Summer film festivals are a cinephile’s dream, so when I found out that as part of being named the SFTV Scholar of the Year, I was chosen by the faculty to attend a summer film festival in Italy, of all places, I was thrilled.
Each summer, the Cineteca di Bologna organizes one of the most unique film festivals in Italy: Il Cinema Ritrovato, an eight-day festival that brings film lovers together for a celebration of restored classics and never-before-seen films. The festival includes open-air screenings, film lectures and conversations with historians, critics and restoration experts.
It was a week of celebrating movies, culture, and of course, delicious food. Below are my top five highlights from my week with Bologna.
The People. Il Cinema Ritrovato attracts a wide array of people ranging from students to veteran festival-goers who have attended the festival for nearly 30 years. Local Bolognese, Americans and Swedes gave the cinematic sweep truly an international flair. I greatly enjoyed interacting with fellow cinephiles, and appreciated the opportunity to learn from film critics, distributors and professors. Isabella Rossellini even introduced a documentary by Stig Björkman about her mother, Ingrid Bergman, Ingrid Bergman – In Her Own Words which was wonderful.
The Food. I tried all kinds of Italian food in Bologna: spaghetti, tagliatelle, seafood and the like. Although I thought there could be nothing comparable to a finely made Bolognese pizza, I cannot get the desserts out of my head. One particular scoop of gelato left me dreaming, and some fresh fruit I tried at a countryside restaurant was so juicy it was almost surreal.
Film Discoveries. I saw a grand total of 33 films throughout the week, but one of my favorite discoveries was Apur Sansar (The World of Apu), an Indian series about a boy’s life that was beautifully shot in black and white with the most calming music and breathtaking views of Calcutta. My other favorite was the 1965 film Bunny Lake is Missing. It was enveloping to watch the crisp composition on the theater’s widescreen. The entire audience was engrossed in this film and simultaneously gasped and giggled at one part at the end. It truly was an engaging experience in the theater.
The Outdoor Screenings. The festival used a historic nitrate projector for two special outdoor screenings. It felt as if we were transported back in time with the clicking of the slides and the steam rising in the air as we watched silent films on the projector. Each night, they screened a film in the giant outdoor piazza. Perhaps my favorite screening was the first, Elevator to the Gallows. As the film was being introduced, I noticed thunder crackling in the sky behind the giant screen. As the excitement mounted onscreen, and the man is first caught in the elevator, a spattering of rain came down. First a few drops, then buckets. Some brave souls tried to persevere and whipped out umbrellas, but as the strength of the rain increased, some of us sissies ran for cover. I was already soaking wet when I made it to a covered walkway, where most people were waiting the rain out, but I kept on walking. There must have been a huge grin on my face because I love the rain, and it actually felt more cinematic to run for cover with soppy hair and soaked feet than it was to finish the film (although I am disappointed I never got to finish it).
I was in Italy, watching an old black and white film, and had to run home in the rain. What’s more cinematic than that?
Climbing Adventure. On my last day in Bologna, after watching a Leo McCarey film, Good Sam, I had a few hours to kill. I decided to climb to the top of Asinelli, a magnificent 12th century structure. The top was higher than I had anticipated, and I stopped at every platform, catching my breath and debating if I should continue on. Each time I told myself the top was just a tad bit farther. The stairs were rickety and the air was stuffy, as I climbed and climbed and climbed. When I finally thought I was done climbing, I climbed a bit more and I made it to the top. The journey was certainly worth the view. I looked out at Bologna- the beautiful tiled houses, the glorious churches, the hills in the distance. This was the perfect end to both my time at the Bologna film festival and my college career. How perfectly this tower climb correlated to my studies: there were times when college was taxing, but I look back now and realize how much I have learned and how far I have come. And boy, was it worth the view.
Most people credit the Greek people for their Tzatziki sauce and philosophical teachings, but just as tasty and thoughtful are their stories. The upcoming Los Angeles Greek Film Festival (LAGFF) is showcasing these stories through Greek filmmakers from around the world. LMU film school undergraduate students Weiyi Ang (Production ’16), Madison Taylor (Screenwriting ’16), Janette Danielson (Screenwriting ’16), Matthew Pigott (Screenwriting ’16) and Matthew Keyes (Screenwriting ’18) were production and programming interns who had the opportunity to work with the LAGFF team under the direction of LMU Professor Katerina Zacharia.
Matthew Keyes, who goes by the name Gatsby, was initially introduced to Greek Culture through LMU’s First Year Experience with Professor Zacharia. He believes that the festival is different from others because “all the films touch on the same core values, and historical points. In a bigger, national film festival you can have movies about anything, from anywhere, with no common ties. With the Greek Film Festival, a majority of the films explore the new cultural landscape in a post-crisis Greece, and the reshaping of a cultural identity.”
Janette Danielson, Gatsby and Madison Taylor told us what films they were most excited to see.
Janette Danielson: The feature length film Xenia on closing night. It has a great mix of imaginative elements in it that are a surprise for the audience. I also think the shorts programs are going to be great.
Matthew “Gatsby” Keyes: I am most looking forward to a feature film called Norway. It was different to the others, in style and execution. It was refreshing, and entertaining. I am also looking forward to the documentary called Media, Louder Than My Thoughts, and the short film Noticed.
