Thursday, October 24, 2013


We didn't win the best documentary award on the weekend. But we did get quite rollicking drunk, for free, so it wasn't a total loss.

Hence the tardiness this week. I just got back from a wonderful three days at the Blue Mountains Film Festival. The film I produced, 'Part One: Love', was nominated for best documentary, and we went along for the screening and the awards event.

But we didn't win.

At which point I am obligated to tell you it was an honour just to be nominated.

You often hear filmmakers say this. Sometimes it's true. Sometimes not.

The deciding factor is most often the respect with which the filmmaker is treated by the festival. If the festival ensures the filmmakers have a good experience, particularly in relation to their film screening, then a loss on the podium can be taken with good grace.

Thankfully, it was actually an honour to be nominated. The Blue Mountains Film Festival is one that respects filmmakers.

But there are plenty of others that do not.

Some festivals are just bad mannered. Others are downright scams, preying on emerging filmmakers desperate to find an audience. One filmmaker actually wrote an article on his nine worst festival experiences. My favourite is:

‘I know you have flown across the world for the gala opening of the festival, here’s your ticket for the party… that’s $50 please…’ Yes, you get there and they charge you to attend YOUR party and watch YOUR film.'

Oh dear.

These experiences are actually good for filmmakers sometimes. They teach you the value of doing your research and avoiding the pitfalls of unscrupulous people. I wrote about one such scam film festival, back in 2011:

Since then, it appears that enough word has spread about these scammers to halt their predatory operation.

But for every one that shuts down, there are others still running. Operating with impunity. Ironically, no filmmaker ever thinks to fight back using the power of filmmaking.

Until the Swansea Bay Film Festival.

In what can only be seen as the greatest 180 manoeuvre of all time, a group of filmmakers decided to make a documentary on the horrible experience they had at the Swansea Bay Film Festival. The blatant disrespect shown to filmmakers by the festival eventually made headline news on the BBC, and shut down the scammer.

You can watch the short documentary, for free, at It's worth the 14 minutes.

What can you learn from their experience?

Trust your instincts and do your research.

These days, there are loads of ways you can learn about whether something, even a film festival, has a sordid history or not. If you don't scratch the surface beyond the hype, which is usually hype the scammers have created themselves, then you are the perfect prey.

But your extra efforts will ensure you end up at film festivals that respect you and your work. Festivals where you will have an amazing experience and engage with appreciative audiences. Maybe you'll even win an award.

Or you won't.

In which case you'll get drunk instead.

And just be honoured to be nominated.

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