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How to kill your film dead Part 2: Top 5 DIY Filmmaking Mistakes You Might Be Making

From Make Film / Teach FIlmA week or two back, Filmmaker Jordan Clarke shared some of his personal nightmares on his own film regarding chain of title and how it nearly killed the production dead – you can read that post here. I asked hi to expand into a bullet list and here it is…



Top 5 DIY Filmmaking Mistakes You Might Be Making
We all know that you can’t have your main character wearing an Adidas tracksuit.  We’ve been taught that we must secure the script, actors and music licenses before we can exhibit our film.  Unfortunately, CHAIN OF TITLE runs much deeper than that if a filmmaker ever hopes to have their film distributed or broadcast.  I’ve outlined the top 5 mistakes that I see almost every DIY filmmaker make.  To keep the list short, I will assume you are making your feature film under a limited company with production insurance  to protect yourself, the cast, the crew, equipment and footage.  You are doing that right?  Or did I just turn this ‘Top 5′ into a ‘Top 7′?

Read the rest at Make Film / Teach Film –>

10 Tips for Submitting to Film Festivals

Get your project accepted to fests by following these must-know tips for film festival success!

Film Festival Tips

Film festivals provide a great way to get your film (and you!) exposure in the industry…but with escalating competition how can you increase your chances of acceptance? Cream rises to the top, so much of your success is reliant on your creative vision and execution – the film itself. BUT, there are certain steps you can take to insure that festival programmers and judges give your film a fair chance to be considered. Follow these 10 must-follow tips for submitting your film to festivals!

Is the Film a Fit?

Do your research when it comes to which festivals you’ll apply. Take a look at past films that have screened. Read reviews from past festival attendees. Do the programmers primarily accept narrative? Is there an emphasis on short films? Maybe a preference for the avant-garde or experimental? Is the fest geared toward a certain audience? Closely examine any film festival before you spend your time and money submitting to it. Is your project a good fit for the fests overall goals and theme? If it’s not, don’t try to ‘make it work’.

Niche Festivals

Instead, seek out fests that align with the genre or subject matter of your film. There are more festivals than ever before and many are micro-focused on a niche subject such as horror, environmental, documentary or shorts. These niche fests provide a great opportunity for new filmmakers to get their work in front of a captive audience. The big league film fests are for the ‘big leaguers’ . It’s great to dream, but remember that time and money are finite resources– set realistic goals and shoot for what’s attainable.  Check out our list of 15 Fests You Should Enter.

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Write, Direct, Repeat: Film Festivals and the Short Film, Part 1

Rocking the mic at the Q&A after my "Deal Travis In" premiere at NY Shorts Fest.

Rocking the mic at the Q&A after my “Deal Travis In” premiere at NY Shorts Fest.

Last week I had the thrilling opportunity to premiere my second short film, Deal Travis In, at the New York International Short Film Festival. This was the second consecutive year I premiered a short at this festival and my mind was flooded with memories of how I felt at this time last year.

I had never made a film before and I remember hoping for a robust festival tour. But no matter how much I’d read about film festivals to prepare, I couldn’t know what to expect until I went through the process myself.

For this second film, I have a year of screening at festivals under my belt. Before jumping back in, I evaluated what worked, and what didn’t, as I crafted a plan for taking my new film out into the world.

In this two-part article, I’ll share what I’ve learned and keep the focus on short films. I found there’s a big difference in how you put out a short than a feature. The opportunities, goals and expectations are for the most part quite different.

The one choice I never considered last year was to bypass film festivals altogether and go directly to online distribution. This time around I felt I had to make a thoughtful decision about this. The investment of time and money warrants this careful choice.


Thanks to the Internet, you can now make a film and share it with an audience the moment you’re done. In addition, an online release and a festival run don’t have to be mutually exclusive. If you decide to go after festival screenings, once you’ve compiled your targeted list of festivals, check to see which of them do NOT allow films to be available online. Short of the Week recently posted “The Essential List of Festivals and Online Eligibility” and it’s a great addition to your research when deciding how to get your film out to an audience.

What do you truly hope to achieve with your short film?

For my first short, my goal was to learn everything I could about making a film from concept through distribution. This is in large part why I wanted to try it all, including marketing my film, attending festivals and exploring distribution strategies.

Read the rest at –>


“Film Noir”: The Elusive Genre

“The Maltese Falcon”

“The Maltese Falcon”

There are two terrific film-noir series taking place in New York right now, one at Film Forum, “Femmes Noir,” the other, at the Museum of Modern Art, “Lady in the Dark: Crime Films from Columbia Pictures, 1932-1957.” But only the Film Forum series uses the word “noir,” and MOMA’s avoidance of the term makes perfect sense.

