This is a blog post from last month. I’ve avoided posting it for various reasons, but since my blog exists (in my mind, anyway) to help the struggling DIY filmmaker, here it is in its hateful glory.
It’s been a while since my last post. It’s been a LONG while since my last post with substance. I feel as though I’ve been too artificial in my posts lately. It’s time to return to the ranting, volatile artist that drives all of my art.
I’ve been doing this little dance number for any potential exhibitor of the film. I basically beg them to take a look at Coyote for whatever exhibition they’re running. Generally, you don’t beg the people, you pay them a premium. 20-60 bucks just to give your film a watch… or potentially, to pick up a package from you and throw it in the garbage.
So when any of these exhibitors, be they festivals, conventions, film series, etc. gives you word that your film will be a part of their screening schedule, the natural inclination is to pat yourself on the back, and turn your movie over to the caring hands of an exhibitor. Sometimes this is a pleasant experience, but more times than not, it’s a soul-crushing adventure that will leave you questioning why you ever chose this route to reach an audience.
The black hole of these soul-crushers is that of the horror convention. I’ve now been a part of a couple, and I have to say, I’ve seen enough to never submit a film to a horror convention ever again. I hope that you, my dear filmmaking reader, will take this blog article to heart, since it will most certainly alienate me from a few groups that might have otherwise supported future projects of mine. An age old motto comes to mind in this situation: “Fuck ’em.”
So let’s talk about one convention in particular, Parafest. It was Coyote’s east-coast premiere, and I’m pretty sure a conspiracy to fuck me and the film as hard as possible, while maintaining an heir of politeness.
My initial contact with Parafest was strange. I requested a fee waiver from the festival director; she came back to me with a proposition. They would review the film for free. If I was accepted, then I pay the submission fee. For those of you with even a modest sense of foreboding, you’re probably thinking that they’ll most certainly accept the film, and they did. Now they didn’t accept it because of any sort of artistic merit or because they saw something positive in the film. They accepted it because they wanted my submission fee. The festivals content was so low on their priority list, that they could accept any piece of garbage, so long as they thought they would profit off of it. Still, as the desperate filmmaker that I am, I accepted the proposal, gave them my twenty five bucks (A fee that NONE of the good festivals have strong-armed me into paying), and we proceeded toward Coyote’s East-coast premiere, with the promise of Wild-Eye releasing, a distributor with a good track record, appearing at the festival and considering it’s films for distribution.
Following acceptance, I noticed that the con was offering to promote select independent films from their selections if you paid them 500 bucks. They would put your poster on their flier, but only if you paid them more. I thought this was a bit fishy, but cons need to make money too, right? I didn’t purchase this advertisement. Instead, I planned on doing what we’ve done locally to drum up interest: appeal to people personally with fliers and through conversations.
So Carrie and I went on an adventure. We flew out to Bethlehem, PA. (I’ve yet to miss a screening of the film) to see how the film would be presented, and how it would be received, and to promote the film within the convention. Like other cons the festival room was in some far off room in the same building as all of the celebrities. In our case you had to traverse 3 hallways and go up a flight of stairs. When people showed up at the door for earlier screenings they said things like, “I didn’t even know this was here.” Screenings were populated by the filmmakers, and an insincere host, generally less than 10 people.
So off we go to talk to people at the bar and talking to the celebs, right? WRONG! When I notified the festival director about my intention to attend the screening, she assured me weekend passes to the convention ( I really only needed a day, but I appreciated the generosity). When we got there, I spoke to four festival representatives and two hosts about where to get passes. What I was told? I’d have to buy them. So again, I would have to spend more money to promote my film. Going broke on plane tickets I decided to forgo the obnoxiously expensive convention passes, and trust the hosts when they said they promote each and every film before they screen at the bar and in the convention center.
We sit through another indie short. There weren’t enough people, so the host shows it a second time. It becomes apparent to me at this point, that they’ve gone completely off schedule, and have failed to screen several of the shorts that were accepted into the festival. Since I’m in attendance, the host says, let’s watch Coyote next. I doubt anyone had seen the fliers that I distributed, since the ones we gave to the festival representatives, Carrie found folded and discarded on the tank of a bathroom toilet. If they had, they would have arrived just in time to see the credits.
So finally, let’s get on with it. Including myself and Carrie, Coyote screened to a massive audience of six patrons. Two of which were writers for a review site called Vile reviews. In my last desperate attempt to network, I gave the guys a copy of the dvd. They asked for an interview, which I agreed to do on the spot. They then decided not to do the interview until the next day.
We didn’t return for day 2 of the con. What’s the result? Our very first negative review of Coyote by Vile Reviews. (As a side note: Is it funny that the names “con” and “Vile Reviews” reflect so perfectly my opinions of them?) The review is filled with weird backhanded compliments, but insists that Coyote should have been a short film. They couldn’t completely trash it because that would discredit the con, but they wanted to make sure the review wasn’t positive. They sent me a link to the review today as though I should promote it. Here’s that: http://www.vilereviews.com/Coyote.html. If you comment with a “fuck you,” it’ll probably be removed.
In summation, horror conventions have one purpose: profit. They have no problem exploiting the artist for his or her money, and have no intention of promoting or seeing the artist succeed. Their primary focus is on the celebs, which may seem obvious, but sometimes we artists like to think that people have a desire to advance new ideas and voices. If that was their focus, they’d be running a festival and not a con.