The deadline for the 2015 Accelerator Lab Open Call is fast approaching. Applications are due this Wednesday, June 10, 2015, by 5:00 PM EDT.
If you’re only just getting started on your application, don’t worry – we’ve compiled the below tips to help you get up to speed fast:
Overview: For those of you that want a full breakdown of this whole process, please review our Grants page and Frequently Asked Questions, both of which provide very helpful and thorough information. If you still have questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your project title in the subject line.
Funding and mentorship: This Open Call for funding is the process that determines which films will be selected for our 2015 Accelerator Lab. If you are selected to receive a grant, you will also participate in the lab, which is a year long intensive mentorship program (with possibility for extension). It is not a goal of the lab for the films to be completed in that year; that is the length of time you’ll spend with us receiving mentorship. The lab will be structured around 3 to 4 retreats that the granted directors are required to attend, with travel support from us. The lab will be more intensive and tailored than our past mentorship programs, but if you want some insight on our mentorship style in general, take a look at our mentorship page or our blog.
First- or second- time filmmakers: When we say first- or second- time filmmaker, we’re talking specifically about your experience as a director or co-director of feature-length documentaries. You are still eligible if you’ve already made a few shorts, or done fiction work, we’re looking for directors who are making their first or second feature-length documentary. By feature length, we mean 40 minutes or more. Read more about this in our Frequently Asked Questions.
Early production: For this round, we’re only accepting projects between development and early-production (with no more than 40% of the footage shot) because we want to ensure that we have the greatest opportunity possible to make an impact on the film and on your development as the director. If you’re having trouble figuring out what percentage you’ve shot, think about the big picture of your finished film, where you are now, and what you need to do to get to that finished project. What do you have in the can, and how much more shooting do you think you have left to do? That’s how you’ll assess if you’ve reached the 40%. We’re not keeping count, but we hope you’ll respect the guidelines and be honest with yourself when considering applying.
Work samples: In a nutshell, the short work sample should grab our attention and show the project’s potential; the long work sample should give us a deeper sense of your directorial style, characters, and pacing of the film; and the prior work sample should tell us about your experience and your ability to follow through. The short and long samples should consist of pieces of the project with which you’re currently applying, whereas the prior work sample is from a different film you’ve worked on in the past.
No footage shot yet: We have a strict requirement of at least 7 minutes of footage for applicants. If you can, shoot something quickly before the deadline or maybe ask your subjects to shoot some verite or interview of themselves for you, but only if you think it will be good enough to represent your project in our review process. We do not accept unsolicited updates, so the application is the only opportunity for you to show us what you have. If it doesn’t seem you can get it all together before the deadline, it might not be the right time for you to apply for this round.
Parting shots: Here are a few last items to keep in mind:
- For this round we are not accepting interactive projects or series. Stay tuned for announcements on an upcoming program geared toward these formats in 2016. Join our mailing list, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
- If you’re unsure what makes a documentary a hybrid, check out this great article from the POV blog. Please also note that just because your film is based on a true story, that doesn’t mean it’s automatically a hybrid.
- For guidance on the written application, be sure to look at the help text on the right side of each question. Please also note that the word count for many of the essay based questions is 2300 characters, including spaces. Trust us, brief is better.
If you have any additional questions or concerns, send an email to email@example.com. Be sure to include the name of your project in the subject line.
Filmmaker discussions and Q&As are a great way for you to connect with the people who care about your film, and audiences love the chance to engage with you and discuss your film.
Glenn Raucher, Director of Theater Operations at the Film Society of Lincoln Center has seen countless film talkbacks; below, he and his staff shared with us stories of Q&A pros who used every possible chance to connect with their audience.
“John Waters, upon hearing that we were turning away 100+ people (!) from a stand-by line (sure to be disappointed, at best), offered to go out and greet them all, giving them a great experience, despite being turned away. Pedro Almodovar did the same before his ridiculously sold-out Amphitheater Talk” – Glenn Raucher, Director of Theater Operations.