Film noir is a peculiar genre. A Western is identifiable by people on horseback in the West; a musical involves singing and dancing; a war movie shows war. Even the so-called women’s picture was a movie that featured women prominently. But the directors who worked in film noir didn’t use that term to describe their work. One searches in vain for the term in the interviews with some of the genre’s crucial creators—Otto Preminger, Don Siegel, Fritz Lang, Robert Aldrich, and Edgar G. Ulmer—by Peter Bogdanovich in his great collection “Who the Devil Made It.” The first appearance of the term “film noir” in this magazine is from 1971; the first in the New York Times is from 1973.

For that matter, the term wasn’t even endemic in French cinephilic circles. When François Truffaut discussed his film “Shoot the Piano Player” soon after its release, he spoke of it in terms of “B movies” and “gangster films”; when Jean-Luc Godard talked about “Breathless,” he said that he wanted to make a “gangster film” and also referred to “films policiers.”

The documentation on the subject is ample and fascinating, as provided in a richly detailed historical post by M. E. Holmes at a Web site devoted to the French critic Nino Frank, who coined the term in 1946. Holmes’s meticulous discussion of the use and rise of the term cites Frank’s work liberally, and highlights what he found so remarkable in the films in question.

Read the rest at the –>

Your Movie’s Been Accepted to a Festival – Now What?

By Mara Lesemann: I’ve spent the past year taking my first feature (Surviving Family – to 18 film festivals in the US and Canada; we also had 2 invitation-only screenings for family and friends. While we didn’t hit the festival home run that everyone dreams of (Sundance, Tribeca, Cannes, etc.), we did get into several that have made the Movie Maker Magazine list of 25 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee (Central Florida Film Festival and Manhattan Film Festival) as well as their list of Coolest Film Festivals (Woods Hole and Trail
Dance). We also screened at an amazing array of small and mid-sized
festivals, each of which was fun and worthwhile in its own way.

After all of this, plus my experience over the previous 5 years or so with taking shorts to a range of festivals, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned (or at least, what I think) about what filmmakers should do before, during, and after a festival. I’m a big believer in attending festivals where your movie is screening if it’s at all possible. But even if you can’t, many of the points below still apply.

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15 Tips On Making Your First Micro-Budget Feature

“As It Is In Heaven”

“As It Is In Heaven” is a feature film directed by Joshua Overbay in Kentucky around a small college film department. Shot in Scope digital video, the film is opening in New York City, Chicago, Seattle, Lexington, L.A., New Orleans and other cities in July and August. Below, Overbay writes about how, as a first-time director, he managed to make a micro-budget film and get it released. Find out more about the film at the web site:

Like every other young, ambitious directing student, I graduated film school with two goals in mind: making a feature film and making it as soon as humanly possible. I had a solid script two years in the making, a business plan, a team of committed filmmakers, a “reasonably” low budget ($900,000), some industry connections and a degree of momentum from a year on the festival circuit. According to the textbooks, we were set for success. Even our script was built on the practical wisdom that we should suspend our desire to make personal films and instead focus on something that could start our careers: a successful genre film. And yet, after two years of numerous meetings, false starts, trips to Nashville and LA, phone calls, thousands of emails, multiple rewrites, and various “attachments” from cast and crew members, we hadn’t raised a dime.

Suddenly, my young idealism was challenged: Were the many sacrifices my wife made to get me through film school worthless? Had I put us into decades of debt for a ridiculous dream? “Many are called, but few are chosen.” Maybe I’m not “chosen.”

It all came to a head via a trip home for Thanksgiving. As I was driving, I turned to my wife and said, “It’s over. It’s not going to happen.” And as soon as I said it out loud, I knew it was true.

I don’t believe in fate. Nor do I believe in quitting, which is why it’s hard for me to accept defeat. After about an hour of sadness, I came up with a new plan: I would make a micro-budget film. Screw placing marketability above artistry. I would make something I care about.

Read the rest on IndieWire –>

2014 WFA Best Director/Best Actor Winner “Found” acquired for North American Distribution


LOS ANGELES (July 16, 2014) – XLrator Media has acquired North American distribution rights to the award-winning horror film FOUND by first-time director Scott Schirmer. The film has played more than 40 horror film festivals across the globe where it won 15 Best Feature Film awards and multiple Best Actor awards for both of its young stars, Gavin Brown and Ethan Philbeck.  XLrator Media will release the film on August 15, 2014 in theaters, VOD and iTunes on its acclaimed “MACABRE” genre label.

