Thursday, March 20, 2014

New Competitors Challenge Withoutabox


While some film festival directors have praised Withoutabox for increasing the quantity and quality of submissions (and entry fees) to their festivals, other festival directors and filmmakers have complained that Withoutabox drives up the cost of submissions -- and thus the price of entry fees.

It seems the marketplace has responded. New festival submission services are now challenging Withoutabox's dominance. FilmFreeway, FestivalFocus, Festhome, and ClickForFestivals all claim to offer more for less -- to both festivals and filmmakers.



In response to my query, FilmFreeway told me that they do not charge anything to festivals or filmmakers, though they do take a commission. "For festivals that charge entry fees, we take a 8.5% commission of fees. We also offer commission rates as low as 5%."

FilmFreeway's pie chart compares its festival commission to Withoutabox's:





FilmFreeway is Withoutabox's newest competitor. "We launched last month," I was told. "February 2014. We are a small group of engineers and programmers, led by our founder, Zachary Jones. No big corporations behind us." The service claims to have registered 332 international film festivals and "over 17,000 international filmmakers and screenwriters" so far.

Yes, that's right. Screenwriters. Some festivals do have screenplay contests. Screenwriters can submit PDF files of their scripts through FilmFreeway, free of charge. (Naturally, they must still pay the festival's submission fee.)

Being the newest film festival submission service, FilmFreeway lists the fewest festivals. Yet they boast that "We have more free [No Entry Fee] festivals listed than any other submissions platform in the world." I haven't verified that, but, since they charge nothing, filmmakers may as well register and see what's out there. FilmFreeway is nonexclusive, as I believe are most of Withoutabox's new competitors.

One common element to all these new film festival submission services is their emphasis on online screeners as opposed to DVDs. Filmmakers upload films to the website. Festivals are supposed to review the films online. They can request DVDs, but automatic DVD submissions are not the norm.

FilmFreeway lets filmmakers upload an HD film to their site, or to Vimeo, or YouTube (and then link to that from FilmFreeway). They can also submit a DVD if the festival requests one.

"Withoutabox does not permit YouTube or Vimeo submissions," notes FilmFreeway. "And they charge almost $3 to submit [a film to their site]."



FestivalFocus is likewise "entirely free" to both festivals and filmmakers. When I asked how they make their money, or if they charge commissions, Chris replied. "We're a free service. We don't charge anyone."

In which case, FestivalFocus is the only festival submission service that is free to all involved.

They were founded in 2006. "It's run by Blue Compass Ltd, the company behind Casting Call Pro and Film and TV Pro." Chris adds that, so far, they have listed 2,433 festivals, 33,000 filmmakers (by which number he includes "cast and crew"), and 76,000 films.

Like FilmFreeway, FestivalFocus lets filmmakers upload films to their site "or link to films stored on third party platforms (Vimeo, etc.). This ensures short-listing can be done without incurring any fees (postage, import, etc.) and filmmakers know when their submission has been viewed. If selected for screening at a festival, you may be required to send a DVD, but that's down to the individual festival."



Daniel L. Fenaux says that Festhome is "completely free" for festivals, but charges a small fee to filmmakers. "We do not believe in charging festivals, since they need the money to make the festival happen.

"Our direct fee system links festivals' PayPal accounts to our site. They receive their entry fees the moment the submission is done, directly to their accounts without us having to handle any money or charge commissions."


Fenaux believes that filmmakers are the main beneficiaries of Festhome, "so we charge them, which also makes us responsible toward their submissions and what happens with them. Filmmakers are charged from $1 to $2 when using credits or making single submissions. We also offer an Annual Pass for $40 and $55, which lets them submit to any festival for a year. Considering the amount of festivals partnering with us, it amounts to about 10 cents per submission."

So unlike FilmFreeway and FestivalFocus, Festhome charges filmmakers. But Fenaux believes they offer value in return. "We make sure that festivals allowed in our service are actual festivals. We try to protect filmmakers. Also, every festival in Festhome is aware they are using our service -- which doesn't happen everywhere. Festhome is also pushing other platforms to talk, and create a code of ethics, even an association, that guides how platforms should operate with best business practices and avoiding scams. This is probably one of our biggest enemies right now, as it is a new market for everyone. Having competitors do things unethically is going to hurt all of of us in the long run."

