How To Make It With A Short Film In Europe

by Elliot Grove

Filmmakers in Britain have always considered short form narratives and documentaries as a viable step into filmmaking. The BBC and Channel 4 in particular have commissioned and purchased shorts for broadcast on terrestrial television, often as a way to test new talent before awarding the filmmakers a more substantial contract to produce a feature film or documentary. However, since 2003, the landscape has changed. In the current climate the terrestrial television channels have scaled back their commissioned shorts programs and rarely acquire shorts for broadcast. This has left filmmakers with relying on festivals as the main alternative to getting their work seen.

Shorts typically have punchier story lines, are often shot on very low budgets giving them a gritty look, that combined with sharp short stories make compelling viewing. Filmmakers have been shooting movies on their mobiles since 2003 when Nokia introduced the first camera phone. The haunting images on television after the 7/7 terrorist attacks in London demonstrated their news ability. This ground-breaking moment paved the way to the present BBC practice who issue quality mobile handsets such as the Nokia N93 to home-based journalists, who then email in their footage for quick assembly, edit and broadcast in the studio.

Using a short film, or a series of short films has always been considered a viable and useful way to demonstrate one talent to the industry powers-that-be on route to building a career in features, or in commercials and pop promos. Here are the routes novice filmmakers are using in Europe. Many of these techniques are applicable universally.

1. Film Festivals

A festival screening allows you to screen your film in front of total strangers, and often, in Europe at least, to people with whom English is not their mother tongue. Until you have sat in a screening room full of strangers watching your film you do not really know how the film "plays". Do they laugh at the right place for example.

Getting your film accepted into a film festival is not easy. Firstly, you research the festival world (there are nearly 3,000 film festivals around the world), download a submission form, and send it, along with an application fee and a copy of your film. Then you wait to hear if you have been selected. If you are selected, you then need to send the festival a screening copy of the film, usually on digibeta, along with a picture of yourself, or a still from the movie that they can use in their festival catalogue. Try and book your holiday around a festival screening. Get there a few days earlier and pass out postcards with a good strong image of your film on one side, and the screening dates and times on the reverse. Festival organizers should also be able to help you with a list of local distributors and sales agents who might be interested in acquiring short films (ie: buying a license to screen your film). Contact these people by email and telephone.

Screenings at certain film festivals almost certainly guarantee other festival invites. Many festivals rely on bellweather festivals such as Raindance, to act as a filter to whittle down the huge number of films to a manageable lot of a certain quality.

Remember that each festival has different taste, and to be rejected by one festival is not to be taken personally.

The best way to research film festivals is to look at these two sites:, an English-speaking company based in Paris, and, an American company with a subsidiary office in London.
Top European Film festivals for shorts:

There are at least 9 European short film festivals which show shorts only. Other festivals, such as Raindance, have dynamic short film strands. Research the festivals and try to ascertain which ones have videotechs, such as Rotterdam. At those festivals, even if you are not selected, industry scouts will be able to see your film.

International Short Film Festival Leuven January
International Film Festival Rotterdam January
Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival February
Tampere Short Film Festival March
International Short Film Festival Oberhausen May
Cannes International Film Festival May
Cineam Jove International Film Festival June
Vila do Conde International Short Film Festival July
Raindance Film Festival - October
Kinofilm Manchester International Film Festival November
Encounters International Short Film Festval November

Sales Agents

Hamburg Short Film Agency
Future Shorts
Dazzle Films

For the rest of the tips including: Internet Self Distribution, Internet Distribution, Mobile Telephone, Competitions, Airlines, Advertising Agencies, and Compialation DVDs

How To Fake Being An Indie Auteur

Part II

Last week outlined was numbers 1-10 of How To Fake Being An Indie Auteur. The emphasis was on the making of the film. The Plot, The Script, Dialogue, Casting, and Direction were mentioned on the blog. This week part II: getting noticed.

by Suzanne Ballantyne

It is not enough to have made the definitive indie auteur film. That is a mere ten percent of the equation. The hard graft revolves around getting noticed.

11. PR
The entry-level auteur must not venture anywhere near standard PR. His/her career is far too fragile to be left in the hands of hard nosed professionals. Some degree of subtlety is required for navigating the blatantly self- promotional road ahead. The way forward includes blogging, a certain degree of dalliance on my space - although the indie auteur should not stoop to having his own page, that should be reserved for the two lead characters in his film.

