The Mentoring Room - Ask the Working Pros

Mentoring Room

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This is a Public Topic geared towards first-time filmmakers. Professional members of The D-Word will come by and answer your questions about documentary filmmaking.

Judy Lieff
Pro

Hello Everyone,

About a month ago I attended a seminar by a Publicist who said that in the current climate it is wise to try and get a publicist on board before entering the major festivals. He said that because there is such a huge deluge of submissions, it's helpful to either know one of the programmers or find a publicist who has programmer contacts.
Does anyone have any thoughts about this? I've been advised by ITVS folks to submit to festivals as early as possible – is it worth sending in a version that is not quite "tweaked" to it's best in order to make an early deadline? Or, is it better to wait till you have the best possible version and make it into the last possible deadline?

Thanks for your comments.

Best wishes,
Judy

Christopher Wong
Pro

while it is usually best to submit the best possible version, you also don't want to wait too long to get everything just right. top-tier festivals like Sundance only have one or two open spots left by their late deadline. probably the best thing to do is to submit the best version you have by the regular deadline.

regarding the use of a publicist, that is the dirty secret of film festivals. programmers don't like to admit it, but publicists play a very large role in getting their films to the top of the consideration pile. this is because film festivals are constantly in search of buzz, and that is exactly what publicists are good at doing. and once a publicist gets your film into one A-list festival, then all the other festivals will soon come-a-knockin'.

Doug Block
Host

Welcome aboard, Judy. If it's Sundance we're talking about, I'd submit your best version RIGHT NOW. You're at a huge advantage getting something to them earlier rather than later and I'm sure they'll see how great your film is even if it's not fully finished (full disclosure: I moderated a DocuClub work-in-progress screening of Judy's film, so I know firsthand).

By the way, the Mentoring Room is pretty much for non-members. As a full member, this kind of question should go in our Festivals topic.

Doug Block
Host

In reply to Seth Shire's post on Fri 6 Aug 2010 :

Likewise, Seth, the reason you might not be getting any replies is the technical folks generally don't hang around the Mentoring Room. As a member, you're better off posting in the Editing topic.

Judy Lieff
Pro

In reply to Doug Block's post on Wed 11 Aug 2010 :
Hi Doug,

I couldn't locate the Festivals topic last night – probably due to the fact that it was close to 2am!
Thanks for your note. We've locked picture but I wanted to get the sound in better shape before submitting. Festivals like Sundance are swamped with submissions – do you think it's helpful to know a programmer in instances like this?

Cheers,
Judy

John Burgan
Host

(no need to "sign" your posts – they are already identified by your name and photo, if you have uploaded one.)

Christopher Wong
Pro

judy,
when submitting to sundance, EVERYTHING is important... but great sound quality is probably the least crucial. i agree with doug – if your picture is locked, then get the submission into them now.

the best course is to proceed as such:
1) Get a good publicist (e.g. David Magdael, etc.)
2) Have your publicist send out a feeler to one of the programmers (e.g. David Courier)
3) Submit your cut
4) Have publicist follow up soon after

Early bird (with publicist) gets the worm!

Dean Hamer
Pro

In reply to Judy Lieff's post on Wed 11 Aug 2010 05:50 UTC :
If you get into an "A" festival you'll be able to find a good publicist – plus the festival itself will probably have a really good person on board, and if the newspapers like you're film they will cover it. It's not surprising that a publicist told you to "buy early while supplies last"! What I would like to find is a publicist who works on a contingency fee; this much if you get a feature in the NYT, that much for a review in Variety, etc.

Robert Goodman
Pro

That's never going to happen. If you find a publicist who'd agree to that arrangement, I'd run the other way. Variety reviews every film shown in competition at A-list festivals though the reviews may take months to appear. They also review films that appear likely to gain distribution.

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