Sunday, May 09, 2010

Submitting your Student Film Online vs. Festivals

I want to start off this post by saying that I love animation festivals. They are great places to discover new films and to meet other animated filmmakers.

Year after year, however, I found that a great many films simply fell off the radar after the festival run... That is.. I never got a chance to see them again.

Fast forward to today, where there is a very clear and very real assumption that by submitting your film to festivals is the most important and/or only viable means of distribution for films available to a filmmaker. This perception is especially true among students.

While I think this is extremely untrue, the other side of the coin is that many filmmakers, especially students, feel that they cannot submit their films online before submitting to festivals - that festivals will not allow films if they are not debuting at the festivals themselves. I have also found this to be patently untrue. Looking at the major festivals terms of service, I have yet to find a festival that explicitly states that you cannot have a film screened at their festival if the film is submitted online.

Ottawa's rules and regulations are here.

Annecy's is here.

There wasn't a full regulation page for Zagreb, just this.

Spike and Mike's relevant page is here.

Animation Block Party's is here.

Anima Mundi's is here.

Siggraph's is here.

This is by no means exhaustive, but the common thread is there is a limit to when the film was created, that it must be able to pass for animation, etc. This seems to be the only major requirement that is not file format based. From Ottawa's regulations (seemingly in its entirety):

Any frame by frame or computer-assisted animated film or video made for cinema, television or internet may be entered. Only works completed after June 15, 2009 will be accepted.

I've never seen this mystery clause about that your film cannot get into festivals if they go up online. These are the larger animation festivals who I would assume have harder restrictions on submission. There may be smaller ones that do explicitly state the "no online" restriction but I haven't found one yet. The only thing that comes even close is Anima Mundi, that states it will:

Give preference to works that have not yet been on general
release or exhibited in other festivals in Brazil.

However, this would mean that you would have to hold off showing at any festival until anima mundi if it was your sole intent to insure your film screened there.

Which brings me to another important point. If your goal as a student filmmaker is to get your work out there, the Internet is a vastly more accessible medium. Your film can easily be seen by millions of people online rather than thousands at a festival. Granted, your audiences will be very different, but the exposure will be much larger. Animation festivals are a great way to get accolades from within the industry... but the internet is by far more powerful for getting your film in front of audiences.

Case in point with Alex Hirsch's student film "Off the Wall", which has more than 800,000 views on youtube, and probably much more adding up all the video sharing sites and duplicate versions of the video that pop up.

The only reputable distinction that I can think of that you might miss out on by submitting your film online is the academy awards. But their restrictions force you to show your film for three consecutive days in a theater accessible by academy members. I don't know of any student who has done that. I also assume that most students aren't holding out their films because they expect academy awards.

As a student, your film is a great calling card to help you get a job. If you make it difficult for people to see your film you are essentially eliminating a huge potential for job opportunities, especially ones that you yourself don't anticipate.

My last note: for those who do want to exclusively have a festival run of your film, please post it online eventually. This way you can have exposure from both. A huge number of fantastic student films never see the light of day online.

If I'm seeing this completely wrong please sound off in the comments. Again, I have no issue with festivals - in fact, I love them. But I like seeing filmmakers and their films reach their intended audience that much more.


Emily 7:41 PM  

well, I don't know what the rules are for other schools, but USC forbids its students from posting their films online. If other schools have the same rule, that could be part of the problem.

jim 7:45 PM  

Totally agree with you, but one exception is student films accepted into SIGGRAPH. If you win Best of Show, you qualify for Academy Award nomination (see: Oktapodi in 2008). Granted this is a very rare possibility, but it still exists. In any case, there's no reason not to post the film online once you've learned that you are, in fact, not going to win that Oscar. At best that realization shouldn't take more than a year.

Cookedart 7:52 PM  

Hi Emily,

Thanks for the input...

Neither Sheridan, Ringling, nor Calarts has this restriction that I'm aware of. Gobelins seems like it might though.

My only response to that is that students should push back on that. You are the owners of the films, not the school, and it's in the best interest for the school for people to see the work easily.

Cookedart 7:53 PM  

Hey Jim,

I looked up Siggraph's requirements here as well.. which also does not explicitly state that your film cannot be online before being accepted to their animation festival.

Cookedart 8:03 PM  

One more note to Emily...

Is USC's intention that their films can only be submitted to festivals?

What is their leverage in forcing students to not be able to post online? After you graduate, how could they possibly stop you? I can only imagine the blowback if an animation school tried to sue a student filmmaker for promoting their own film... it would be catastrophic to their reputation.

Emily 11:22 PM  

USC actually owns the copyright on any film made there, not the student. It's supposed to be for the students protection, as USC has a lot more legal clout than any individual student and they'll go after anyone who tries to steal the film. The downside is that they can get you in a lot of trouble for posting it online. I think the idea behind the rule was that the films would only be submitted to festivals, but the rule was made a long time ago. A lot of people have been trying to get it changed in recent years, since the internet has become so important to getting your film out there.

Cookedart 11:50 PM  

I personally would prefer having to defend a personal film against theft than to have someone else own the copyright to it. That feels very old fashioned but in a condescending "it's for your own good" sort of way.

Again, all it would take is for someone at USC to just go ahead and post it anyways. If they tried to do anything about it I'm sure the legal nonsense would work out in the artist's favor. Maybe I'm just a rabble-rouser though.

Lesley Vamos 12:23 AM  

Its so great your willing to help people out! Thanks for all the info, I'll definitely pass it young animation students I know ^_^

Adam Temple 7:04 AM  

Nice info Alan, thanks for posting...hopefully it'll encourage some ppl to put their films up for viewing :)

mikeroush 10:45 AM  

I've had this debate/conversation alot with my friends and coworkers...still haven't come up with a consensus.

have had my film traveling the festival circuit for a couple years now and have had a great response but I still get the question.... "Can I see it on line any where"? It isn't on line yet but I wish it was because I just want people to see it Aargh it is frustrating.

The only really good thing to come from the festivals that I've seen is it gives my film prestige where online it is just free for the masses and disposable. Because of this I was able to sell it to "Spike and Mike's animation show" for a higher price.

I don't own 100% of the rights but I hope to have it online some day. Really good topic to have. Thanks for the post.

Charles Huettner 12:05 PM  

I think if you want to work in the animation biz, putting your work online is definitely a bonus. I don't know much about festivals, but judging from personal experience, it seems like art directors and or whoever might hire you some day watch the internet like hawks.

abhishek singh 3:21 AM  

these are very very useful insights:)
thanks for putting it together:) great help!!!

Lauren 10:16 AM  

Seriously, thank you for bringing up this topic. It's definitely an area where a lot of students are very confused and have a 'deer in the headlights' feeling after the insanity of completing a short film. It's oddly comforting to realize others feel the same way.

Subscribe To...

Site Tracking...

free hit counter

eXTReMe Tracker

Locations of visitors to this page

  © Alan Cook, 2009. Template based on 'Neuronic' by 2008

Back to TOP