First things first.
We are still working on all manner of projects, including a possible sequel to The New Hope, a film about a group of university friends holding a reunion in France called Mantis, and a film about members of a singularity cult who decide to blow up server farms called How to Get Killed in the UK. This is not to mention our unnamed musical project about London’s French community. Hopefully one or more of these will get made in the next few months.
Recently we travelled to Portugal, where we did the principal photography for an experimental film about actors and acting called La Belle Noise. The movie stars Beg Steal Borrow regular Dennis Chua and newcomer Colin Morgan in the lead roles. Alya Soliman and Guy Farber helped out on the production, which featured numerous contributions from participants at and around the Fest Film Festival in Espinho, just south of Porto.
Fest provided the backdrop to the film, with William Brown also delivering a masterclass on zero-budget directing at the festival.
We are continuing post-production work on
This is Cinema and The Benefit of Doubt. Imminently our collaborative epistolary film with Macedonian filmmaker Vladimir Najdovski will be completed and will enjoy a screening in London. Keep an eye out for this!
William’s recently completed short film Clem, which is about one of the cats that lived with his family during his childhood, played at the 2018 Film-Philosophy Conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, where it was generally well received.
On a separate note, though, Circle/Line was accepted into the Jogja International Film Festival in Indonesia, where it received an International Award of Merit.
While this sounds like good news, there was no actual screening of the film, since the organisers of the festival insist that all filmmakers be present if their film is to be screened – and William could not afford the cost of the airfare to Indonesia.
Failing the presence of the filmmaker, one can pay a local representative to be at the film, while the festival also only accepts films that have been burnt to DVD/BluRay by the local designated company. Oddly, the festival does not accept file transfers.
The combination of these quirky policies has led William to question whether the festival is really one aimed at getting the filmmaker to spend money locally in Indonesia, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but which does reaffirm the way in which many festivals are not screening stuff because they really like it, but for other reasons, perhaps here economic.
This prompted William to survey his festival submissions over the past few years. Looking at FilmFreeway alone, William has submitted his projects to a total of 128 festivals.
There have from this been 11 acceptances, 113 rejections and 3 submissions the outcome of which has not yet been decided. This means that less than one in 10 submissions has resulted in an acceptance.
Of those 11 acceptances, two were for film scripts (or rather, for the same film script, namely Kiss & Make-Up – at the Oaxaca FilmFest and at Scriptapalooza respectively), while six acceptances were for films that ultimately did not have a screening (with those screening-less festivals being the Beijing International Film Festival, the Stockholm Independent Film Festival, the UK Monthly Film Festival and the Barcelona Planet Film Festival, which supposedly accepted three of our films at once).
This then leaves three festivals alone as having taken our work and actually screened it – with one of those being a screening of The New Hope at the Bad Film Festival in New York, where there was an audience of zero people (although this number has not officially been confirmed). Otherwise, Letters to Ariadne played at the Validate Yourself Film Festival in New York (where over two thirds of the audience walked out and where the festival organiser himself tried to clap the film off the stage), and Circle/Line played at the wonderful East End Film Festival in London.
This means ultimately that 128 submissions have led to three film screenings, a hit rate of less than one in 40. And it means that a sum of roughly £1,500 has led to about 100 people watching our films. In order words, we are paying about £15 per head for people to watch our films.
(This is not as bad as the £400 paid to a cinema in London recently to show a preview screening of The Benefit of Doubt, and to which 10 people turned up. A simple case of mathematics: for that screening we paid £40 per person to be there!)
A couple of things follow from this, the last of which will be a typical performance of self-deprecation.
The first is that if you want to make some easy money, we suspect that you could do worse than to set up a film festival that never actually runs, or which if it does run, plays only one or two films from among those ‘selected.’ All you need really to do is to give to people ‘palms’ (if that) so that they can put them on their poster to give their film the air of having had ‘festival success.’
Charging a small fee in order to attract those filmmakers who do not have the money to foot £75 entry charges, I imagine that you would have a steady stream of 50-100 submissions each month (especially if you create a ‘rolling’ festival, like the UK Monthly Film Festival). At, say, £10 a pop, that would make you between £500 and £1,000 per month, minus your fee to Film Freeway. It would certainly help with the rent and/or to pay for one’s own creative projects – including the hire of a venue at which to the screen your own work (something that William has also spotted some festivals as doing).
The second point is that such a low hit rate would suggest that our/my/William’s filmmaking is shit – since no one wants to watch it (we have to pay people to watch our work).
Even after a high profile screening of Circle/Line at the East End Film Festival, not a single door has been opened in terms of giving to that film a further festival life – in much the same way that no festival screening has ever in our careers led to further festival screenings, with none of our 14 feature films having played at more than two festivals (and with none of our shorts having ever been selected for a film festival at all).
This compares very negatively with numerous other filmmakers, whose work seems to enjoy a ‘run’ of 30 or 40 festivals with a single film.
Perhaps one day we’ll work out what it is that we do wrong. But certainly we are just wrong, or we just get it wrong the absolute vast majority of the time. We certainly very rarely get it right – in terms of not just having a screening, but also in terms of people actually liking what it is that we do.
I guess, however, that we carry on – even if it is to the displeasure of those who wish that we would just give up, and even if it is to the displeasure of those who enjoy having a good laugh/bitch at our expensive when our work is mentioned in conversation.
Because if we didn’t carry on, then the feeling of not being right would become overwhelming, since it also is linked with not being right for this world. And the logical thing to do for someone who is not right for this world is to remove oneself from it.