So We Submitted the Hollywouldn'ts to TIFF

So We Submitted the Hollywouldn'ts to TIFF

So We Submitted the Hollywouldn'ts to TIFF, blog post by Darius Stevens Wilhere

It's been a week of all-nighters and I just dropped off the festival screener for the Hollywouldn'ts at the local post office on the last possible day to submit to the Toronto International Film Festival. I'm still missing final audio and music, but the film is inching ever closer to done and you are allowed to submit works in progress.

Will it get accepted? Only festival programmers know. I hope so. It seems like a perfect festival movie. A celebration and self-aware look at the struggles of independent film making and the illogical hopes most of us cling to. it's got plenty of the cliches we hate to love and lots of the stereotypes we love to hate. Despite the grueling work, my best friends and I had a blast making it. So that's something.

Is that enough? Will it stand out enough from the 6000 other submissions that TIFF receives yearly? I can only hope. When I watched the post office worker walk away with the DVD screener, the immortal words of Yeats came to my mind:

Had I even a modest independent film’s budget,
You've heard of the kind,
Blessed with a paid cast and crew, actual food and decent light,
New days that didn't begin at the end of shooting we are doing tonight,
A DIT who didn’t lose my footage, someone to do an actress’s hair,
someone to pull focus or even hold the camera,
When my back, once broken, screams for yet another Advil and a decent chair
Add to that an art director who showed up on time and read the call sheet,
Man, if I had all of these things and more, I would lay a beautiful film before your feet
A film fit for the gods of studio purchasers sipping deep of golden broths
A film made as though it had been fashioned out of Marvel’s costume cloths.
But I, being the poor filmmaker that I am, have only my dreams;
Dreams inspired from the masters who have walked this hard road before me
Dreams captured on impossible shoot days under almost unbearable circumstances,
Dreams flickering on failing pixels and cut together through sleepless nights
Dreams I have, perhaps a little foolishly, spread under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Or something like that. Bitching aside, there weren't many of us, but every person there was amazing.

 20 days with that rig on a back I broke in 2005. A sado-masochistic delight.

20 days with that rig on a back I broke in 2005. A sado-masochistic delight.

It still surprises me after having worked on films for so long how much work it takes to finish one film. I suppose because this is the first time I've had to do so much of the work by myself.

While I was in the color correction bay I happened to strike up a conversation with a film festival programmer for one of the big festivals here in LA. It was a great, warm-hearted and friendly conversation about films we loved, the struggles of no-budget filmmaking and the realities of film festivals and the overwhelming amount of submissions that the big festivals receive. It really brought home to me that most of the people who work at film festivals do so because they love film more than most people in this world.

 The Color Correction bay at Pace Pictures.

The Color Correction bay at Pace Pictures.

He mentioned three interesting things which caused me to think about my career path thus far, and what I see up ahead and I thought I'd share them here.

1. Of 100 people who attend festivals and say they are going to write/direct a film, maybe 10 of them will do that. Out of all the people who ever do a first film, only 20% will ever direct a second film. Be that 20%.

When he told me this, it was completely real to me why this would be the case. I'm more exhausted then I've ever been in my life. Trying to do a freelance day job to pay the bills, take care of two small children, have time for my family and be working on a completely separate career as a writer/director which god only knows when I'll see money from, is rough.

It is rough not only physically because you spend months and months editing your film by night and working by day it is also rough mentally and spiritually as you struggle with your responsibilities as a father and husband turning down 9-5 jobs to have freedom to pursue your dreams, but then frantically wondering every month, how am I going to pay rent this month.

Jumping from odd construction jobs, random visual effects work, corporate video editing, technical writing and who knows what else to make an honest buck while pushing the dream ahead with that hope, that irrational, illogical belief that somehow out of the hundreds of thousands of people all frantically trying to make enough noise to start a career in this cut-throat business, that somehow, someway, our voice will be heard.

But I'm doomed to pursue my dreams against all sane recommendations to do otherwise. So now I'm working on getting the next film going. I want to be one of those 20% who do go on to make more films because I not only accept the crazy amount of work I must do, I embrace it as part of the journey.

2. We get that you don't have money, but please don't use that as an excuse to make films that just exist in one or two locations.

I commented to him that on the Hollywouldn'ts we had shot almost 60 locations in 20 days and aside from him stating the obvious (that we were insanse) he told me about the incredible amount of films that programmers watch from no/low budget film makers who use their budget as an excuse to stay in one place. He said that rarely are they worth watching because most times it isn't a creative decision that forces the film to live in one place, but a logistical one and that rarely leads to a great film.

His advice was: make low budget films that stand out from the crowd by moving the story around. Stretch your creative muscle and figure out how to keep the story evolving visually through different locations. One of the reasons films work is because the constant new visual stimuli they present us. 

3. Your film will get into a festival somewhere, make sure you do two things. 

He mentioned at the thousands of festivals that exist today. Many of the smallers ones existing solely on the entry fees of the film makers. The real point of a festival for actual film makers is not for the shiny prizes. It is for the opportunity to meet other artists, see how people react to your film and hopefully find someone who wants to make another one with you.

So the two suggestions:

1. Be very honest with yourself why you are submitting to that festival or going. Because odds being what they are, if you are a no-budget filmmaker, you probably aren't going to win a statue. If the festival has found your film worth sharing with their attendees, use that opportunity to the fullest to see your film through new eyes and forge new alliances.

2. Be ready to answer the question: What's next? This is the old-fashioned "Strike while the iron is hot" deal. If you are lucky enough to generate buzz, people who make movies will want to know what you are going to do next, use that momentum to develop new partnerships and get your next project moved as far forward as possible.

*******

I think all of his advice was great and I know I'll be focused on that in the months ahead as I prepare the Hollywouldn'ts for a festival run and work on getting the next film off the ground.

So We Submitted the Hollywouldn'ts to TIFF, blog post by Darius Stevens Wilhere

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Finishing the First Cut on The Hollywouldn'ts

Finishing the First Cut on The Hollywouldn'ts

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