Far better that he should instead be talked about by others. This can be achieved by posting short daily production diaries on his blog, which should be slightly irreverent and may, due to time constraints, occasionally appear in haiku format. i.e:

Sound roll camera
Action can't act, cut print drink
drink bad day away

He should engage in live web chats, appear sporadically on video forums, post an interview with himself on You Tube, network at loft parties on Second Life and hold intimate screenings of either his rushes, work-in-progress or finished film at the home of a famous new friend - ideally a grungy rocker who frequently appears off his face in the tabloids. The indie auteur is after all creating brand awareness for his burgeoning career and by associating with indie luminaries in parallel art forms the brand of the wannabe can only strengthen.

12. Getting The Word Out.
Do not wait for the public to figure out what your film is or isn't . Tell them first or rather, tell a few trusted friends and get them to pass the word along, again taking full advantage of the power of the internet. Gently suggest your work be compared to that of the great modern artists. Your single twenty minute, opening tracking shot could be compared to the stark genius of Picasso's line drawings, the 'look' of your film to early Schnabel and your ‘vision’ to an almost Warholian reverence for the ordinary.

13. Business Cards.
Under no circumstances.There's no way any self-respecting indie auteur should appear to have put such forethought into his career. When asked for one he reaches into his obscure festival branded shoulder bag and tears off a scrap of whatever asking the recipient if he would mind lending a space of his back for him to scribble on. Or try this more advanced tactic, simply utter – ‘You can reach me through Paul at Gold View’. Few phrases command as much respect as this immediate ring fence approach. The unspoken message is Paul shelters me from the hoi poiloi. This, coupled with the lofty pretentiousness of the Asian Sales Agent –you are after all,the director of their only English language project, and you have virtually catapulted yourself into the land of must-have auteur du jour.

14. Start A Movement
If you do have friends use them. Get them involved in your film. If you don't make some. They must be like-minded and have skills that you as an indie auteur could use. Musicians who can provide music rights- free are excellent. Even better if they have some following of their own - they'll get the music press talking about your film and perhaps some free publicity. They may even turn out to support you and add to your screening figures. Get other friends on board - editors, lighting people,dop’s. They just need to passionately believe in you. Encourage them to make their own films in your style- help them out and call yourselves a collective based in some place like Manila. All of you get together and submit to festivals. Festivals are a little bit in awe of collectives.

15. Learn To Flirt
And get good at it since you'll be doing it a lot. Flirt equally with men and women. Blur the lines sexually. Flirt with junior programmers, budding journalists and bouncers at parties. Flirt with the big directors and get them interested in you. After all it can't hurt to have proven auteurs like Abbas Kiarostami,Jafar Panahi or one of the Makmahlbafs put in a good word for you. When you approach them at a festival party they will assume you are an equally important director and be surprisingly nice to you. Look them in the eye and whisper mentor under your breath.

If you liked tips 11-15 check out 16-20.

Script Formatting

Check out this incredible source for formatting your screenplay. Here is a screenshot of the program celtx.
The download includes 6 different industry editors for writing including:
  • Screenplays
  • Stageplay: International and US standard
  • AV scripts: including documentaries, music videos and advertising
  • Audio play: including radio plays and podcasts
  • Comic Book
  • Plain text

Live At The Apollo

A snapshot of The Apollo in Piccadilly Circus. The venue for the 17th Raindance Film Festival.

Get your Pass Here.

Empire Magazine reviews Raindance Films

by David Parkinson

Steven Soderbergh's The Girlfriend Experience is the highest-profile picture on show at the 17th Raindance Film Festival. But big names are not necessarily what this exceptional event is about. Over the years, it has introduced British audiences to the talents who would come to dominate the US independent scene, while also showcasing newcomers from around the world. Over the years, it has developed a special affinity with Japan and this continues in 2009, with the focus falling on such women film-makers as Momoko Ando (A Piece of Our Life - Kakera), Sachi Hamano (Lily Festival), Naomi Kawase (Hotaru), Yuki Tanada (Ain't No Tomorrows) and Yukiko Sode (Mine-Mine).

