Hamptons International Film Festival > From Film Fans to Filmmakers – YouTube and Other Digital Platforms Transform Filmmaking
Featured Post written by Richard Bever (Producer & Co-President, Chill Films)
When HIFF was launched twenty years ago, creating a short film was typically a substantial undertaking. It often required a backpack full of cash (or a healthy credit limit), access to expensive equipment, and often weeks/months of preparation and execution.
Flash forward to the Facebook Age, where short-filmmaking can be as simple as penning a blog, if not more so. Although the greater bulk of accessible content equates to cats performing on pianos or other whimsical genres and memes, in this era of online distribution, outlets such as YouTube (@YouTube) and the New Media Film Festival (@NewMediaFF) are advancing the creative spirit of short- filmmaking for everyone (filmmaker and film fans alike). And fortunately, as online film festivals proliferate, aspiring storytellers are learning to appreciate the difference between filmmaking and pedestrian video-blogging.
One of the more notable online film festivals has been the inaugural Your Film Festival on YouTube. In January 2012, YouTube launched the Your Film Festival — a global competition for filmmakers to showcase their short films.
On August 1, 2012, YouTube announced ten short films(with over 3 million YouTube fans watching and voting on these films) as finalists. Filmmakers submitted their works from all over the world — ranging as far and wide as from the USA to Australia. These film finalists will subsequently screen their films at the Venice Film Festival this September where a jury led by Ridley Scott will select the Grand Prize Winner.
The winner of the Your Film Festival will receive a $500,000 grant with which to produce a film in conjunction with Academy Award-nominated actor Michael Fassbender, Ridley Scott and his Scott Free Productions team. YouTube has, indeed, come a long way.
Other notable online festivals include the Once a Week Online Film Festival (@onceaweekfilm), the Vimeo Festival + Awards (@vimeofestawards) , the PBS Online Film Festival, and the New Media Festival. “Online competitions serve the filmmakers well, especially for audience Awards,” said Susan Johnston, Festival Director of the New Media Festival in our interview on the topic. “Their job becomes getting people to vote for them – it’s a fantastic method for filmmakers to exploit social media for their career. If you’re savvy and social you can reap the reward.” And as for the audience, she added “we’re making our decisions more and more rapidly as to our consumption. And for online film, shorter media fits best for this consumption.”
Johnston mentioned that one drawback of current technology is that “everyone thinks they’re a filmmaker, as everyone has a smartphone or small device to record images. It’s what you do with your equipment and these images that make you a filmmaker – a storyteller. Honoring stories worth telling – that’s our premise.”
Another tradeoff in online festivals versus mainstream film festivals (or live theatrical festivals, as they’re being differentiated) is that with online festivals, you must predominantly rely on your social media skills as a means to finding success. But face-to-face exposure is still crucial to the business of filmmaking — communicating confidently with a variety of film professionals is a talent that is best developed in person.
Nothing quite compares to the nerve-racking, exhilarating experience of sitting in a darkened theater with a large, enthusiastic crowd of eager film fans, seeing and feeling their reaction to your work first-hand. In addition, post-screening Q&As and discussions with the audience can be very illuminating for the filmmaker in perfecting his/her craft. These live theater experiences, coupled with attending festival parties and panels, give filmmakers the opportunity to network with film industry and media professionals. These theater experiences afford the filmmaker the opportunity to bring their story to a broader audience, and help them to create career-long relationships with key people. These opportunities are all part of the priceless, live film festival experience that cannot (as of yet) be recreated online or on mobile devices (social media be damned).
These differences aside, as the exclusively new media festivals continue to multiply and gain industry acknowledgement and acceptance, a growing amount of mainstream film festivals will undoubtedly begin developing online components to their business plan (a few festivals have already have done this). The main advantage of adding online and mobile competitions to programs for live festivals is that these distinctly digital platforms create an opportunity for the festival to engage filmmakers and patrons intimately, year-round, and relatively inexpensively compared with live-events done year-around that serve the same purpose. Just the same, you can bet that the more established, respected online and mobile festivals will likely begin to incorporate elements of the live theatrical festival experience that is so crucial to the filmmaker’s craft and engagement with their audience.
New media festivals have mushroomed all over the world. Film festivals dedicated to digital platforms have become so popular and abundant that Smart Movie Making (a website dedicated to reporting on new wave cinema and the “digital revolution”) aggregated a comprehensive list of the best, international online and mobile festivals earlier this year. Here are just a few of their picks:
For the complete list and more information on each new media festival, view the entire post (The Best Online Mobile Film Festivals) here. Additionally, for a look at how these new platforms are changing the film industry and tapping new, undiscovered talent, view this feature news report (video) by the BBC (Will the Next Cinema Classics Be Shot on Phones?) here.
Whether seeking out exclusive online festivals or live theatrical festivals for their audience, the aspiring filmmaker has exponentially more access to production and distribution than the cumbersome amateur film crew did twenty years ago – an opportunity of which millions (including film fans itching to emulate the beauty of storytelling they see in their favorite independent films) are taking advantage.
Richard Bever is a Los Angeles-based producer and co-president of Chill Films who is the former Head of Development and Production at Andrew Lauren Productions, which produced the Oscar-nominated film The Squid and the Whale during his tenure. Among his producing credits are In Memory of My Father; Audrey; Against the Current (Sundance 2009).
Richard is currently packaging films that range from the crime story Our Lady of Jackson Heights starring Kiefer Sutherland (@RealKeifer) and to be directed by veteran actor Brian Cox, to the drama The Gardener’s Daughter by writer Steven Peros (Cat’s Meow; Footprints), to be directed by Dean Pollack (Audrey; Show and Tell). Richard recently executive produced the documentary Wish Me Away (Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at Los Angeles Film Festival (@lafilmfest)) and he is currently working on the documentary Rebels of the Third Age and is in preproduction on the teen comedy GBF to be directed by Darren Stein (Jawbreaker).