HOW I GOT INTO MAKING FILMS
by Moira Rowan
The Short Movie Club launches a column that dedicates filmmaking contexts. We will share the filmmaker’s stories about how they got into making films or about the challenges they were faced with. We hope that this article would be interesting not for filmmakers only but for all within the film industry who work with and target them. If you are the filmmaker and you have a dizzying story don’t hesitate to share it with the Filmmaker Mediazone.
I started making films by accident, my elderly friend was approached by a filmmaker to make a film on her life, after filming and keeping my friend on a long string, waiting she eventually told us that Elsa was terrible on camera and ‘filming her was like pulling teeth’, she no longer wanted to do the project.
My friend was naturally very disappointed, so I decided to hire a cinematographer, wrote the script, co-directed, and produced the film.
Then, of course, we decided that it was pointless making a film and not showing it anywhere – but we did not know who would be interested in seeing it, as it was a bit of a niche market in that the central character, Elsa Perez, was a lady in her eighties and we guessed that film festivals would not find the concept of ‘Aging’ fascinating.
Film festivals circuit
I knew a woman that was curating a film festival that dealt with ‘World Cinema’, I had a chat to her and she included the film in the programme. We approached another film festival that dealt with older women; added bonus was that Elsa is a wonderful Latin American Dancer, so she did a dance workshop that ran alongside the festival.
After this we started a market strategy, the selling points of the film, strong female character, a woman of colour, the story had a political theme, overcoming hardship, Aging Positively, dancing theme, culture and diversity, tradition, then for me, first time filmmaker, debut film, female filmmaker. We aimed our focus at smaller film festivals, that had many awards and online festivals.
The strategy seemed to have worked as we have won 11 awards so far with our first film ‘Get Riel’ Along the way we have had some good experiences and some not so good.
Good Experiences And Not So Good
The worst being that some festivals take your money and don’t bother to let you know if they have accepted or rejected your film, we have had to contact them to find out. One festival took a year to tell us that they had not accepted our film. Another one we received an abusive email, asking us ‘why we thought our film fitted in with their festival’
A further one, after we had gone past the notifying date, and had to contact them said ‘No, we not going to show you film, we are waiting to see if we get some better films?’
Another one wrote us a personal email, saying that unfortunately they could not screen the film as their festival was too small to take everyone films , so they made us a finalist, which didn’t affect our selection rating on the film platform, which we thought was a nice touch.
I live in the UK, and unfortunately my films have found an audience in the US, I am not able to always travel over there to appear in person at these festivals – we had to think outside the box because we don’t like our films to be in festivals unattended so we took to social media to find cheer leaders to cheer on our films, one time we got a very attractive woman and her husband to make an appearance for us, that time we won the ‘Best Short Documentary Award’ our cheerleader appeared in some of the promotional photos for the festival thereafter
There is no magic ingredient that will make film festivals accept your films, if it is short film festivals that you are interested in, speaking from personal experience, our first film was under 6 mins it would have had more appeal if it was 5 mins and under, there are festivals that only want films of this length. My main ambition is to highlight different stories affecting communities and people so that perhaps they can gain some assistance – because filming is very expensive, and I do not personally do the camera work, I have to hire someone, I am looking at making one minute movies, but the catch is to try and get the message of your story across in the allotted time. There is an art to this which I am working on.
Again About Feedback
It can be very expensive and frustrating to have your film turned down, people tell me don’t take it personally, always try and get feedback because it maybe something that can be corrected, but always remember it is some one’s personal opinion – one of my films won a gold award, in one festival, a bronze award in another, and was completely rejected by another – I was told there was no essence to my story, however the feedback I got from the festival where we won gold was that it was a wonderful story?
Feedback can come in different forms, we did a show off your shorts evening at one festival, and after everyone saw my film, the consensus was that the audience was fascinated with the central figure and the younger dancers and wanted to see more dancing – this was very good advice which we used in our next feature length film on the same subject.