Fenaux says that "Festhome was founded in 2010 and started its beta in 2011. Moisés Tuñón and myself are the owners. We are filmmakers who used to submit a lot to film festivals, and hated the process that existed back then. We thought it could be done a lot better -- easily and cheaply.

"We have over 400 festivals, and we keep adding new festivals each week. I am sorry that I cannot disclose our filmmaker numbers at this time, due to fierce competition. But it is over 10,000."


As per the new norm, "all submissions must be made online." But Festhome recognizes that some people still live in the previous decade. "We do have a service for people with bad internet connections to send us their DVD so we can upload it for them. We also have a system to upload files to our servers that saves the progress of the upload, which helps in areas where internet is not stable. Vimeo linking is also possible."

All three of these submission services say they're evolving, and express eagerness for suggestions from users. Festhome says they offer "quick phone or chat support. Reaching us is easy. We travel to film festivals and markets to meet people, so they can put a name to our faces."



ClickForFestivals did not reply to my email, but some information can be gleaned from their website.

They do charge filmmakers. "The more clicks you buy, the more you save every time you send a film." Apparently they charge per submission, and offer volume discounts. "You can consult our price list on the top menu of our website. Both distributors and schools [film schools, I suppose] will be offered special promotions, once they have signed up in our system."

It sounds like they do not charge festivals, as they don't handle submission fees. "ClickForFestivals is not responsible for fees payable to festivals that require them. Every participant is responsible for such payments, according to the regulations set by each festival. During the process, users will be informed that a submission to those festivals is subject to the payment of the required fees."

Festivals can invite filmmakers to submit. "The organizers of our associated festivals will be able to consult your data sheet and invite you to join their festivals."

ClickForFestivals has its own server for online screeners. "Your file can be stored in our server for a maximum of 2 months without being submitted to any festival, and for one month after the end of the last festival to which it was submitted." I'm guessing this means that it's free to upload files, but since they make their money per submission, if a filmmaker doesn't submit for two months straight, the film is deleted. It also sounds as if films must be kept on their servers -- no linking to Vimeo or YouTube.

Who's behind ClickForFestivals? "This platform is backed by Promofest." I'm not sure who they are, but from a logo on their site
(right), and the words: "Actividad subvencionada por el Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte," I infer that they're funded by the Spanish government. The site is available in both English and Spanish.

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For a behind-the-scenes look at horror film festivals and the festival directors who manage them, see Horror Film Festivals and Awards. This book also includes a directory of over 200 horror film festivals, and a list of festival award winners from dozens of festivals over several decades.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Alex Bram Assesses 2012 Carnival of Darkness

The 3rd annual Carnival of Darkness horror film festival screened on October 25, 2012. It's been two years since their last run, since they skipped 2011. As in 2010, Carnival of Darkness is still a "shorts only" festival.

I asked festival founder and director Alex Bram if any trends dominated this year's submissions?

"We had two unicorn films," said Bram, "and two films where the girl who seems to be running from the bad guys turns out to be the bad guy in the end.

"There's always a lot of zombies. And folks always want to buy a camera, film themselves naked, and send that in to me."

None of those nudie films were selected, so if you hope to screen at Carnival of Darkness in 2013, it's probably a good idea to keep on your clothes (at least on camera).

Bram reports that he received "over 200 submissions." Of those, 14 films were screened. The festival has only one award -- the Thrill Ride Award -- so naturally, only one film won.

What single element tanked most submissions? "Acting," said Bram. "Always the deal killer in many films, and the number one reason I have to reject films.

"Folks, move to L.A. or New York if you want to be filmmakers. It's not that you aren't brilliant cinematographers or sound designers or writers. That part is very democratic, and you can nail that no matter what part of the world you live in.

"But if you are an otherwise brilliant filmmaker living in Montana, and it comes time to cast your film, you will have a much more limited pool of actors to pick from. People end up casting friends and family, or people in their local theater programs.

