DANIEL THOMAS FREEMAN
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"The Silence After Life" cover

Feature film released 2020 on Blink in the Endless

film festival submissions and screenings


Submissions to film festivals for The Silence After Life made through the FilmFreeway site

Film festivals (which are really film competitions at our level) are broadly split into three categories: major, medium and small. The majors and most of the mediums demand a world premiere of any film submitted so, although it might seem that you would enter films into small festivals and build up, in fact you have to submit to the majors first in order to have any hope of being accepted.


PHASE ONE - DREAMING


With this in mind, our first phase of submissions concentrated on the majors and, because we were in time to do so after the test screenings, we submitted to:

MAJORS
- Cannes Film Festival
- Cannes Director’s Fortnight
- Cannes Critics Week
- Edinburgh

Following my experience of working as a composer on the STUDIOCANAL / Film 4 / BFI feature 'Catch Me Daddy', we submitted a version of the film before final grading, sound and score production had been completed. In retrospect, this was a mistake. CMD were able to submit a mostly-finished film because the festivals involved had worked with STUDIOCANAL, Film 4 and the BFI many times before and therefore could trust that the film would be completed in time and to the requisite technical standards in time for potentially screening at their festival ... but we, of course, had no such relationship. So (on reflection) no surprise that we didn't get in.


PHASE TWO - HOPEFUL


Phase two again included many majors but we widened the search to including a couple of mediums (with the mediums making their judging decisions after the majors so we knew we couldn't mess up a major by accepting a medium). The festivals were carefully chosen to be those which we thought would be most appropriate for the film. Here's the list:

MAJORS
- San Sebastián International Film Festival
- Locarno
- Venice
- Rome
- London Film Festival

MEDIUMS
- Zurich Film Festival
- Cambridge Film Festival
- Leeds International Film Festival

The technical completion of the film was still some way off at this stage but it definitely was more polished for this phase. But the same mistake still applied here. And when all of the above submissions failed too (even London which I had real hopes for since ours is a UK film largely filmed on the outskirts of London) I realised a second mistake, confirmed by reading a couple of web articles at the time.

WITHOUT A KNOWN PRODUCTION COMPANY, STAR AND / OR DIRECTOR IT IS PRACTICALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO GET A NO-BUDGET FILM INTO A MAJOR OR MEDIUM SIZED FESTIVAL.

This is why the few examples of truly independent no-budget films - think 'Katalin Varga' (dir. Peter Strickland) at Berlin, 'El Mariachi' (dir. Robert Rodriguez) at Sundance, or 'Primer' and 'Upstream Color' (both dir. Shane Carruth) at Sundance - stand out so much. They are very much the exception and our film, good as we believe it is, is not.


PHASE THREE - REALISTIC


Failing to get our film accepted in any of the above festivals was obviously hugely disappointing. At this point we pretty much knew we had lost our chance of getting the film a reasonably decent amount of worldwide exposure. We now had to re-adjust our expectations significantly and we also had to think carefully about where we would next submit, bearing mind that we had already spent a lot of money (for us) and a lot of time on the submissions made so far.

After a lot of thought we made the decision to submit to one last major (Berlin as it is so art-film focused) but otherwise concentrate on small festivals. And we also took the decision to just focus on small festivals within the UK as this way we would increase our chance of selection and it would also enable us to more easily visit the festivals in person if we did get selected. Submitting to smaller festivals was much cheaper than to the majors so we were able to cast our net wider:

MAJOR
- Berlin Film Festival

SMALL
- New Renaissance Film Festival (NRFF)
- Crystal Palace Film Festival
- Carmarthen Bay Film Festival
- Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival
- Ramsgate International Film and TV Festival
- Oxford International Film Festival
- London Rocks
- High Peak Independent Film Festival
- Romford Film Festival
- Braziers International Film Festival
- Brighton Rocks International Film Festival
- Sheffield International Film Festival
- Wexford Film Festival
- World of Film International Film Festival (WOFF)
- Margate Film Festival


SCREENINGS AND WINNING AN AWARD


And then, of course, the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic hit.

Suddenly our chance of showing the completed film in a cinema at a film festival totally vanished as all the 2020 festivals had to convert to online festivals. It also meant that all of the above festivals were late - very late - in making their selections. Frustrating.

However, there was a positive side to the chaos introduced by the pandemic. It gave us a chance to complete the film and some of the major promotional material for the film so that, by the time our film festivals selections finally rolled in after well over a year of trying, we were fully ready. It also meant that we had a truly worldwide audience for our appearances at the Ramsgate International Film & TV Festival, the Brighton Rocks International Film Festival and the London Rocks International Film Festival. And we had Q&A cast and director interviews for the first two of these that we have been able to publish after the event.


IN CONCLUSION


Whilst the festival submission and selection process is emotionally exhausting, expensive, long-winded, confusing and can lead to feeling very disillusioned, it has been truly fantastic to show the films in three very passionately run and enthusiastically supported festivals.

THERE IS HUGE COMPETITION TO GET INTO ANY FESTIVAL, REGARDLESS OF SIZE, SO WE FEEL VERY GRATEFUL TO HAVE BEEN SCREEENED AT THREE OF THEM.

It was also wonderful to have our main actor Sally Mortemore win Best Actress at Brighton Rocks against over 120 films (and that's not counting the hundreds if not thousands of films which didn't make the Brighton Rocks grade).


Sunday 17 January 2021


All content © Daniel Thomas Freeman 2011 - 2021 (except where otherwise marked)

DANIEL THOMAS FREEMAN
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