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by Paula Bernstein
October 22, 2013 11:53 AM
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5 Tips for Filmmakers Applying to SXSW from the Festival's Programmers

SXSW Film Producer Janet Pierson

The Programmers and Organizers of the SXSW Film Conference & Festival in Austin, which takes place next March, took to Reddit yesterday to answer questions in a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything). The SXSW team shared tips about what filmmakers should and shouldn't do when applying to SWSX and provided insight into what sorts of films they accept.

Here are their top 5 tips for filmmakers:

1. Don't apply until you're ready.

"During the submission process filmmakers often rush to get us an early cut instead of taking the time to make sure they are happy with their picture lock, since we will only watch the first submitted cut it is important to be sure you are happy with your edit, we continue taking submission until November 14th and every film gets watched so take your time and be happy with your edit!" - Blake Kammerdiener, Film Submissions & Production Coordinator 

2. Premiere status matters.

"It really is all about the work! We're looking for original and/or strong work to premiere. So premiere status is a factor, and is quality. A lot of times we turn down films for being too 'formulaic' and that can ring true at an indie DIY level, as much as more conventional, commercial fare." - Janet Pierson, Head of SXSW Film

3. You can submit to Sundance and SXSW.

"You should submit to both! There are certainly areas where our tastes intersect, but plenty of room for films that work better for us versus them, and vice versa. While we are primarily a premiere festival, we have an entire 'Festival Favorites' section dedicated to films we love that have premiered elsewhere, so just because a film plays Sundance it doesn't necessarily preclude playing with us.

"Ultimately, you should know your film and who it is for. Our audiences are movie-crazed and excited for films that have a fresh spark to them - be it an edgy comedy, zeitgeisty doc or out-of-its-mind animated short. We get to be a little rougher around the edges here, and we love it." - Rebecca Feferman, Head of Media Relations and Programmer

4. Shaky camerawork is okay, but bad sound is a 'deal breaker.'

"Bad sound is a deal-breaker. Other than that, the style should support the content. Sometimes shaky camera ('Blair Witch Project') IS the point. But you can't come back from bad sound." - Janet Pierson

5. Ultimately, it's all about the quality of the work.

"We like original voices, and work that moves us, whether to tears ('Short Term 12'), laughter ('GIRLS)', screams ('Cheap Thrills'), intellectual engagement ('William and the Windmill') for example."

"We take pride in a diversified program - one that skews more towards entertainment and cultural zeitgeist but the bottom line is for work to move us - some kind of transformative experience by the viewer." - Janet Pierson

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  • simo | November 20, 2013 7:51 PMReply

    sorry but you can not view to read comments made about you bimbows either nasty or unheard of in your area.

  • DavidR | October 22, 2013 1:51 PMReply

    In other words, a festival which doesn't pay film-makers for screenings and is not contractually required to provide publicity, a favorable time slot, a comfortable screening venue or consistent projection standards (poor projection sound is not uncommon, btw), insists that your film can't have been shown anywhere else, unless you're willing to accept one of the also-ran sidebars.

    So much for the non-commercial, "indie" spirit. "Transformative experiences" are also likely to be hard to come by, when festivals insist on premieres, even for films with no commercial prospects.

  • doddsworth | November 17, 2013 3:23 PM

    Hey "Loser" -- why is it that so many hangers-on of the film festival scene, and its handful of actual employees, are so quick to dismiss critics of the festival scene as "losers"? The professional non-filmmakers of the indie scene seem to have quite an infatuation with that word.

    If you're under the impression that the "winners" love the festival scene and the people who run it, and you yourself, just buy one a drink sometime, and hear the truth for the first time in your life.

  • Losers | October 26, 2013 8:28 PM

    Neither one of you clowns have made a film worth watching anyway

  • Conrad | October 22, 2013 9:34 PM

    Agreed. I'm also 99% positive that not all film submissions get fair viewing treatment - not from a festival this popular. Organizations like this have what's called a slush pile: interns watch the first few minutes and into the pile your screener goes - waiting to be destroyed.