“In 2002 Gary Sherman brought in his own print of “Deathline,” (uncut and very different from the theatrically released 1974 version that was re-titled “Raw Meat”). As a result, the audience got to see a version of the movie that had rarely, if ever, been shown in the United States. He was also patient and cooperative with the staff and his fans.” -Fletch Cossa, House Manager
“During a screening of “Jauja” in the New York Film Festival, the subtitling for the film failed momentarily, causing us to have to pause the film. Viggo Mortensen stood up, and cheerfully talked with the crowd while they waited, also communicating that…s**t happens, and it’s all good! It diffused the tension until the computer issue was fixed and the film resumed.” -Glenn Raucher, Director of Theater Operations
“Sacha Baron Cohen, in character as Borat, offered a “Brazilian” to everyone taking an elevator backstage with him, including our house manager. He was also, out of character, unfailingly friendly and polite.” -Karim Allick, House Manager
“A woman approached me and asked if I could help her convince Jean Dujardin to record a brief message of uplift for her very sick husband, a friend of the Film Society’s. Dujardin had flown in that day, and was clearly exhausted, but after a brief explanation, he said “of course!” and recorded a charming and funny get-well message.”- Glenn Raucher, Director of Theater Operations
These stories remind us that you don’t have to be a celebrity to make a great impression on your audience. House Manager Patrick Ng shares 3 overall tips to keep in mind for your Q&A:
- Keep your answers brief, unless you have an awesome anecdote to tell. This allows for more questions to be taken from the audience, and keeps the momentum moving. First time filmmakers tend to be more long winded in their responses, while the pros take the “less is more” approach. Short answers also provide the best quotes used in press and social media.
- Share your insight. People will remember your Q&A more when they can walk away with a nugget of insight that will inspire them, motivate them, make them look at something in a different way.
- Schedule permitting, make yourself available after the Q&A (in the lobby, not the theater!) to take more questions. A lot of people don’t feel comfortable asking a question in front of a full house and would prefer a more intimate circumstance.
Programmers and executives from HBO, Candescent Films, POV, and IFP shared their favorite ways filmmakers follow up:
Re-introduce yourself and your project.
Send a short email with where we met and a one page sheet with all the info about your film.
If you send a link, make sure it’s downloadable and easily accessible.
If it can’t be downloaded for security reasons, explain and ask how many DVDs you should send. Make sure your link has a very easy password so people don’t get frustrated opening it.
Know when to give them some space.
Send another quick email if you don’t hear back but back away after 3 follow-up emails.
If you see the programmer or executive, be friendly. Don’t tell them they didn’t respond or remember you. If they can’t help you personally, they still can be a friend to the project by connecting you with other people who can help you, so keep the lines of communication open and courteous.
Many filmmakers prefer working behind the camera, not in front of it, but talking about your film on TV, radio, and on panels provides enormous exposure for your film and the issues it tackles. Filmmaker Jessica Devaney and publicist Adam Segal of The 2050 Group joined our New York mentorship to shed some light on media presentations and dispel some common fears around media interviews.
Here are their tips for giving your best media interviews:
Tell the story you want to tell.
Remember: as a filmmaker you are a storyteller, not a pundit. In media scenarios you are in charge of the story you present and you can direct the conversation toward what you want people to know about your film. Don’t just answer the questions. Ask yourself: what sentence do I need to say for this to be successful? Make sure you don’t get up till you say that sentence.
Avoid jargon or overly technical vocabulary; don’t alienate your audience with big words or phrases they might not understand. Neutralize distracting physical tics like touching your hair or fiddling with jewelry.
Do your homework.
Talk to the producer and find out what they’re going to ask you. Look up when they last interviewed someone like you or talked with someone on your topic (via tracie). Observe what kinds of questions they asked or what angle they took.
Keep a cool head.
If you are a person who gets worked up, practice talking about hot button issues without losing your cool. If you make a mistake or say some wrong information, correct it before someone else does.
There’s strength in numbers.
If you want to take the focus off yourself, bring one of your subjects in the film with you.
Make sure your assets and materials are versatile.
Put together clips and assets that can be reused in different settings or shared in a different context.
With the help and guidance of our guest experts and industry friends, we’ve put together this list of our 7 tips to keep in mind when you are pitching your film or project.
Practice, practice, practice.
Pitching is like a performance. If you’re prepared, you will feel and appear more relaxed.
Don’t repeat everything that is in your trailer.
Use every opportunity to share new information about your project.
Accept the feedback and any criticism you get.
Don’t waste time trying to argue; say thank you and hold back defensiveness.
Match your presentation to the tone of your film.
If it is a serious topic, reflect that in your voice. If it if it is light match that.
Let the images speak for themselves.
Explain the compelling story, not the style. It’s hard to explain style and tone.
