would change as we moved along…but for now, everything clicked.
And…yes, no up-front pay. Everyone including myself would own a chunk of the back end. If the film did well, we all did well. I did not want to spent months (or more) looking for investors. I didn’t want to do all this work on another film, and then when it finally sold not see a dime. And luckily a new web startup would help me achieve that goal.
Friends (with benefits) shot for a total of 18 days, beginning on April 18th, 2007.So, we’ve really been editing it, tweaking it, playing with the song selection, and score, and titles, and color correction, for going on two years now.(The original assembly was 125 minutes without end credits, the final cut runs 94 minutes complete.)Doesn’t seem like that long has passed, but then again perhaps it does.I think once you see the film, you’ll understand why so much time was spent on editing.We tried to do something a little different here.(The producers rep who ultimately took on the film called the editing “ground breaking.”And while I don’t know about that, we’ll certainly take the compliment!)
As a novelist (my website, GormanBechard.com has all the info you could possibly need on that), I thought we’d bring a little of that feel to the film, thus in my mind it’s “a novel with moving pictures.”While all films on DVD are broken into “chapters” I thought we’d take that one step further and actually break the film down into real chapters.But no one wants to watch a book.So, how to make it move fast . . . real fast?
Well, originally I wanted the film, especially the dialog, to movie at a breakneck speed, like “His Girl, Friday.”But there are two truisms in film.The one that fits here is, and I’m paraphrasing: “There’s the film you write, the film you shoot, and the film you edit.”Anyone who’s ever directed a film knows they are three very separate beasts, each with a mind of their own.
So, while that breakneck pace seemed great in concept (and even in rehearsals), the realities of casting and filming got in the way.Until editing, that is.We threw out the rule book.And decided that we would not allow the audience time to blink (at least for a part of the film…when need be, as a director I am a big believer in giving the performances room to breathe.)
(FYI: I never used the rule book when writing my novels, hell, I flunked English 101 in college, and likewise, for any of you who’ve seen my last feature YOU ARE ALONE, you know I don’t “do” the “master/over-shoulder/over-shoulder reverse” coverage.It’s boring, it’s lazy, it shows not one iota of originality or belief in your script, or your ability as a director…it’s movie-of-the-week.Really, just put a bullet in my head and shoot me now.So, yeah, I certainly wasn’t going to start following the rules now.)
The Friends (with benefits) secret weapon?Split screens.If two stories were happening concurrently, why not show them?Adjust the timing here and there, and let the characters on the right answer the characters on the left.It was just an experiment at first.Tried it in one bar scene where two male characters are conversing about the same subject as two female characters.What do you know?It clicked.It worked.Jokes came faster.You didn’t have time to blink and you were laughing again.Or in a few cases, the inherent sadness of a friendship perhaps destroyed was given an even greater emotional impact.
Watching and using the split screens, co-editor Ashley McGarry and I just knew in our guts this was right for the film.
And that’s what it comes down to for me.That gut feeling.Whether holding on someone’s expression for a beat longer than you might think necessary, because in reality sometimes we need that extra moment of reflection.Or inserting a list of “rules” as a text scroll to make a scene go where it needed it to go.Or dozens of other little examples in this film.(Some big examples: cutting a huge emotional scene down to one line because I felt the rest made one character just a hair less likable, cutting scenes because I found an actors blocking distracting, sacrificing a few amazing shots that ultimately did nothing to move the story along, or reducing characters down to a few lines because either the story wasn’t really about them, or I felt their performance distracting.) You go with your gut.In the end, as director, it’s your name signed at the bottom of the canvas.And after a horrible bigger-budget filmmaking experience back in 2002 (read the blog entry titled “Just say no to Billy Zane” from September 2008), I promised myself I would never again sign my name to a film or book I wasn’t proud of.
P.S. An aside.OK…I did not sign my name to my last novel UNWOUND.It was published under the pseudonym Jonathan Baine.But not because I wasn’t proud of the book.I actually love the book.The name change was quite simply to trick the computers at Barnes & Noble.See, the big chains, like B&N, preorder copies of your new book based upon the sales of your last book.Now, most of my novels have had a first printing of between 5,000 and 20,000 copies.The first printing for UNWOUND was going to be 146,000 copies. Thus the publisher wanted the B&Ns of the world to order a lot more than what they ordered and sold of my previous titles.Smile.You just learned something about the publishing business.
As both the completion of my newest feature, FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) …and the start of its film festival run nears, I thought now would be a good time to turn the main subject of this blog over to the making of my newest film.
I start with BRAD’S RULES.Or at least 99 of them.The rules were not a part of the original script.They were born out of necessity, when during the editing process we needed to get from point A to point F in a very long scene that was just slowing down the first act, and do so in a way that was both organic to the script and also funny.And since Brad, one of the main characters in the film, was always mouthing off about his rules, we thought inserting those rules into the film might just work.Thus the actual list of 100 rules was born.
You’ll have to judge for yourself, but I think they provide one of the biggest laughs in the film.
