Skip to main content

"A Stone Throw" does the festival circuit

The short film I recently directed (A Stone Throw) is officially finished and my Producer, Dale Fairbairn, has entered it into strategically-picked festivals around the world.

Rotterdam, Clermont-Ferrand and Mumbai now have a copy. Oberhausen, Germany is next. The plan is, before we release it here, for a local screening in Western Australia, we want to give it a bit of international pizazz.

But the chances of getting our short into an international festival are slim.

Making a short film is strange. There's no demand for it. You don't get paid (well, you get about $1 per hour). And sending it off to the festivals costs a lot of money. AUS$200 for entry fee and freight and another $400 for the Digi Betacam print - should your film be accepted. Some of the bigger, international festivals (like Cannes, Venice and Berlin) receive up to 1,500 short films from around the world and screen about 15. They will only screen your film on 35mm - which means that you (or the Australian Film Commission and your state giovernment) have to suddenly raise $15,000 for a 10 minute print!

It's a crazy business and I'm not sure why I'm in it.

You end up spending your fee. My fee was originally going to be $1,500, but that was pared back to $500 when we calculated marketing costs. So there's no income to speak of. I develop websites and teach for that.

In Australia, if you're lucky, the State government will give you a budget. The WA government usually gets around 50 short film scripts each year - all vying for a stockpile of $120,000. That usually translates to two lots of $60,000. It costs about $10,000 per minute to make a short film. Our film is 11 minutes, so we had to make the money stretch. The Federal government sometimes steps in to finance the shortfall, but you can't rely on that (they get hundreds of such requests per year). Money spent is seen as a kind of industry development and many short film crews are made up of non-paid, budding student filmmakers.

A Stone Throw cost $66,000 and was entirely funded by ScreenWest and the State Lotteries Commission. It's my sixth funded short, but I've made about 25 all together. And I've been down this road before.

In 1991, I directed a film called Bunny. It cost $25,000 and did very well on the festival circuit. It even sold to Channel 10, Seven, and SBS here in Australia. In 2003, it even screened on a Spanish cooking show! That didn't mean I got paid more. The copyright belongs to the Producer, not the director (unless your Producer asks if you want a share like Dale did). Mostly, copyright on a short film is worthless as they rarely return more than about $1,000.

They almost NEVER return their original budget.

In 1991 Bunny was sent to the Australian Film Commission's marketing department who called to ask me for publicity materials. Some big festivals were interested. So I scrabbled together a bio, photos etc. From 300 Australian shorts, Bunny was selected by both the Cannes and Oberhausen festival representatives. The reps took 3 Australian films back to each of the festival juries. Unfortunately, both juries passed on australian shorts that year.

So. While most of me is trying to drum up more web work and marking student assignments, another part of me is watching the phone. Hopefully, I'll have some good news for my next post.

Until then, please leave a comment.


Popular posts from this blog

The Three by Five Card Index System

Here's another approach to writing your screenplay. The screenwriter's friend. Introducing the infamous Three by Five Card Index System.

Wow! How can I get one?

In my case - I made it. What it amounts to is this: Three 90cm x 40cm sheets of chipboard hinged together so that the whole thing stands like a concertina on a table or floor.

Every 5cm or so down, I have drawing-pinned small cardboard hinges (triangles if you will) made from old file dividers. These become placeholders for your cards.

A couple of bunches of 3 inch by 5 inch index cards (available in packs of 100 at any newsagency) and there you have it. A sure fire way to make your screenplay bubble to the top of the pile . . . Not. But it's a tool and writers need their tools.

Cool. How does it work?

As you can see - each act has three mini-acts in it (fitting in with Australian script theorist Linda Heys' Second Act Story). Or rather - going one step further and suggesting that all three acts have a beginning, …

The Drug That Killed River Phoenix

This article was going to be about a new drug I'm on called Duomine, but as I knew very little about River Phoenix (aka the vegan Jimmy Dean) I thought I'd swat up on what's really going on behind that brain-worm ditty. I'll talk about Duomine another time.The song line I'm on the drug that killed River Phoenix is from Aussie alternative band TISM's tasteless 1995 single (He'll Never Be An) Ol' Man River - and it's a bit cheap, frankly. The single's cover shows a mock-up of River's tombstone and was released shortly after his death. TISM were well-known for criticisin Imperial Hollywood and US pop culture, but they were masters when it came to borrowed interest marketing. More about these guys later.River Bottom's Awkward LifeIn 1944, River's mother Arlyn was born to a Jewish family living in the Bronx. When she finished school, she married a computer programmer but quickly grew bored of her secretarial life. In 1968, at 24, Arlyn dr…

Script development on a budget

Most people abhor criticism and nobody likes to open their wallet. If you are either, don’t - whatever you do - write a feature film screenplay. I almost guarantee that nobody will read it without being paid.

More importantly never go into production on a script that hasn’t been very heavily criticised, rewritten, analysed, rewritten gain, ripped apart, gutted and finally ... rewritten. I'm sure you can name a thousand movies with huge plot holes or character problems. Problems which could have easily been patched up with just a few bucks investment. Criticism is not the same as rejection.
While Mum will happily read your screenplay, getting constructive feedback from industry professionals costs money. Constructive criticism is the key to morphing an ailing screenplay into a great feature film. Nothing else will do this. Unfortunately, getting anyone who’s not your mother to read your screenplay (or read beyond your synopsis and director's notes) costs money. Even if you don&#…