Raindance also has a reputation for launching new British artists. But few have made such an impact on so small a budget as Marc Price, who who produced Colin for the princely sum of £45. It speaks volumes for the Welshman's acumen that he has since secured a theatrical release for a zombie flick that was cast through Facebook and MySpace. Yet for all the praise being rightly heaped upon Price for attempting to reverse torture porn's tendency towards excess, this is more an exercise in pragmatic avoidance than a revival of the lost art of supernatural suggestion.

Clutching a bloodied hammer, Alastair Kirton returns to his suburban home to cleanse a wound on his forearm. But though he is still initially able to kill in self-defence, he's soon powerless to fight his craving for human flesh and he ventures on to streets where lone motorists are crowbarring the skulls of feeding zombies, muggers are attacking them for their watches and trainers, perverts are keeping them tethered in basements and vigilante gangs are targeting them with a pitiless savagery that's extended to anyone within their own ranks who get bitten in the line of duty.

For the complete list of films reviewed by Empire Magazine.

Japanese Films At Raindance

17th Raindance Film Festival Spotlights Women Japanese Directors

Since 1998, Raindance Film Festival has continued in its strong support for Japanese filmmaking, with its Way Out East section the largest annual showcase for new Japanese cinema in the United Kingdom, screening at least ten recent features and documentaries annually. The 17th Raindance Festival, held between 30 September – 11 October 2009, this year turns its spotlight on the rising number of women filmmakers in Japan, with a special selection of five features and one shorts program from some of the country’s most exciting talent.

Director Momoko Ando will be in attendance to introduce the World Premiere of her debut feature, A PIECE OF OUR LIFE - KAKERA -. The film, scored by Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, is a touching portrait of a romantic relationship between Haru, a college student whose relationship with her self-centred boyfriend is going nowhere, and Riko, a bisexual medical artist who makes prosthetic body parts. Born in 1982, Ando is the daughter of the acclaimed actor-director Eiji Okuda and the sister of rising starlet Sakura Ando (LOVE EXPOSURE, AIN’T NO TOMORROWS). A former student of the Slade School of Fine Art, her return to London to present her new film promises to be an unforgettable experience.

Also in attendance will be Sachi Hamano, the most prolific female director in Japan with over 400 films to her name, mainly in the genre of the erotic pink film. She will be here to present her 2001 non-pink title LILY FESTIVAL, a comedy drama in which the inhabitants of a residential home for women, aged between 69 and 91, find their passions rekindled when the first man moves in amongst them, a 75-year-old lothario with a charming manner and a colourful past. Hamano will be accompanied by LILY FESTIVAL’s screenwriter Kuninori Yamazaki.

More on the Japanese Films at this year's festival.

The Final Countdown

Less than a week until the 17th Raindance Film Festival. Get updated on what's good with the UK's largest independent film festival.

A trailer so good it had to be controversial.

Festival info

How To Fake Being An Indie Auteur

Part 1
by: Suzanne Ballantyne

This is not about how to make Hollywood films, made-for-tv films or even low budget films. This is not about making films whose purpose is to entertain. This is about a different species altogether - the indie auteur film, short or long - the darling of the latest 'it' festival - with city names likes Gotenburg, Hamburg, Kerala and Rotterdam in their title. The kind of film that press people, pretentious programmers, art house proprietors and film academians piss themselves for. The kind of film that might just launch your career.

So here goes - ten tips to indie auteurdom

1. The Plot
When thinking of your indie auteur script think sexual triangles.
Two women fighting over a man - two men over a woman. It's a well trodden path to indie genius.

2. The Script
Come up with a script which pays 'homage' that is, closely follows the plot points of a previous indie gem by a bona fide indie genius- i.e Francois Truffaut's JULES ET JIM. Most of the audience won't have seen the film you're paying homage to anyway and even if they have they won't quite get in what way you have been paying 'homage' to it.

Dialogue should be minimal. You do not want to overstate the case. Keep the audience guessing as to what exactly your film is about. Pauses are more important. Have lots of them and keep them long. The camera can then focus on the motionless faces of the actors as the audience desperately try to interpret their thoughts while struggling to figure out exactly what is going on.

