UPDATE #2, January 29, 2011: I’ve written a post about the New Mexico International Film Festival’s 2011 program schedule which, in light of this entire article below and the conversation had in the comments, should be read. I do not consider the New Mexico International Film Festival a Certified Film Threat in Progress anymore, and apologize for letting my optimism and excitement for what sounded like a truly unique idea get the better of me.
UPDATE#1: As of October 20, 2010, this campaign has canceled funding. Shame, really. Read on to find out what could have been, and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
We’re switching things up again with this week’s Certified Film Threat in Progress because, despite our best efforts, the interview that was originally planned to run today with filmmaker, and future film festival director, Justin Eugene Evans fell through… numerous times. Justin has been out at the Anaheim International Film Festival with his feature film “A Lonely Place For Dying,” and I’ve been wandering Philadelphia for the FirstGlance Philadelphia Film Fest and the Philadelphia Film Festival. Excuses aside, I still think that Justin’s project is worth taking a look at and, instead of moving it to next Monday’s column, figured I’d go ahead without the interview. Why? Because all my questions are pretty much answered at the New Mexico International Film Festival’s Kickstarter page.
The idea behind the festival is a simple one: the business model for film festivals today is broken. Common filmmaker gripes include expensive submission fees, poor festival attendance, shoddy festival projection or venues and a lack of compensation when the films play. Now, while I could argue the pluses and minuses of film festivals, and how and why they operate the way they do, for hours from numerous perspectives (I’ve worked for festivals, I’ve covered festivals as press and I’ve even been there as crew for festival films), for this situation, I’m willing to look at the more pro-filmmaker side of things, and how the New Mexico International Film Festival plans to change things up.
The fest proposes to do the following:
- Selected filmmakers will receive 50% of the box office gross
- Selected filmmakers will be given space at both the ticket booth and at each screening to sell merchandise, and will be entitled to keep 100% of the earnings
- Selected filmmakers will be reimbursed for travel (up to $200.00 for short filmmakers & $300.00 for feature filmmakers).
- Selected filmmakers will receive a paid hotel room.
- Selected filmmakers will receive pre-paid meals at participating restaurants.
- Selected filmmakers will get their submission fees back.
- There will be no awards. The emphasis is on the festival/filmmaker profit-sharing instead of trophies or cash prizes.
- Every screening will be exhibited with the festival’s own properly calibrated, 1080p, 5.1 surround sound system.
- Ticket agents will receive customer service training.
- The festival will be shorter (4 days instead of the standard 7-10) to make sure only the best films are programmed, without fest filler.
- The festival will travel every year and set up shop in a different New Mexican town.
- Instead of paper signs or posters, 42″ 1080p kiosks will be set up throughout the festival area that show trailers, promotional stills, posters, sneak peaks, behind-the-scenes featurettes, film information and daily schedules.
- The fest website will have digital schedules available. Preloaded iPads will also be located at every venue throughout the festival.
- After Parties will focus on an intimate setting with more measured music rather than the normal, loud music associated with many festival party venues.
Sounds good, right? Well, it definitely sounds ambitious when you consider that Justin is only trying to raise $8,000 via Kickstarter. It is my experience that all the above will cost much, much more than that, but a smart festival director (and staff) can usually find the right sponsors or trade to shorten the gap. Still… ambitious.
So where exactly is that $8,000 going? From the Kickstarter page:
Your financial contribution will be used for:
- Buy cutting edge exhibition equipment, including projectors, speakers, carts & TV’s.
- Purchase sound-treating material. Since we will be exhibiting in small towns high in the mountains there won’t be any local movie theaters. We need to transform local spaces into acoustically amazing spaces.
- Media exposure. Our primary goal is to be the example of what every festival should be. We need other film festivals to know what we have done, to see how we have turned their stodgy business model on its ear and to feel pressure from filmmakers who hopefully will ask the question “If the NMIFF can do this, why can’t everyone?”
- Plane tickets, hotel rooms & food for our annual artists.
- General festival operational expenses. From cell phone bills to graphic artists, from vinyl banners to caterers, festivals are expensive. We have eliminated every unnecessary expense we can. However, there will always be overhead in running such a complicated event.
Again, to me, $8,000 doesn’t seem like enough, but then again, Kickstarter doesn’t stop you if you go over your fundraising goal, so with the right push, this fest could get all the funding it needs to conduct what is, essentially, a film festival experiment. A festival experiment strongly geared towards eliminating, or addressing, the most common gripes filmmakers have about the film festival circuit. But why, then, at the time of this writing, is the festival only at 14% funded with 16 days left to go?
Apparently the most recent Oxford Film Festival had a similar idea as one of the listed above, in that they offered filmmakers merchandise space with the same “keep 100%” share offer. The result? Only 25% of the filmmakers took part. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I firmly believe that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. This project seems like an attempt at a solution.
Personally, I have my own reservations about the New Mexico International Film Festival (and I’ve mentioned some above), but I do admire that a disgruntled filmmaker is doing more than just complaining, is not just saying, “I could do better,” but trying to actually prove it. Justin and the New Mexico International Film Festival could fall on its face… but at least they’re making an effort. That said, the project does need help and I think this would be a sad, lost opportunity for filmmakers if this fest doesn’t reach its crowdfunding goal. It’s time to stop being theoretical about working and non-working film festival models and actually do something about them.
If you’d like to know more about the New Mexico International Film Festival, go ahead and comment below or head over to the the festival’s Kickstarter page and comment there. Next week we’ll be back with a new project for you to check out but, until then, we hope you enjoyed this closer look at the New Mexico International Film Festival.
DISCLAIMER: Donating or investing in a film or film-related project is always a risky endeavor, so it is important to keep that in mind before deciding to get financially involved with any film project. Film Threat, FilmThreat.com and our parent company, Hamster Stampede, LLC hold no liability or responsibility regarding any of the projects showcased on our site, their content or performance or the content or performance of any of the sites linked to in this article. Our involvement with the featured project is strictly what you see here: we find a work-in-progress project that sounds interesting to us, we ask all the questions we’d like to know the answers to and then we share that information with you, the audience. This should not be considered as personalized investment advice. What happens after you read this is your decision, and, again, before parting with any money for any film, think it through and BE CAREFUL.