“FOUND is a profoundly shocking and moving horror vision from a talented new director working outside the Hollywood system. The film has been endorsed by genre icons Elvira ‘Mistress of the Dark,’ Sybil Danning and Joe Bob Briggs and has created a sensation wherever it has played,” said XLrator Media president Mike Radiloff.

FOUND was produced by Leya Taylor and Damien Wesner. It is based on the novel by Todd Rigney, who co-wrote the screenplay with Schirmer.

Marty (Gavin Brown) is the ideal fifth grader. He gets good grades, listens to his teachers, and doesn’t start trouble in class. But a darkness is beginning to fall over Marty’s life. The kids at school won’t stop picking on him, his parents just don’t seem to understand him, and now Marty must grapple with a terrible secret that threatens to destroy life as he knows it — his big brother (Ethan Philbeck) is a serial killer! Brotherly love is put to the ultimate test in this emotional coming-of-age story that descends into full-blown horror.

The deal was negotiated by Mike Radiloff and Barry Gordon on behalf of XLrator Media and Matt Medisch of The October People on behalf of the filmmakers.

# # #


XLrator Media, LLC ( is a multi-platform releasing company founded by industry veteran Barry Gordon. It is focused on acquiring feature films, event programming and libraries, in addition to producing programming for enthusiast genres and categories that are under-served by the major studios and most independents. Recent XLrator Media releases include Ironclad, John Carpenter’s The Ward, Bunraku, Killing Bono, Knuckle, We The Party, 96 Minutes, Assassin’s Bullet, Blood Money, Brawler, Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes, Outpost: Black Sun, The Thompsons, Allegiance, Thale, American Mary, Storm Surfers 3D, CBGB, Banshee Chapter, The Machine, Don Peyote, and the upcoming Ironclad: Battle For Blood and Jimi: All Is By My Side.

Russia’s Obscenity Law Will Crush Independent Film

New legislation is being so quickly adopted in Russia today that anyone tracking it is bound to be suffering from a case of whiplash. Hundreds of new legal initiatives have already been ratified this year alone.

Among the more frustrating and misguided laws to be adopted is the law that bans swearing in films, books and music. Although the swearing legislation technically only bans four obscene words and their various derivatives, it is more problematic than initially meets the eye.

First, there is the tiny question of the Russian Constitution, which forbids censorship. Of course, that begs the question of who among Russia’s Duma deputies has bothered to actually read the Constitution at all. The previous ratings system, which allowed Russian adults to decide whether they wanted to see, for example, a play with mature themes, did not go against the Constitution. It allowed adults to decide for themselves whether or not they could handle a bad word.

But the obscenity law has created a second, not immediately obvious problem in the movie industry. As it is now, the law stipulates that films that use these swearwords will not receive a distribution certificate.

This means that every single public screening in Russia will now only take films with a distribution certificate certifying that they do not contain the four banned swearwords. This includes art-house films that were never meant for commercial distribution to begin with and that typically lack the funds or know-how to get it.

You can forget about experimental, art-house and upstart independent films meant for the festival circuit and produced by Russia’s small but vibrant film culture.

Read the rest on the –>

Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film

  Series  25 New Faces of 2014Welcome to our 2014 25 New Faces.

Started almost on a whim back in 1998, as a way to generate content during the independent film doldrums of summer, the 25 has grown to be the feature we devote our most time and attention to. Year round we note new work by young (as in careers, not age) filmmakers that inspires us, we reach out to members of our community for suggestions, and we challenge ourselves to both fall in love and make bets. We keep tracking lists, making sure to check back in with some early-stage filmmakers the following year, and we try not to be too clever about the whole thing. In other words, when we make our selections, we’re not trying to predict next year’s Sundance Grand Prize winners – although with recent 25s Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) and Andrew Droz Palermo (Rich Hill) we wound up doing just that.

The 25 New Faces is a list based not around consensus but passion. One person’s enthusiastic “yes” trumps a committee’s worth of “okay”’s. On this year’s list you’ll find globe-trotting directors and an adventurous sushi-maker; an 8-bit composer and a train-riding experimentalist; a veteran screenwriter and 17 directors who have yet to premiere their first feature. You’ll find filmmakers doubling down on long-form narrative work both within the independent sphere and in the studio world. And you’ll read about those who are rethinking their forms for a world in which people are watching and loving media in entirely new ways. There is work that represents entire communities as well as visions emanating from idiosyncratically thrilling points of view. Mostly, there is promise. We can’t wait to see what these filmmakers will do in the years ahead, and we’re excited for you to discover them now.

Click here to read the rest on –>