But here now are the rules…live by them, and life will be good (which I guess is a rule in and of itself):
100. Friends don’t let friends fuck ugly people
99. Try everything twice, the first time you might have been doing it wrong
98. Fat girls give the best head because they’re always hungry
97. Cologne: overrated…Deodorant: a must
96. Blondes are usually too dumb to realize they’re having more fun
95. After puberty, that’s not “baby fat”
94. ATM = the Holy Grail
93. All hippie chicks deep throat, but few vegans swallow
92. Women like shoes. They will look at yours; purchase accordingly
91. BBBJ or why bother?
90. Women cannot parallel park
89. If you wanna fuck it, you’ve got to be willing to lick it
88. Ass, stomach, legs, boobs – in that order
87. If it’s not dirty, you’re doing something wrong
86. If a friend’s apartment is running low on toilet paper, you’re required to use it all
85. Cheerleaders are overrated
84. Under no circumstance may two men share an umbrella
83. Never allow a conversation with a woman to go on longer than you are able to have sex with her
82. Other than in February, the 14th of every month is Pizza and Blowjob Night
81. Dogs are better than cats…period
80. Bigger is never better when they’re fake
79. Don’t leave the house if you’re not camera ready
78. A period does not equal a week off from sex
77. Mustaches and hunting are gay
76. Sucking your best friend’s dick, that’s priceless
75. You are not accountable if you bring ugly people home, unless you fuck them again in the
74. If her mom isn’t a MILF, chances are she won’t be one either
73. Fake orgasms count, as long as they’re not yours
72. The G-spot does not exist
71. There is NOTHING sexy about pregnant women
70. Persistence gets you laid
69. Never give yourself a haircut while drunk
68. No panties = a good night
67. Drinks hard liquor = a great night
66. Tongue piercing = God loves you!
65. Saliva isn’t always the best lubricant, just the most fun to apply
64. White cotton panties and knee socks.Enough said!
63. Never lend money to friends
62. Never lend books, CDs, or DVDs to anyone
61. The month you finish paying for your car, it will break down
60. Elvis is not dead
59. Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone
58. What’s good for you does not always taste better. Example: processed peanut butter vs. the all-natural kind
57. People who don’t use turn signals deserve mandatory prison sentences
56. Never let a girl shave your balls
55. Porn saves lives
54. Republicans are better at…well…nothing
53. If you’ve never had New Haven brick oven pizza, you’ve never had pizza.There is no pizza in New York or Chicago.Don’t argue, you’ll just sound foolish
52. Old country = coolAlt-country = really coolNew country = sucks
51. Condition your hair once a day
50. Masturbate twice a day
49. Eat three square meals every day
48. Women should never cut their hair, unless they’re going to play for the other team
47. Crying is blackmail
46. Your choice: spay or neuter your pet…or yourself
45. If she sleeps in your bed, sex is a given
44. If a girl leaves her dirty panties lying around, she wants you to sniff them
43. There’s no such thing as giving 110%
42. Halloween is the only holiday that matters
41. Sympathy sex trumps make-up sex
40. Body hair just gets in the way
39. Rip bread, don’t slice it
38. Every man should learn how to dance, but no other man should know he can
37. Men have no right to speak on the subject of abortion
36. Every decade gives us only one great double album: The White Album, Exile On Main Street, London Calling, Being There, and Cold Roses.
35. Chivalry is not dead, but she has to earn it
34. Watch Carnival Of Souls at least once in your lifetime
33. If your pubic hair is blond or red, shaving is optional
32. You can cheat on girls with hairy legs
31. If they don’t answer, it means yes
30. Never turn down a chance to sleep with a celebrity
29. Sex is better in warmer climates
28. Emo guys = gay; emo gals = easy marks
27. Never trust people who don’t drink coffee
26. Springsteen really is The Boss
25. If there’s a problem, talk it out
24. If you can’t talk it out: fuck, then try again
23. Never lease what you can buy
22. Never break up using a post-it note, her biker friends will hurt you for it
21. Never say “no” to a green-eyed girl
20. Live life as if The Catcher In The Rye were your bible
19. Don’t lie, you will get caught
18. Admit that the 1986 Mets were the greatest baseball team of all time and life will be easier
17. Know the legal age of consent in every place you visit
16. Wild animals belong in the wild, not in zoos, fairs, or roadside attractions
15. Pussy farts are charming
14. Only wear a bra if you’re going to offend me
13. Beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder
12. It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye
11. Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups
10. When in doubt, mumble
9. Masturbation is overrated
8. Small boobs are misunderstood
7. Better to be feared than loved, but even better to have your love feared
6. Handcuffs are the ultimate sex toy
5. If you can’t convince them, confuse them
4. Quiet girls are the most likely to toss your salad
3.Women do not understand remote controls, there is no exception to this rule
2. Never overthink
Of course, if you want to know the number one rule, you’re gonna have to watch the film.
Check back often for more stories from the front lines of making FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS)…
P.S. Remember my horror/comedy PSYCHOS IN LOVE will be released on DVD (complete with a boatload of extras) next Tuesday, April 28th. You can get it at BestBuy, Netflix, or preorder it here at Amazon.com
I guess in a way, PSYCHOS IN LOVE had its own set of rules:
I hate grapes.
I can’t stand grapes.
I loathe grapes.
All kinds of grapes.
I hate purple grapes.
I hate green grapes.
I hate grapes with seeds.
I hate grapes without seeds.
I hate them peeled and non-peeled.
I hate grapes in bunches, one at a time, or in groups of twos and threes.