So You Want to Get Your Documentary Into a Film Festival?
“I truly believe that documentary is currently where indie cinema was in the early 90s – exploding. Today, doc makers are using the technology (whether it is a red cam or a DVX) to make stylistic choices that best serve their story,” says award winning producer Christopher Ramsey.
Christopher has been on the documentary film selection committee for the Florida Film Festival since 2007. According to Wikipedia, “The Florida Film festival is considered one of the ‘Big 15’ in the United States, as a win here qualifies a film for Academy Award consideration.”
How do you secure a spot for your film in a festival?
Christopher suggests that the best way to get your documentary into a film festival is with a short that is less than 10 minutes. “The simple answer is that short docs are easier to program.” says Ramsey. Festivals decide which movie goes where based on how they fit into the festival – like a DJ who gets the party started and then takes you to new levels. This is called programming. Unfortunately, a lot of great documentaries are tossed aside because they do not fit into the programming. “I’ve seen wonderful LONG short films (20 to 30 minutes) get knocked out of consideration simply because they were too long to be programmed with a 90 minute film,” explains Ramsey.
The importance of the story arc
Christopher is also a firm believer in the power of the story arc. Almost every good story has an arc or peak, which is a place in the story that the whole film leads up to. That peak should be the evolution or devolution of the central character in the story. In my opinion, make sure you have an arc in sight before you even sign up to do a documentary. There are of course exemptions to the rule, but according to Mr. Ramsey, “for me, I want two things out of a doc; to be shown and not told a story and to be taken from point A to point B.”
This interview has been split up into sessions. The next session will be on “Which Festival do I Choose?”