What We've Learnt about Festivals - so far...

Now that we've finished our baby, we've sent it off to the university of short films: international film festivals. Submissions is a rather costly, expensive, laborious and frankly unpleasant process - much like rehab I think the first step is acknowledging that. But it is of course a path to potentially life-changing opportunity, and we never questioned whether we'd want to give our short a festival run.

Although I've dipped my toes into the festival circuit before (literally by applying to 2 London-based festivals, screening at them, not winning an award I was nominated for, then going home for ice cream), THE TRIP is our first real collective proper 'festival' experience. We've had to do a lot of research and have learnt a lot already, so I thought it may be useful to put our thoughts down for any fellow short filmmakers out there.

So here's what we've learnt so far...

1. Attending a talk about festivals is extremely useful

Even before finishing our film, Tim and I made sure to attend a full day of talks about festivals and short film distribution. Living in London we were lucky enough to attend the BAFTA: ShortSighted day, supported by ShootingPeople. This was honestly so useful- there were Q&As with festival programmers, a talk from the VP of short film distributor Shorts International, an interview with short film BAFTA winner and director Michael Lennox on deliverables and more. I've attended these sorts of things before, and really find that each time you learn something new even if the topics of discussion are the same. If nothing else, being in a room full of other short filmmakers gives you reassurance that other people are dealing with this administrative nightmare too (it can feel pretty lonely when it's just you and your producer versus the internet), and that no one really knows what they're doing. Also they gave us free notebooks and personally I LOVE stationary so that made the entry fee worth it alone.

The biggest taking I got from the day? Festivals are ultimately at the discrimination of the programmer - there's no magic remedy to getting in bar making a damn good film that fits their programme and will draw audiences. 

2. Don't put your film online - yet

For the majority of shorts, you're shooting yourself in the foot if you put the film online right away. You're immediately disqualifying your movie from a majority of festivals, and what are you actually going to get out of it? Your friends can see the film sure, but why not just send them a private Vimeo link for now? There are some shorts with 'viral' potential that may do much better online than at festivals, but personally I think it's worth at least blocking out a few months to give festivals a shot, and then popping it online to rest when you're done. You also don't want to lock yourself out of any distribution deals which, whilst they won't make you rich, are an important 2nd life for shorts. 

Personally we're putting on a private screening for cast & crew, friends, family and a few industry connections that we have. That way those close to us can see the movie, and it also makes a bit of an event out of it. By the time you're in the last stages of post it's likely that your full cast and crew haven't been together for a while, so we hope that it'll be good for everyone to check in and celebrate together (in a responsible, adult manner...).

3. Market the sh*t out of it

I honestly don't think you can do enough to market your film, particularly these days. Make a teaser trailer, make a full length trailer, make a poster. Create a Facebook page and keep it updated, and a Twitter and Instagram too if you've got the energy. Festivals want films that already have an audience - they're ultimately about putting bums on seats after all - and so you're not going to harm your chances of acceptance by growing your reach before you submit/screen. It's also nice for friends and family to see these previews of your movie - it gives them some reassurance that you're actually making something real and not just ducking out of social events and spending all your free time "working" for the sake of it.

You've also got to make a press kit (we'll upload ours here later in the life of our short) for a bunch of festivals and it's worth spending time on this. For example we sent interview questions to key cast and crew, as well as including production design sketches, visual references and on set stills. Don't worry if it's too late and you don't have all of this stuff, but try and work with what you have. No one's going to think your film's a big deal unless you make them. Put effort into making all of your materials look part of a coherent whole that the festival programmer will enjoy reading. It's also worth having a selection of key stills and pictures of the director and producer saved as Jpegs on your computer, as a lot of festival submission websites will ask for these. I would suggest keeping it humble though - I've read some press packs where there's a 10 A4 page interview with the director, for example. Thrilling if it's Lynch or Wes that made the short, less interesting if it's Bob from Northampton who's just finished his first movie (...I'm sort of from Northampton and so can make that joke).

Some festivals will ask for your press pack upon applying, whilst the majority want it after you've been accepted. Either way, it can't hurt to have everything ready to go.

4. Make a spreadsheet. Really.

For a while I thought we could survive with a neat email to do list of which festivals to attend. This is just not possible. I read the other day that there's over 3,000 film festivals out there. After having trawled through extensive lists of them, I feel like I can pretty much confirm this. Really the only way you're going to have any sort of idea where you've submitted, what deadlines are coming up and how much of your income you're spending on this is by writing it down.

