Sunday 27 April 2014

Apocalypse Later Film Festivals at Conventions

I've been programming film festivals at small local Arizona conventions (between 300 and 4,000 attendees) for a year now and they've gone very well. Given their success (I've had between 20 and 300 attendees just for my screenings), it's become clear that I need to set up this reference page to which I will be sending a lot of people.

A little background... some of these conventions have run film festivals before but they tended to use a submission-based model which generated them a small amount of income, perhaps offset by the cost of awarding a prize. This didn't work well. Few films were submitted and quality was never guaranteed, so these screenings tended to be both poor and short. Audiences drifted away.

When LepreCon asked me to program their film festival at LepreCon 39 in May 2013, I chose to ditch this failed model entirely. Instead I programmed a 90 minute set of short films and a feature, with a Q&A in between with any local filmmakers who attended. This approach guaranteed a decent running time, quality material and the opportunity for audience members to meet some of the filmmakers.

The theory is that everyone wins:

- I have no budget and don't get paid, but I do get into the convention.
- There are neither submission fees nor prizes, so to filmmakers it's an opportunity to reach new eyeballs (like Vimeo or YouTube, but on a bigger screen).
- Audiences get to see a quality set of films for free with the potential bonus of local filmmakers to talk to.
- The conventions get publicity, good feeling and the possibility that they may sell memberships to their full events.

Thus far this has seemed to work and the success of the LepreCon 39 event led to more of the same.

After LepreCon in 2013, I programmed similar film festivals at DarkCon, CopperCon and Wild Wild West Con. I returned to LepreCon in 2014 for their 40th anniversary, will be returning to CopperCon in August and, after Hallowe'en, I'll be programming at FearCon. Numbers are strong. Some of the audience members have come specifically for my film festivals and have returned time after time. Some have also bought convention memberships.

As I'll be sending convention contacts and filmmakers to this page, here's how the model works and how it affects you.

For Filmmakers

If I'm contacting you, I've already seen and enjoyed your film and believe it would be a good fit for a particular convention. It may fit the theme of the event or tie in to the special media guest.

I may have seen it online, at another film festival or even as a submission to another film festival (as I currently screen for five different events). In some instances, I may already have reviewed it at my main review site, Apocalypse Later, and you may have originally sent it to me for review.

Primarily what I'm asking for is your permission for me to screen your film. I'm very keen to obtain permission from filmmakers (or other rights owners) in every instance.

There is no financial component associated with my film festivals. There are no submission fees for filmmakers and no payment for me. This is not a competition and there are no prizes.

My film festivals are also free and open to the public so there's no commercial gain. The conventions do hope that attendees buy memberships to their events, but this is not required. However there are two exceptions worthy of note:

1. Wild Wild West Con takes place in a closed venue, Old Tucson Studios, so while my film festival itself is free, attendees must either have bought a pass to Old Tucson or Wild Wild West Con to get to the venue.

2. Similarly, FearCon centres around a larger film festival, at which I'll only be one part. My set will be free, but attendees must have bought a pass to FearCon to get into it.

I may also be asking for a high quality digital copy of your film so that it can be seen exactly as intended. In some instances I may already have this, perhaps a short from Vimeo or YouTube or a feature on DVD, but often I'll either not have a copy at all or only a lower quality one.

The screens I use are generally portable ones, so not huge and 720p (or even 360p) will play well. There are the same two exceptions, however, where 1080p is highly recommended:

1. At Wild Wild West Con, films are projected onto the big screen in Old Tucson's historic saloon set (where so many famous films were shot).

2. At FearCon, the screen will also be very large and my set will be surrounded by other film programming.

If you're a local filmmaker, I'll also ask if you might be available to come out to attend and be part of a Q&A in between the shorts and the feature. This is not required, especially on a Thursday evening and as there is no budget to help you attend, but it does add value for the audience and allows you to connect with them directly.