"I'm not being snobby. It's just simple math. Even in Los Angeles, which is crawling with actors, it's still a challenge to successfully cast a film. This is the cold, hard fact, folks. Sorry."

There's one other thing that Bram wants in a short horror film: "I always look for suspense, which is an art."

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For a behind-the-scenes look at horror film festivals and the festival directors who manage them, see Horror Film Festivals and Awards. This book also includes a directory of over 200 horror film festivals, and a list of festival award winners from dozens of festivals over several decades.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Denise Gossett Looks Back on Shriekfest 2012

The 12th annual Shriekfest horror film festival concluded on October 7, 2012. We asked festival founder and director Denise Gossett if any trends dominated this year's entries?

"We saw a ton of found footage films and scripts," says Gossett. "Every year there seems to be a theme, something that everyone seems to be tapped into. This year it was found footage films. I think it is being overdone now. Take a break from it, guys.

"There were quite a few zombie films, still. This never seems to wane. And quite a few ghost films/scripts.

"We hardly saw any vampire flicks or werewolf movies/scripts. And not so many slashers -- but the ones we did get were brutal -- more torture porn."

In light of the Twilight film series' recent success, the dearth of vampire entries is surprising. Perhaps so many horror filmmakers are instead tackling found footage films because it's a structure that seems cheap to produce, and easy to pull off?

If you entered Shriekfest this year, and your film wasn't selected, remember that the competition is fierce. Gossett reports that "We accepted 26 short films, 10 features, 20 feature screenplay finalists, 10 short screenplay finalists, and 10 original song finalists. It's always extremely hard to win."

What separated the winners from the losers?

"So many good films were submitted that didn't make the cut because they weren't tight enough in the editing department." says Gossett. "Just because you shot it does not mean you need to use it. If it doesn't forward the story, cut it out.

"Start with a strong story, and don't start shooting until you have one. Really flesh out your stories. Find your passion in each and every project.

"The acting can hurt a film too. Audition your actors, and keep shooting until you get what feels authentic.

"Make sure you light properly. Don't let small errors pull us out of your story."

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For a behind-the-scenes look at horror film festivals and the festival directors who manage them, see Horror Film Festivals and Awards. This book also includes a directory of over 200 horror film festivals, and a list of festival award winners from dozens of festivals over several decades.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

2012 Tabloid Witch Award Winners Announced

The 2012 Tabloid Witch Award winning horror films have been announced!

Read all about them at the Hollywood Investigator.

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For a behind-the-scenes look at horror film festivals and the festival directors who manage them, see Horror Film Festivals and Awards. This book also includes a directory of over 200 horror film festivals, and a list of festival award winners from dozens of festivals over several decades.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

IMDb Has a Moratorium on New Film Festivals

One nice thing about the Internet Move Database (IMDb) is that when you look up a film, TV show, or person, you can see the awards that project or person has won, in what year, and from which arts academy or film festival.

If you've won an award -- or if your organization or film festival presents awards -- you'd naturally like to have your awards listed. Unfortunately, the IMDb's award listings are woefully incomplete.

But why? Why are so many awards not listed?

In 2009, I emailed and asked the IMDb to add my Tabloid Witch Awards to their list of recognized awards. They cryptically replied that they were not adding any new awards "at this time."

Strange. But, okay.

I emailed them every year after that -- in 2010, and again in 2011 -- and got the same replies. It appeared that "at this time" was longer than I had initially anticipated.

Finally, when I once again emailed them in July 2012, the IMDb gave me a more specific reply. Here's their reason for not listing any new awards:


Recently, we suspended updates to our Awards list while we made software improvements; while these improvements were in process, we were not accepting any additions, deletions, corrections, updates, or changes to the awards list.

Our data editors have recently begun accepting updates for some events on our site; if the Award Event you'd like to update is already listed on the Event list on IMDb.com here:

http://www.imdb.com/event/all

you should see the option to submit your request to our data editors.

However, if the Award event does not yet exist on the site, we regret that you'll be unable to submit the data until our software changes have been completed.