A sneak peak at a very small segment of our festival submission table

A sneak peak at a very small segment of our festival submission table

Here's a preview of our submission spreadsheet. We keep it on Google Drive so that we can update it from anywhere, and both access it at all times (I'm not sponsored by Google I promise - I would have a much nicer flat if I was). Try and work out your own system for making information easy to digest - I try and put upcoming deadlines in red, and highlight whole rows in red or orange if they're coming up soon. Make sure you've noted down the premiere policies so you don't get yourself in knots; we've purposefully decided to wait till next year for some festivals that don't have a premiere policy as there's another festival in that city that we're targeting that occurs later in the calendar year. Then when you've submitted somewhere, mark it in a different colour and note down your submission reference. It's boring and it's long but it's important.

The best way to approach festivals is from a 12 month calendar, starting with when you film is absolutely completely 100% finished. Every article I've read and talk I've attended says don't submit a rough cut, even if the festival rules say it's ok, unless the festival programmer is a great friend of yours and you have a history of making incredible movies in a short space of time. Consider where you'd like your world premiere to be as this is important, as well as any national premieres, and then just break it down month by month. Where are you going to apply in July? What about August? Try and get your shit together as early as possible to avoid late nights or close shaves, or eye-watering late fees. Everything I've read or heard says to submit as early as possible. To be honest this is the cheapest way of doing it as 'earlybird' fees are often significantly cheaper, but there's also some theory that programmers are more likely to choose your film if they've still got slots open. It makes sense. If you're auditioning for a play and someone incredible comes in the first 5 minutes, you're going to have them stuck in your head for the next 5 hours and might not pay as much attention to later performers. Same logic. Don't make things harder for yourself. If you're on the very latest deadline for a festival then wait till next year - most festivals will give you a bit of leeway in completion date so you can tend to submit a year later if there's no premiere policy.

5. Work out what you want

With there being so many festivals out there, it's a minefield figuring out where the hell to apply. The conclusion Tim and I've come to is to first target the bulk of the big boys that are awards qualifiers. If you get a specific award at a specific festival then you qualify for the Oscar long-list, and if you get screened at either one A List festival or 2+ B List festivals as per BAFTA's list you can get on the long list for one of those statues. Obviously it's a hugely long shot for any filmmaker to target awards like this (frankly you shouldn't be making movies for award's sake in the first place anyway) but someone's got to win so why not think positive? Regardless of their qualifying status, these festivals have been chosen by the academies because they're top quality, so you may as well give it a crack. 

From here onwards, I'd advise a sprinkling of mid-tier festivals - the British Council lists a great selection of worthy festivals here. Then go local - festivals are (apparently) much more likely to program your film if they think you can actually attend. Also if you fit in any niche then play up to that like crazy. I am a woman so thanks to years of Hollywood misogyny I'm eligible for a load of festivals trying to even out the gender gap. There are festivals targeted at LGBT movies/filmmakers, same for ethnic minorities and so on. Then there's genre fests - horrors, for example, I believe do much better on the horror-specific festival circuit than mainstream festivals. Think about it: if a festival has 5 slots for horror movies, you're already limiting your chances. If a horror-specific festival has 40, your chances are a whole lot brighter.

6. Don't be a dick in your cover letter

A lovely last minute surprise for Tim and I after thinking we had everything ready to submit our film as finding out that pretty much every festival these days wants you to write them a unique cover letter when applying. Seeing as Tim takes several days to fine-tune any piece of writing he's involved in this wasn't the best news for our schedule. But we plough on. 

I've received mixed advice re cover letters, but the upshot is this: keep it short, keep it friendly, don't kiss too much ass but also don't sound too much up your own backside. Introduce your film briefly (remember they've got tons of press material they can read through if they want - this is a cover letter not a press pack), say why you care about being screened at that particular festival and whether it would be a premiere in that particular country if you get accepted. If you enjoyed a particular film that the festival screened in recent years, or if you've attended before yourself then say. If you're actually likely to turn up this year then say. If your mum's auntie's cousin's brother works for the festival then say.  Otherwise, keep it simple and avoid shooting yourself in the foot.  

7. There is a lot of waiting, and you will probably get rejected when you do hear

Not to put a downer on the whole thing, but word on the street is you're likely to get rejected for the bulk of fests you apply to. Frankly, mid-top tier festivals can only program about 3% of the submissions that they receive, so someone's got to miss out this time around. I'm told, though, that this genuinely doesn't necessarily mean that your film is bad. There can be so many reasons - they've already got a movie about introvert grape farmers that year, or it's between your 30 minute short or 3 x10 minute shorts to fill a pre-feature screening gap. I'm the worst person in the world for handling any criticism or rejection so I'm not fully warranted to provide comforting advice on this topic, but the best I can say is that if I can handle it, then you can too. (We actually haven't heard back from any of our submissions yet - we started applying at the end of Jan and won't hear anything until at least April. So maybe I won't handle it. Maybe I'll go off the chain. Maybe I'll buy a leather jacket and a motorbike and move to Santa Fe and work in a gas station and slowly develop an addiction to cough sweets and wind up in hospital and never make another movie EVER AGAIN. ...But I reckon I'll be ok).