Madison Taylor: A documentary called Beneath the Olive Tree and a feature film called Xenia. Beneath the Olive Tree is a powerful story that has not really been told before about women’s experiences in the Greek Civil War.
The LA Greek Film Festival runs from June 3 to June 7 at the Egyptian Theater, 6712 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood. LMU students are admitted free (one ticket per student per screening); show your One Card at the box office to redeem this offer. Tickets for Opening and Closing nights are also available to LMU students at a reduced price. Click here for LAGFF schedule.
Independent producer, entrepreneur and alumna Nicole Fox (Production – B.A. ‘98) recently spoke to SFTV students in Mayer Theater about alternative financing in the age of crowdsourcing and social media. Money is no longer the “coin of the realm,” she said. While she learned the hard way what not to do, she was more than happy to shorten the learning curve for SFTV students.
Building Your Target Audience
“It’s all about the eyeballs,” Fox said. “I hate to tell you this, but Hollywood is lazy and if you have a great idea but no eyeballs then the Hollywood executives have to work harder and therefore, you are a riskier investment.”
‘Eyeballs’ became the keyword of the afternoon as Fox stressed the importance of building your audience before you launch crowdfunding campaigns for your film or web series. She outlined five important ways to achieve this.
- Become a blogger. Blogging is all about constant output and generating content. Don’t put pressure on yourself to be brilliant or perfect or else you’ll be paralyzed and do nothing. WordPress and Ghost are two of the more popular blogging sites. Additionally, it’s important to connect with like-minded bloggers and support and promote each other to build your community and generate new followers.
- Make a list of who your audience is and where they are. Where do they hang out? What blogs and websites do they follow? This is how you find your target audience and how you can reach them.
- Create a landing page for your film with an email tied to it. Use Mailchimp or another email service to reach out to them and consider offering a contest to get email addresses. Even something as small as an iTunes gift card can be enticing. People love contests and they’re much more likely to sign up and give you their address if they have a chance of getting something for themselves.
- Find ten people you know personally that fit your target audience and contact them three times (email, phone call and/or face-to-face). You’re betting on creating an emotional connection with them.
- Hire a social media on set director to take photos of you, your cast, and your crew and get them out on social media. You will be busy actually making your film and you don’t want to worry about this part of the process. Using an on set director and aligning with your cast and crew’s social media connections also multiples your outreach.
All of these steps are part of your pre-marketing campaign that you need to do before you start filming. Almost half of crowdfunding projects fail and 12 percent of them don’t get any money at all. There are at least ten thousand projects at one time on crowdfunding sites and Kickstarter and Indiegogo will get behind you, but only if you’re on the road to success. All the while, continue to blog, maintain your film’s website and make a trailer or teaser for your film.
Festivals and Distribution
The next step for many filmmakers is submitting to film festivals. While you have a better chance of getting into smaller festivals, Fox said the distribution deals that come from them are almost always bad because they think you’re desperate.
For digital distribution, no one has figured out how to do it yet and there are no rules, except for the fact that eyeballs equals money. Self-distribution is a lot of work but you get to keep all of the money whereas in traditional or digital distribution, you give up a great deal of the money and there’s very little transparency on their end. You want a deal that is non-exclusive so you’re not tied to one company forever.
It’s not all doom and gloom. Fox listed some digital platforms that are great for filmmakers such as Whalerock, Vessel and (“Craigslist for filmmaking”). Tugg and Gathr are two other great sites that help you actually screen your film in local theatres provided you sell enough tickets in advance. Fox also recommended contacting independent theatres in your area. “Call and tell them about your film,” she said. They’re dying and they need you and will often do a 50/50 split on the ticket sales.”
Fox closed the session with a Q&A and reminded the students that collaboration is key. Her final pointers:
- Put together a production company and name it something that matches your vision. Make sure you have an odd number of people so that you always have a tiebreaker.
- Make short films at least twice a month and put them on YouTube to generate traffic. If you have ten thousand followers or more on YouTube, they will let you use their facilities and equipment for free.
- Start a festival with student productions and get the student body behind it. There are so many brands on campus alone let alone outside of it that want to get a foot in the door to campus and millennials.
Build your target audience and get those eyeballs. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be afraid to fail. No hits this week? Try again next week. And remember – share vs. pitch – you’re not a used car salesman.
Fox’s new distribution company, VuFangle, will launch this summer and is devoted to mid-sized films, transparency and profit sharing with filmmakers. VuFangle untangles digital clutter and connects consumers worldwide with their entertainment anywhere, anytime on any device. Website coming soon. In the meantime, email Fox’s assistant at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Slamdance Screenplay Competition is dedicated to discovering and supporting emerging writing talent. We welcome screenplays in every genre, on any topic, from anywhere in the world. A unique feature of the competition is providing constructive feedback for every entrant. In addition to this, we also offer a more intensive coverage service for a supplementary fee. Now in our twentieth year, we have a history of highlighting talented, independent screenwriters and introducing them to the entertainment industry. All of our readers approach scripts differently, but in general we are looking for originality and promise in a work. As an organization, we strive to foster an independent spirit among new writers and filmmakers. We’ve established a strong track record through our competition successes and are committed to continuing our pursuit to champion outstanding new work.
Regular Deadline: June 9, 2015
Late Deadline: July 21, 2015
WAB Extended Deadline: July 28, 2015
Categories: Feature Screenplays, Short Screenplays, Horror Screenplays, Original Teleplays