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film budget, finance, distribution Film Festivals Free Film Festivals Online Film Festivals Uncategorized

The Lift-off Rip-off Festival

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

Categories
tv, pilot, movie distribution, publicity

Film Festivals are canceling but Online Fests are thriving

Who would have thought that this whole dang virus thing would screw up every live event on the planet? I didn’t anticipate this kind of things months ago when I entered my film into Film Festivals via the FilmFreeway website.

And now, I’m getting email notices. The fests I entered are either postponing or canceling until next year. There’s almost no alternative. Except my own Festival.

Yep, I created a film festival 6 years ago. It’s an online Festival that offers the winners the option to have their movie streamed online and on Roku, Fire TV, and Android.

A little more history…I started building Roku channels years ago. In order to get content that was not the usual public domain fair, I operated two Facebook Video/Photo contests and I also contacted some film buddies and I offered them a free deal to get their films streamed to my audience. The formula worked, although none of us made any money. That’s okay, because the exposure was great — and no

one makes money on short films anyway.

If you think you can recoup your cost of producing a short film — then you’re dreaming…and may God bless the dreamer.

Next, I asked filmmakers if they wanted their film compiled into a feature film or a 30-minute featurette for streaming purposes. The result was my “Zombie Pix” feature film, distributed by VODO to 15 thousand VODO viewers online. Secondly the 30 minute compilation film project was and is still being streamed on my channels, it’s an all-genre video called “Film Fest Best” — and it is one of the most popular videos that I stream. In the end, these two compilation videos gave filmmakers free exposure, and I have some good content for my streaming TV audience.

In 2015, after successfully running (2) video/photo contests on Facebook, I decided to give my Festival a more tangible presence. I built a website, http://www.MetroFilmFestival.com and then I developed an Amazon Fire TV channel. Both worked very nicely. And the audience has grown ever since.

Now, I have over 375,000 subscribers on my Fire TV channel, called “Movies Plus.” And, I have built several new Roku channels, in which the total subscribers are over 1 million. That’s great reach. And it’s free for filmmakers who would like to stream their film on my channels.

There’s even a success story. A filmmaker named Alex who took the initiative to leverage my Fire TV channel. He streamed his “Down River” feature film for 6 months. Then he took the stats from the streaming experience (about 70,000 views) and he presented this to a venture capitalist. It impressed the money-man so much that he agreed to finance Alex’s next film. Now Alex has his movie, “The Directive” on Hulu. There’s a newspaper article that tells the whole story — read it via my Festival page on FilmFreeway.

Okay, so to wrap things up a little, now I have many channels. The most popular are TMN (The Movie Network) and “Movies Plus TV.” And I have my Film Festival that is online and supported by my Roku and Fire TV channels. I also have an Android App, but that is still in the “launching” phase, so I don’t brag about my Android subscribers just yet. You may add the channels and TV-Apps via www.moviesplus.org

If you’re a filmmaker looking for free film distribution…You can get in on this, free.
If you’re a filmmaker looking for free exposure for your movie, TV or web series…You can get in on this, free.
If you’re a filmmaker looking for free publicity and promotion for your movie or TV Pilot or series…You can get in on this, free.

To get started, you may email me directly, BUT I suggest using the free service film freeway. My Festival is only $5 to $8 to enter. That’s cheap! The submission fees are less than 9 dollars. And in return you get access to all the resources I listed above. Free online streaming for your movie, TV show, Pilot, web series and more.

(Please note that the current Festival doesn’t have a category for Features, therefore if you’d like to have your feature streamed, simply contact me directly on Facebook or through the links on my moviesplus website.)

Also, TRAILERS AND TEASERS are FREE TO ENTER, and you may get yours immediately streamed on Android by visiting my Youtube channel, again the link is on the Movies Plus website.

To enter the Festival for FREE or for as low as $5, please visit https://filmfreeway.com/Metro-Film-and-TV-Awards

Cheers and good Streaming,
Dean Lachiusa
Curator, the Metro Film Festival.
http://www.MetroFilmFestival.com — (c) Dean Lachiusa