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The Lift-off Rip-off Festival

Noone ever said indie filmmaking was easy. And the post-filmmaking journey is just as challenging as the process of making a film.

I recently entered a Film Festival known as the “Lift Off Sessions.” This is part of a series of film festivals hosted by the Lift-off network of international festivals. I was very happy to get the notice that my webisode, Lights Camera Aliens – was accepted, Yay!

Here comes the “but.” It’s always an ego boost when my films get accepted by a Festival. Because Film Festivals are subject to the judges taste, and sometimes your film just isn’t a good fit for the theme or the agenda of a particular Fest.

For example, in 2019 I entered the London Lift-Off Festival (NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH THE “SESSIONS” FESTIVAL REVIEWED BELOW!) The London Lift-Off Festival is a very important Fest to me because they are associated with the infamous Pinewood Studios in London, and when a filmmaker gets selected to this Festival, it means that industry leaders (distributors, PACT producers, etc) will see your film.

Mine was not selected in 2019. Why? Well, I screwed up. I entered a 37 minute Pilot into their “Web Series” category. My content was too long. If it’s one thing I’ve learned: When you enter a Film Festival, make sure your submission is an exact fit. Don’t enter into a category with the idea that the judges will understand if your film doesn’t exactly match what their category guidelines are. Additionally, do not assume that the Fest judges will invest time into imagining how to best make your film submission fit into their Festival.

Here’s a brief look at what I submitted. (Here’s the Youtube url for those of you using a mobile device. https://youtu.be/g1nHI4VuGHo)

Secondly, agenda. Some Film Festivals are geared towards Hollywood content. You know, the film that has a Marquee value talents of an A or B list talent — the “bankable” film.

And then, there’s so many other Fests that are geared towards the indie filmmaker – the low budget production with storytelling that ends the film on something less than the “happy ending” that we tend to see in big budget Studio Films.

Independent Film Fests have a wide range of agendas and mode of operation, and it really takes allot of time to find the right “fit” for an indie-made film.

Okay, so onto my review of the Lift-Off SESSIONS. Firstly, it was not a live event — it was an online festival. Movies like mine where placed on Vimeo by the Fest, and then largely we the filmmakers voted on each one of the films. Lift-Off suggested that we contact our friends and cohorts and ask them to vote, and the Fest provided a link for use on Facebook, Twitter, etc. That was the first round.

As the Fest progressed to another round, it became quite evident that the filmmakers would have to leverage social networking in order to entice more people to watch their movies. Trouble is, there was a 14-Euro (about 20 bucks US) fee required to watch the Lift-Off Fest’s online movies.

Well, that folks is what we call a PAY TO PLAY scheme.

And while I may sound a bit harsh here, I have to say that I feel that this is a horrible way to conduct a Festival. There’s just NO WAY TO GET AN OBJECTIVE VOTING PROCESS when a Fest is conducted the way Lift-Off Sessions worked.

But don’t let me sway you entirely. Below are a few reviews that are only available to participating filmmakers. (That’s right, the Lift-Off Sessions reviews are NOT ON PUBLIC DISPLAY.) Now, because I participated, I am able to copy and paste some of the reviews here for you to read…

A review by participant, Naima Duyser
“Grossly disappointing festival. If, like me, this is your first time submitting, then do not bother with this festival. They are only trying to squeeze money out of the public.

First of, they mention that the public will determine the first round of votes. What they fail to mention, is that in order to vote, one has to pay FOURTEEN euros and 20 cents. Your film will be one of a hundred films clumsily thrown together in a vimeo-on-demand page. This means that the votes are pretty much a popularity contest. Whoever has friends and family willing to pay that amount for one single vote will be the one who’s film goes into the second round, regardless of whether it is a good film or not. I’m guessing the reason they choose over a hundred films to enter the first round is so they increase their chances of making money. What I find particularly disturbing is the fact that they are making money off YOUR films, without giving a cent back to the people who deserve it.

They also mention that after the first round, “a team of judges” will judge your film based on several aspects and go in deeper to evaluate your film. What one might think this means is that after making it into the top five, you will get a detailed, more personalized report, or some type of commentary from the judges in which you can use to further develop your film. No. After a week of raising awareness to the festival, inviting friends and family to pay to give your film a vote, and then getting into the top five, you would expect better treatment from this festival.

Even the winners are not ranked, just again, thrown in a final, clumsy, long list that makes you feel irrelevant and like you wasted your time. What a grossly disappointing waste of time and what an even more disrespectful panel of judges.

Also disgusting that the event has disabled public reviews. Am utterly ashamed in myself in taking part in such a horrible event.”

A review by participant, Evrim Karadağ. “I was proud to be a part of this festival but your system is just not working. I am from Turkey and lets say I made a film with the best idea possible. In The Lift Off Sessions, I have to compete with 100×5 other films from many other countries. What is even more not working was the voting system. You probably have no idea the meaning of some 15.50 dollars in other countries with brightest ideas and worthless currency. Still, thank you all for trying. #supportindiefilm.”

A review by participant, Jonathan Nolan. “Well intentioned, but the voting system makes the whole thing a farce. Not that I expected to “win”, but the voting system is 1990s tier and frankly, embarrassing. This festival conglomerate presents itself as a big operation of a high standard, this festival indicates otherwise.

As for not allowing public reviews on FilmFreeway, that makes me go “hm.” as well.”

The end? Okay, maybe not quite.

I do (somewhat) agree with Jonathan about the technical operation of the Fest because, it was clunky. However, as a developer of SDK’s on the Android, Fire TV, and Roku platforms, I can tell you that software engineering is costly. Therefore, as much as I did think the Lift-Off Fest was a technical cluster-frak, I have to give them a pass on this because their submission fees would have to reflect the cost of upgrading their technical operations — and, we (the filmmakers who submitted to the Fest) didn’t pay for anything uber-technical.

Secondly I do obviously agree with the all the reviewers regarding the fact that Fest reviews are not being released to the public. And the cost to watch the movies was akin to a PAY TO PLAY scenario. Uggh! Oh well, noone ever said indie filmmaking was easy. And the post-filmmaking journey, from the Film Festival Circuit to finding a Distributor is just as challenging as the process of making a film.

Bye the way, my web series may be sampled free on my TV channels.

See the Apps on the TV-APPS link to watch the sample and upcoming episodes of “Lights Camera Aliens.”

— (c) Dean Lachiusa

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