While I have not done this over the last year (yet), now that I've set up Apocalypse Later Now! to host anything I write that isn't a film review, I plan to post coverage of each of my film festivals with brief synopses of each film, links to IMDb and my reviews (where appropriate), poster images and links to any media that may be online, such as at Vimeo or YouTube, whether that be the full film or just a trailer. Hopefully this will build publicity for your work.

For Conventions

I provide this service to conventions primarily to ensure that you have a strong film festival with quality content at your events, without having to worry about any aspect of making it happen.

There is no financial component to these film festivals. I do not charge filmmakers submission fees or offer prizes. I do not expect any payment from conventions. Your events will not gain anything financially unless attendees choose to buy convention memberships after attending the film festival.

Here's what I bring to the table:

1. I handle all programming. Because I'm now hosting these film festivals at many conventions, I'm able to keep my eyes open at all times for new material that I believe would play well at a future event. I will happily work to your theme.

2. I handle all approvals. I will obtain approvals from the filmmakers (or other rights owners) before screening any film.

3. I handle all liaison with filmmakers. I keep in constant touch with the local film community, so can bring out local filmmakers and host Q&A sessions.

Here are my requirements:

1. I need Operations to supply a room, a projector and a screen. I'll bring a laptop, speakers and all the media content.

2. I should be listed on your website and in your programme as a Participant with a brief bio that I can happily provide in either long or short form, as required. In addition to the film festival, I'm happy to serve as a panelist or moderator on any panels you see fit. I have strong experience in both functions.

3. As a Participant, I should receive two passes to your convention.

I do not expect to be seen as a Guest or as Staff, unless I'm doing something else for your convention that means I meet those criteria.

I do not need to be part of your convention committee and would not expect to attend any planning meetings, with the possible exception of an initial one to flesh out what I've outlined on this page.

While I'd generally expect to work to what has become my standard model, I'm open to any suggestions as to how you might prefer it to be changed for your particular event. We would need to work this out as far in advance of that event as is possible.

For Audiences

My film festivals are free of charge and I hope you enjoy the service I'm providing enough to come back for future events.

Please take your attendance at one of my film festivals as an opportunity to look at what else will be happening at the convention that's hosting me. If you like what you see, please consider buying a membership.

These are generally small conventions so you'll have a much more personal experience than at a large event like Phoenix Comicon. The negative side is that there's much less of everything but the positive side is that your time will be more valuably spent at every aspect of it. If you've ever met a special media guest and wanted to spend more time with them, then these small conventions are absolutely for you.

Please also support the filmmakers. If you enjoyed a movie at one of my film festivals, consider contacting the people who made it to say so and then check out their other work. Buy their DVDs, watch their films on Vimeo or YouTube and tell your friends what they're missing.

My next film festival will be at LepreCon 40 on Thursday, 8th May, 2014, starting at 7.00pm. The venue is:

Marriott Mesa
200 N Centennial Way, Mesa, AZ 85201
(480) 898-8300

Convention Details

Here are details for each of the conventions I've programmed for thus far (or am scheduled to program for in the future):

DarkCon (every other January)
Website | Facebook

This is a sci-fi/fantasy convention run by the Dark Ones with a strong focus on the punked genres (steampunk/cyberpunk/dieselpunk etc). It began in 1995. This year's event was in Phoenix

Wild Wild West Con (March)
Website | Facebook

This is a dedicated steampunk convention run by the Arizona Steampunk Society at Old Tucson Studios, just outside Tucson. 2014 was its 3rd year.

LepreCon (May)
Website | Facebook

This is a general sci-fi/fantasy convention in Mesa with a focus on art. 2014 will be its 40th year.

CopperCon (August)
Website | Facebook

This is a general sci-fi/fantasy convention in Mesa with a focus on literature and media.

FearCon (November in 2014)
Website | Facebook

This is a dedicated horror convention and film festival run by the folk from Trash City. 2014 will be its 6th event, which will be at Fear Farm in Phoenix.

Thank you!

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