Wednesday 19 October 2022

On Film Festival Entry Fees - David King launches a debate with a ferocious objection

Editor's Note:
David King (above) is an Australian film-maker who also runs the Exploratory Visions animation + experimental + avant garde film program from The Screening Room, Salto 1 TV (Amsterdam). This year's edition will run from November 26 - 27 and December 03 - 04 (two weekends), streaming internationally from Salto 1's platform. He also runs the Eclectic Dreams video art program which streams internationally from Visual Container TV (Milan) from July through to September.  

This comment was recently posted on his Facebook page and is reprinted here with permission.


I am a bit pissed off with film festivals seeking my entries with offers of up to 90% off the standard entry fee. Fuck that.

Do cinemas charge filmmakers to screen their films? No. They pay the distributors for the right to screen those films and the money trickles down to the filmmakers (or hopefully does - in many cases it absolutely does not, especially in the low-no budget distribution scene).
At the very top of the scene, filmmakers and video artists get paid a shitload to do what they do.
So why would any filmmaker or video artist PAY to get screened?
If you are paying festival entry fees, you are being conned. If your work is worth being screened, it's worth being paid for...unless the person screening it is, like me, an old pensioner who is doing it out of the goodness of his heart and for the love of the scene. In no other case should any filmmaker or video artist agree to screen their films for no money, except also maybe for humanitarian reasons..
If you refuse to play these festivals' game, you will eventually win for they will have nothing to screen and have to shut down. They are making money and existing because of filmmakers' desperation to be 'seen'. In 95 per cent cases, you are NOT being seen, except by other filmmakers (and their friends and families) in that particular festival. Waste of time.
It's largely a con. Beating it requires solidarity from all filmmakers and video artists. After all, there's still YouTube and Vimeo, right?
You should NEVER as an artist pay anyone to screen your work. THEY should be paying YOU, and I - the curator of two independent programs will tell you straight down the line, that that is exactly what I would be doing if if I could find a way to get the money to do it. Maybe it would be wise to charge the audience. If they don't want to pay to watch it, then it's not something that's viable.
But no way am I going to charge filmmakers or video artists to screen in any of my programs. That, to my mind, is criminal. It's the equivalent to vanity publishing of books where authors pay a 'publisher' to publish their (otherwise unpublishable) book and the author ends up with a garage load of books that have not been sold.
Start looking at film and video art festivals in these terms and see what happens. You begin to lose faith in what you do.
So it's easier to go on paying and maybe get an award and feel good with yourself. But don't forget - you PAID for that award. They did not pay YOU (except those very few festivals which do return the entry fees to winners and pay you some cash if you win an award but they are far and few between).
I stopped kidding myself about this scene many years ago. All I'm doing here is saying don't play their game. Start a new one. A better one. The moment I can pay the filmmakers and video artists who screen in my programs, I will.
They won't. They don't give a stuff about you. Only themselves. Only their own survival. That's why they exist despite their claims of otherwise. If they genuinely cared about you, they would find a way to pay you. I wrong? Discuss...

Among many comments on on David's Facebook page was this one which brought a further response from David below

Dartagnan Label
I agree but they charged you to watch your film not to screen it. Bear in mind there are millions of films (most of them terrible amateur creations).

David's Response to Dartagnan Label
That's the problem - charging to watch films. No reputable publisher charges to read authors' books. Many (in fact, most) of them will not accept unsolicited manuscripts. They require a writer to get themselves an agent (who will not charge to read their work either, but who will not accept anyone who has not reached a certain standard) and that agent will vouch for the quality of the work. 
The problem film festivals have is the Open Call where 'anyone' can send in a film. I don't have an Open Call. I don't wade through hundreds or thousands of films and neither should anyone else. I select filmmakers from those I know, those recommended by other curators, and those I've found on places like Vimeo, and ask them for a work they would be happy to screen. So there is no rejection and no need to pay someone to watch hours of dreck. And any of the filmmakers or video artists who screen in my programs can recommend another filmmaker or video artist whom they know and respect. 

Filmmakers and video artists can become 'agents' for each other. Sometimes, an unknown filmmaker or video artist will find out about my programs and ask if they can send a work or a link. Because I'm not overwhelmed by hundreds or thousands of entries (not having an Open Call), I'll usually agree. If their work is good and suits one or both of my programs, they enter 'the stable' of filmmakers from whose bodies of work I draw on. After a particular filmmaker or video artist has had work screened in three consecutive programs, I seek to rotate them with another so new names appear. 

My purpose in doing all this is to showcase work which I consider to be outstanding, excellent, brilliant or just plain amazing and to provide a quality platform on which the artists can showcase their works in good company. This, I believe, is a much better system. By doing it, I hope to open more people's eyes to the amazing array of outstanding work which falls under the banners of animation, experimental, avant garde and video art.

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