Throughout this past year I have been entering my short auto-biographical medical-documentary film My Aura's Echo, which I wrote and directed, into film festivals around the country. As of yet, I've only heard back from one, the LA Femme Festival, that it were not selected, boo-hoo. But it's okay, I've submitted to many, and the festival circuit is a hard game to play. You submit to a ton, you get into a few, if any. It doesn't mean your film isn't any good, it just means that festival wasn't right, at that time, for your film. There's a lot of rejection in this industry, it's good to remain positive.
So on a positive note...another great festival I submitted my film to is the Richmond International Film Festival (RIFF) in Richmond, Virginia. I find out in December if my film is officially selected (so keep your fingers crossed!!) but in the meantime, I had another great opportunity given to me through this festival just because I submitted a film to it:
RIFF is putting on a short film contest for their festival, made possible by one of their sponsors Shamin Hotels. The contest is for both screenwriters and directors, the winning submissions will have their work produced in December and debuted at the Festival in March, along with access to the festival, IMDB credit, and a cash prize package. As a director, I knew this was a contest I would want to take part in.
The contest started with a call to all screenwriters to submit a short screenplay based on the given theme of "pay it forward" and a few other details, based on the the backstory of the Shamin family and business. Once the winning screenplay was selected (the winner is Kathryne Isabelle Easton for her script "The Hospitality Effect") RIFF then put out an announcement for director's to submit their vision of how they would tell this story. The requirement's for the director submission were storyboards illustrating how the story would be told, and a one page Director's Vision Statement, articulating the vision the storyboards conveyed, as well as any additional technical/sound/editing techniques. I had only 10 days to submit before the deadline, and boy was I nervous!
Firstly, I have never done a storyboard before. I studied them in film school and why they are useful for filmmaking, but I am no artist, so I've never completed one personally. RIFF specified that they could be completed electronically or hand-drawn, and because I don't have any storyboard software, I drew out the entire 10-page script; which came out to be 6 pages of storyboards with 36 hand-drawn frames. This took me about 7 days to complete. Whew! Like I said, I'm no artist. But you don't have to be Michelangelo to draw storyboards, and I really started to enjoy the process, it was very helpful to begin drawing out my ideas rather then just trying to verbally explain them to someone (my usual process.) I could show what the shot should look like, camera angles and movement, character movement within a scene, even character, all within these small frames. It was amazing, and really convinced me of how necessary and beneficial storyboarding can be for a project; both for getting my ideas as a director out in a visual way, and in a way for others to visually see my inspiration.
The second requirement for submission was the Director's Vision Statement. Again, this was not something I had formally ever been asked to do before. I've verbally given my vision statement many times before on a project to my cast and crew, but I had never been asked to write one out. I had to Google examples to first to make sure I was doing it correctly before I completed it. A Director's Vision Statement, written out, specifying your vision, identifying your protagonist/antagonist, your theme and when the story is taking place, then going into more specific details on how some of the technical aspects might be handled with camera and movement, and how you might like to see it edited/sound etc...is a very useful tool. Writing it out to present is so much more concise and efficient and productive then just having it bottled up in your head, to then blurt out to your cast and crew and hope they can comprehend it all. Usually it's all done within one page, so it's a lot to fit in but it helps you get everything across without saying too much. I found this incredibly helpful in sharing my vision, keeping it straightforward and concise, and again, a brilliant tool in directing that I think I will continue to use in my future projects.
Now everything has been submitted and I am eagerly awaiting the outcome. It would be wonderfully amazing if I was selected as the winning director for this contest, and was able to go to Richmond to shoot this short film in December, from my vision, to be premiered at the fest in March. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, as they promised to tell us within the next day or two the winning selection.
If I am not the chosen director, then at least I learned to storyboard and writer a proper vision statement, which will undoubtedly help me on my future endeavors. Always look to the bright side of things, right?