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.

Christopher Wong

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

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

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

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?


John Burgan

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

Christopher Wong

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

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

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.

Sanford Lewis

I am a new user of the site. Apologies if this question is already discussed somewhere on this site – I couldn't find it easily.

I am working on a feature length documentary related to dance and personal growth, for theatrical or broadcast release. My immediate question and quandary has to do with the degree to which I may undermine the ultimate product if I do incremental releases of related products (using some of the footage, for a different audience) prior to completion. It occurs to me that a lot of the footage that I am gathering will be of interest to the specialized audience of dancers who understand this form, and that this audience is different from the broader audience I hope to reach with the end product. So I am thinking about producing and releasing some products in the interim, either through digital download or DVD sales prior to completing the final film. One thing that will distinguished the final film is that there will be a core story arc completely different from the prior releases; also I envision a much broader audience rather than the specialized audience of the prior releases. This is partly an interim funding strategy, partly about creating buzz, and partly just a way of mitigating the artistic frustration of wanting to share footage with the smaller community that will most easily "get" it.

- Is this a bad idea?
- How much (or in what circumstances) would this undermine entering the final film in film festivals?
- What are the things I need to avoid?
- Though it would complicate things, and not be 100%, would it be advisable to make a general practice of designating specific clips EITHER for the final film or the interim products but not both?
- Is there a discussion of this dilemma/strategy somewhere on the D-Word site already?