We are not alone!
When we started the Dallas Video Festival in 1987 I had no idea what it meant to do a festival. Where do you get the work from, and how do you do all this stuff? All I knew was I needed to find a video projector that had a good image (which was very hard in 1987) and I knew I wanted to do something different than the film festivals I had been to. I had been to a few video fests in Ohio and L.A., but wanted to craft something unique.
I learned many lessons the hard way, like to have extra Betacam decks (just in case one, or two, or even four of them go down in one night), that we needed to make prints of production stills, if we hoped to get a photo published in the newspaper, and exactly what this desktop publishing thing was. I had no idea that running a festival meant you were a book publisher, a bumper producer, a video editor, a publicist, and so many other jobs I had no idea how to do.
We like many folks starting a film fest had to learn on the fly, because there was no book on how to do it (there are a few now). As more festivals popped up around the region we could talk to each other, and help each other, and that was great. But I really didn’t feel like I had found my tribe until I went to the Film Festival Alliance/Art House Convergence Conference last year. It was wonderful… It was wonderful to talk to people who are going through the same things you are, asking the same questions, and sharing techniques, and approaches, and stories.
I have gone to many conferences and festivals but I took more notes at this FFA/AHC conference than I at anything else I could think of. The buzz for me came from a mix of meeting festival directors of both smaller and larger fests, and getting to know them and their issues, mixed with real nuts and bolts info. My favorite session last year was the “anatomy of a festival,” where Jon Gann (Film Festival Alliance Director of Programming) interviewed several festival directors in detail about how they did things, including how many volunteers it took to put on their event, and several other aspects, but in real detail.
It was also great to meet some of the distributors who we have been working with for years, yet only knew from email and voice mail. This conference is put on by film fest people for film fest people, as opposed to other film fests conferences that seem to be money making schemes rather than offering any real help or insight.
And like most conferences, the time and opportunities you get to talk to people at meals and cocktail hours (for which there are many) are great.
In many places, festival folks want to keep what they have learned and who their contacts are (both sponsors and distributors) to themselves. However, here you will find people in a gab session over a beer and snacks, answer the question you did not even know that you needed to know. And having better film festivals all around is good for all of us.
It is a bit cold and you need some snow boots.
See you in Midway.