Do your research.
Know who you are speaking with and familiarize yourself with their interests and passion issues. Take notes so that when they follow up with you, you can show growth.
Know the landscape.
If you pitch something that sounds like something a distributer has already done, immediately distinguish it. Be humble; don’t say “my film is better;” say that your film “builds on these others because…”
Caitlin Boyle of Film Sprout joined us to talk about how she sees community screenings as a vehicle for social change. She used her work on Diana Whitten’s film Vessel, a Chicken & Egg Pictures grantee and member of our Reel Reproductive Justice cohort, as a case study of how screenings can activate communities on an issue; in this case, abortion access.
Here are her strategies for using community screenings to create engagement around your film:
The filmmaker and partners should set goals for what each screening should accomplish.
In some places, Vessel screenings collected ticket fees to fund abortion access, while in areas with limited or no abortion access, bringing the film for free was paramount.
Use the calendar to give the campaign an arc.
For the Vessel screenings, Caitlin utilized the Roe v. Wade anniversary and International Women’s Day to plan special events and incentivise screenings during those days.
Align metaphors in movie with engagement campaign.
For the Vessel screenings, the engagement campaign used metaphors like “going into uncharted waters” to market the events.
Think outside the fee.
Not every group can pay screening fees but you can barter free screenings for translations into other languages and retitling or subtitles, which will help the film reach more places.
Make sure engagement happens offline as well as online.
There was a large audience for Vessel in pro-choice 60-80 year olds who might not be on facebook or using email. Use digital platforms, but remember to make calls to reach your audience.
Survey screening hosts to get feedback, metrics and understand impact.
Send your survey a few weeks after and keep it short, about 15 questions.
Sara Kiener, co-founder of Film Presence and audience engagement expert, begins her outreach campaigns with one essential question: Why are you making this film?
Once you can identify the reasons you are making the film and why it matters, she says, you can can find your audience from there.
Here are her suggestions for creatively connecting with new audiences:
Don’t limit yourself to two or three audience groups, when you could go after twenty.
It’s not always easy to predict which groups will be interested in the film, so it’s best to cast a wide net when reaching out to partners. For example, while working on the outreach campaign for Do I Sound Gay?, she connected with anti-bullying organizations, fans of David Sedaris and Dan Savage (both men are featured in the film), This American Life listeners who are familiar with Sedaris from the radio program, and speech therapists interested in the topic of voice, and many more organizations and individuals who could link the film to new audiences.
When you first reach out, don’t ask for money right away.
Start with building a relationship and see how they might be able to help you. An organization might be interested in sharing your posts on social media or sending information about your film around in their circles.
Get personal on social media!
Show pictures from the process of your film being made. Put a quote on top of a picture to make an easy to share post about your film. Ask celebrities who care about the issues in your film to share posts or pictures of themselves in connection to the film.
Democrats (directed by Camilla Nielsson) and Dreamcatcher (Kim Longinotto) are headed to the 58th edition of the San Francisco International Film Festival, which kicked off on April 23 and runs through May 7.
The festival, presented by the San Francisco Film Society, is the longest-running film festival in North America.
Longinotto will accept the Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award on Saturday, May 2 and will participate in an onstage conversation following a screening of Dreamcatcher. Dreamcatcher tells the story of Brenda Myers-Powell, a former prostitute, who helps women and girls break the cycle of sexual abuse and exploitation. The film had its world premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, where Longinotto was recognized with the World Cinema Documentary Directing Prize.
The film premiered on Showtime on March 27, 2015.
Democrats will have its first of three screenings on Monday, May 4 at the Pacific Film Archive Theater. The film recently had its world premiere at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival, winning the prize for Best Documentary Feature. Democrats follows two politicians from rival parties as they are assigned to a bipartisan committee tasked with transitioning Zimbabwe from an authoritarian government to a democratic one.
Congratulations to director Grace Lee on winning a Peabody for American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs. The Peabody Awards recognize compelling and meaningful storytelling in electronic media and aim to honor stories that matter.
American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs is the electrifying story of Grace Lee Boggs, 99, a Chinese American activist and philosopher in Detroit with a thick FBI file and a surprising vision of what an American revolution can be. Rooted for 75 years in the labor, civil rights and Black Power movements, she challenges a new generation to throw off old assumptions, think creatively and redefine revolution for our times. The kinetic documentary film traces her evolving revolution in a radically changing America.