I've also heard of movies that do awfully for the first 6 months of their submissions and then suddenly do really well and everyone's after them. Then there's movies which are a hit at Cannes but get rejected from almost everywhere else, or do well at a load of local fests but have zero traction beyond the pond. It's unpredictable so you may as well just enjoy any success you do have any roll with the punches.

8. Remember this is not why you make movies

This one's from my own head, not the words of others. Honestly I think the most important part of the whole whirlwind of film festivals is to remember that this is all a bit of fun. It's lovely to get accepted into a festival you respect and it's extra lovely to win an award (and that keeps your parents off your back asking when you're going to get a proper job for another year). But above all, this is all superfluous. You make movies to tell stories, to make audiences have feels, to get across your point of view (and to one day be on a yacht in Cannes with Eddie Redmayne.)

Don't let it get to you because, frankly, if the film isn't working on the festival circuit you can go back to the drawing board and make another one that's better. Focus your energy on being creative not worrying what a programmer the other side of the world thinks of your movie. 

- Sophie King, director of THE TRIP (2016)

Grading Time..

We're now nearing completion of the film, and have been working with colourist Jonny at Smoke & Mirrors to finish the grade. Here he is hard at work:

The grade is always such a great stage, as your film finally starts to look like a real finished artefact. 

Before:

After:

       

 

 

 

What a different it makes!

We're now just finishing up the sound mix with our wonderful sound editor Thomas at NFTS, and then we'll be good to go. In the mean time, we're making sure we've got all our press materials in place for the festival season. Watch this space for our brand new poster design...

Merry Christmas all!

- Sophie & Tim 

Official teaser trailer launch!

Hi all!

After a busy few months in the edit, we're getting closer and closer to finishing the film. We're just about to kick off colour grading, sound design/mix and full music composition, but to say thank you to all our amazing supporters in the meantime we've got a special little treat for you :).

Please enjoy our teaser trailer:


Full trailer is still to come, and we'll keep you posted on all other developments!

Much love as ever,

Tim & Sophie

On Graphics, Titles and Font Selection...

I've always been a stickler for good graphic design. A poor font selection is enough for me to judge that damn book by it's cover, and I'll buy a beer for anyone who can make a good Comic Sans joke that I haven't heard before.

Despite this really cool side of my personality having flourished for several years, I'm by no means a 100% professional graphic designer and there's some fancy shit I just can't do yet. But I do my best in the meantime and I'm getting there.

Now how is this all relevant? Well, let me tell you. Let me bloody tell you.

Yesterday Tim and I spent a blissful hour going through what new font we were going to use. We decided that our old font, whilst classic:

Our original font, Trajan Pro

Our original font, Trajan Pro

Pretty serious

Pretty serious

Not good for motion, argh! 

Not good for motion, argh! 

....wasn't right. THE TRIP is a classic film. It tells a classic narrative that could exist in any era, and has archetypal themes and characters (to an extent, despite being wildly innovative and different). The problem with having a font such as Trajan, then, is that it all feels terribly serious. The last thing we wanted was to take ourselves too seriously. The film was inspired by works such as Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected and the fantastic Inside No.9; pieces where the creator smirks at the audience, but in a cheeky way rather than being unpleasant. The font was also a minor technical nightmare, not taking to motion very well (see credits example. So we needed a change.

The winner?

....It's Futura! Despite downloading a heap of new custom designed super-trendy super-cool super-Shoreditch fonts, it was a good old stock favourite that made the cut. Why Futura? It's modern, but not in a Marvel-In-Your-Face sort of way. It's simple and elegant, which means people can actually read what you're saying. Why is that important?

...Because of this card someone got their lovely Aunt for their birthday, ladies and gents. Never forget the power of a legible font.

Futura also reminded me of some titles I've particularly enjoyed recently. Oh and FYI, if you enjoy overanalysing titles, you should visit artofthetitle.com, which is sort of a pornhub for graphic design lovers. With less viruses and more pleasing visuals.

Via artofthetitle.com

Via artofthetitle.com

Here's a handy image I stole from them of all the best titles from SXSW this year. Look at that Godzilla one. Pretty sexy eh? I thought so too, my friend. I really did.

Now we're just rolling out our new design over the rest of our branding. We have already released some trailers with the old branding, and that's A-OK. Marketing campaigns develop over time and so will ours. Or at least that's what my producer and I reassure ourselves.

