Friday, 21 October 2005

"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.