"Recently"? It's been three years since I first contacted them.

Anyway, if you run a relatively new horror film festival, and have been unable to add its award winners to the IMDb, now you know why.


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For a behind-the-scenes look at horror film festivals and the festival directors who manage them, see Horror Film Festivals and Awards. This book also includes a directory of over 200 horror film festivals, and a list of festival award winners from dozens of festivals over several decades.

Monday, July 9, 2012

American Cinematheque Seeks Short Horror Films

Good news for the hundreds (thousands?) of filmmakers seeking distribution for their hard-to-place short films. You are not limited to film festivals.

The American Cinematheque runs two film theaters in the Los Angeles area: The Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, and the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. And they screen short films!

Their Alternative Screen program is for films of 10 - 12 minutes maximum running time -- but they also welcome longer shorts for occasional genre programs ... including horror and sci-fi shorts. Yes, they specifically mention those genres.

According to American Cinematheque's website:


Alternative Screen does accept short films, however, we generally do not play films in this program that are longer than 10-12 minutes, because they are shown preceding a feature film. Shorts addressed to Margot Gerber should not be longer than 12 minutes.

If you have a short film that does not seem to fit into the description of what The Alternative Screen plays -- it may fit into the themed short film programs we present several times per year. Use the address below to submit it, but address it to the attention of ANDREW CRANE (ext. 112). Past short programs have included Gay & Lesbian shorts, New York shorts, Women's Shorts, French shorts and Spanish shorts and a sci-fi/horror program.


Their website says "THIS SERIES IS CURRENTLY ON HIATUS" -- but don't let that discourage you. I was at the Egyptian Theater last Saturday, and there were flyers about their shorts program. So it may be that the website is out of date.

Click here for details about how to submit short films.

Also check out the American Cinematheque website.

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For a behind-the-scenes look at horror film festivals and the festival directors who manage them, see Horror Film Festivals and Awards. This book also includes a directory of over 200 horror film festivals, and a list of festival award winners from dozens of festivals over several decades.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Director of Photography vs. Cinematographer

Only a minority of film festivals present awards for a film's Director of Photography (DP) or Cinematographer. And because most people use those job titles interchangeably, festivals that do honor the category at all, do so with only one award: It's either Best Director of Photography or Best Cinematography.

Pennsylvania's Terror Film Festival is the only festival I know of that honors both the DP and cinematographer as separate categories. In 2011, their Best Director of Photography award went to Matthew Mandarano for Banks of the Vltava, whereas Best Cinematography went to Devin Graham for An Evening with My Comatose Mother.

How does the Terror Film Festival distinguish between a film's DP work as opposed to its cinematography? What are the judges's aesthetic criteria?

The Terror Film Festival's Grace Peters explained their judging criteria as follows:


It is surprising that until now, no one has challenged the distinction between cinematography and director of photography as two separate awards in our festival. This debate would be an interesting one, with probably a varied poll of opinion as to why the terms are used interchangeably, and if the roles are one and the same.

I will tell you why the Terror Film Festival differentiates the roles. We developed an award process and selection criteria that is fair to every filmmaker, regardless of the film's production value. We have honed and fine-tuned it each year, but it is standardized, consistent, and academic. We have a secret formula that allows a $500 production to compete with a five million dollar production.

Which is why we decided to give two separate awards for cinematography.

Independent films have varying budgets and crew. Varying levels of experience and craftsmanship. With that come strengths and weaknesses of every facet of the film's technicality. Sometimes the director is also the DP and the cameraman. And sometimes a production has the luxury of having a [separate] DP, with camera crew and gaffers, etc.

The DP award is based on an aesthetic nature. The visual imagery and style of the film, lighting, and frame composition.

The cinematography award is based on the actual execution of camera (types of shots, camera movement, focus, etc.), and is a technical award for craftsmanship. We feel the person operating the camera deserves merit, whether it is the DP or someone else.

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For a behind-the-scenes look at horror film festivals and the festival directors who manage them, see Horror Film Festivals and Awards. This book also includes a directory of over 200 horror film festivals, and a list of festival award winners from dozens of festivals over several decades.