In our view, it's better to get everything looking right than stick to your first decision. We may even change our minds again before the film's done, but that'll be ok too.

Here's a mock up of our new Facebook page with the new branding:

Our Facebook Branding

Our Facebook Branding

Watch this space for the new poster, and maybe even a sneaky teaser video heading your way soon....

Now go browse some beautiful graphic design and copy - I mean, creatively interpret - to your heart's content

-SOPHIE (& Tim. Sort of. But mainly Sophie.)

A sneaky peak!

We're now in the post production process, which means we can finally show you some stills from THE TRIP

More updates to come!

-S&T

Behind the Golden Curtain!

We promised to show you the wizard behind the curtain, so here you go. Take a look at a whole load of behind the scenes stills of Cotswolds dates of The Trip, taken by Mark Kidsley Photography.

If you're fans of our Facebook Page you'll have seen these already, but fear not, there'll be some more exclusive content for you soon...

We begin our offline edit this week after evenings full of dailies review - we'll keep you updated with how all that goes!

Tim & Soph

We filmed the bugger!

Hi all!

After 4 days of very late nights and equally early mornings, we are all slowly returning to sanity. Over the next few days we'll be posting some behind the scenes pics and footage, and then we'll update you on the post production process.

Till then, here's some footage directly from the camera to your screen. It's not been properly graded yet, but it'll be a sneaky peak for you of how THE TRIP is going to look.

-Love Sophie & Tim



The Script!

Here comes the big moment. Whilst we don't have a generic Irish band for you to download, we do have the full final script for our movie. Please don't share it around, but have a read for your personal pleasures as one of our special people.

-S&T

Location Recce

A good location recce is really important. You need to physically go to your locations and see if they have the cinematic and practical potential to form the backdrop of your film. They're also useful when getting crew on board, as for a DOP and Production Designer, having a great location means they can have far more scope in their roles. 

Below is our recce for the Cotswold half of our film. We spent a weekend in the country driving around to find the best scenery that would help us tell our story in the right way, whilst considering any logistical implications of shooting there. We tried to emulate the shots we wanted to get, giving us confidence that it was possible to bring our tale to life here.

Enjoy!

Our Original Film Treatment

When getting people on board for your film, it's vital to have a well presented treatment that includes the basics of your project so far. Here's our treatment, which was sent out to agents, cast and crew to get them behind our vision for the film, and secure their talents on making it become a reality.

The visual references are the work of others which inspired us, whilst all other materials are ours.

Enjoy!

Director's Visual References

As promised, here is the full document of Sophie's visual references for the film. Now these aren't our stills, they're from the amazing work of others, but we felt it important to show you all the films that have inspired us and our DOP.

Enjoy!

Day 1 on set!

Hello and welcome to our first on set production blog!

After a looooooong prep time, we finally commenced shooting this Saturday in West London. We had a lot to fit in to the schedule, juggling the constant caution of shooting in a real location of a gorgeous home with getting all the coverage we needed.

Although Tim and I had met with almost all of the cast and crew before, it was the first time that nearly everyone was together, and so it was great to see our friends get to know each other and rapidly learn each other's weaknesses, which they could then take the piss out of each other with. 

We had some tricky scenes to shoot: a sex scene, a seduction and more. I was particularly keen that these scenes were directed in a way that was frank and natural, rather than awkwardly staging anything in what I referred to as a 'GCSE Drama', over-sentimentalised approach. Our actors, Sope and Katie, were remarkable at just getting on with it, and the crew had a lot of fun standing in for them when the actors were off set. 

Potential problems of snow, illness and having-to-work-on-a-Saturday were all overcome quickly, and copious amounts of sweets and fizzy drinks kept our fully grown adults content. 

Below are a load of pictures from the day, from ungraded rushes on my monitor, to scenes of Tim trying to look like he knows what he's doing.

Later this week we're off to the Cotswolds to film the bulk of the movie, but until then, bye for now

-Sophie (& Tim)  

It's nearly time!

With just a day or so to go until we start shooting THE TRIP, we thought we'd update you on what we've been up to. Our pre-production process has been long and exhausting but also very enjoyable, as the gallery below shows.

We've been darting from London, to the Cotswolds, to France, to work on the film. We've been drilling everyone we know for their opinions on the script, and have been lucky to secure an amazing professional team who have put a lot of effort into their pre-shoot prep. We've had cast and crew drinks, a multitude of meetings, and have worked well into the night many a time.

Now we're finally ready to begin shooting this weekend, and we will be sure to update you on how that goes, with a load of pictures and behind the scenes clips for you all!

Sophie & Tim x