4. Casting
Cast your friends and family. They should be weird looking but photogenic. Don't shy away from the fat, the frail and the ugly. It's your job to go where no director has gone before. If they can't act shoot them without sound and add voice over or shoot them from the back. You can always edit out any hints of amateurishness.


Cast actors who can really act - In fact cast the best actors you can as they will save your ass and add weight to your project that should stifle all and any niggling questions about your ability. Great actors want to preserve their own reputation and they may carry you along with them.

5. Direction
Take a scene with a few people then go back and shoot it again - each time from a different characters point of view. This will be interpreted as the director making a point and will add weight to your wafer thin plot. In fact just taking a very basic plot line and retelling it from each characters point of view is enough of a script for the indie auteur.

If you liked tips 1-5 read 6-10.

Apple Announces Ipod Video

Pocket size video cameras are all the latest in shooting video. Now Apple is in the game with its Ipod Nano. Here is a video because sometimes words just can't say enough.

Another aspect that I think is especially sexy about the Nano is a built in FM radio. I'll be looking for the first short film contest for the Nano, I'm sure someone will sponsor one soon.

Washington Post Compares Nano with other pocket cams

Actors On Acting

What do great actors have to say about their profession? Here is a list of 100 actors' quotes on acting.

"One of the pleasures of being an actor is quite simply taking a walk in someone else's shoes. And when I look at the roles I've played, I'm kind of amazed at all the wonderful adventures I've had and the different things I've learned."
-Willem Dafoe

"I know very little about acting. I'm just an incredibly gifted faker."
-Robert Downey, Jr.

"I don't know what its like for most actors, but really clearly for myself acting has always been the fulfillment of personal fantasies. It isn't just art, its about being a person I've always wanted to be, or being in a situation, or being a hero."
-Richard Dreyfuss

"I don't believe in pessimism. If something doesn't come up the way you want, forge ahead. If you think it's going to rain, it will."
-Clint Eastwood

"Dysfunctional families have sired a number of pretty good actors."
-Gene Hackman

"I decided to become an actor because I was failing in school and I needed the credits."
-Dustin Hoffman

"I think all phases of one's career are serious if you take it seriously no matter if you are doing high profile dramatic pieces or not."
-Bill Murray

"Every time I get a script it's a matter of trying to know what I could do with it. I see colors, imagery. It has to have a smell. It's like falling in love. You can't give a reason why."
-Paul Newman

"I have a hard time with morals. All I know is what feels right, what's more important to me is being honest about who you are. Morals I get a little hung up on."
-Brad Pitt

See more

Screenplay Tips: Teach Something

As an intern at Raindance this past summer I had the choice to come to a course each week. The course I chose was the Raindance Writer’s Certificate. We read scripts, watched film clips, and most importantly learned the art of writing and selling the hot screenplay. Here are some of my notes from those Wednesday nights.

A screenwriting tip from the movie Fight Club (1999): Teach your audience something.

My notes are great as you can see, but I remember exactly what this tip means. In the movie Fight Club our narrator Jack has the barrel of a gun stuck down his throat as his alter ego Tyler Dyrden waits patiently for the pending explosion. Of course what would that explosion be without soap. In a few quick scenes at the beginning of the film we see the fruits of project mayhem wrapped around the foundation of ten buildings in the business district of the city. The script paints a prettier picture:

Jack turns so that he can see down -- 31 STORIES.

We have front row seats for this
Theater of Mass Destruction. The
Demolitions Committee of Project
Mayhem wrapped the foundation columns
of ten buildings with blasting
gelatin. In two minutes, primary
charges will blow base charges, and
those buildings will be reduced to
smoldering rubble. I know this
because Tyler knows this.

What else does the narrator teach us? What it's like to have insomnia...


Jack, sleepy, stands over a copy machine. His Starbucks cup
sits on the lid, moving back and forth as the machine copies.

With insomnia, nothing is real.
Everything is far away. Everything
is a copy of a copy of a copy.

How about how car companies determine recalls on faulty parts…


A giant corrugated METAL DOOR opens.

On a long enough time line, the
survival rate for everyone drops to

Two TECHNICIANS lead Jack to the BURNT-OUT SHELL of a
WRECKED AUTOMOBILE. Jack sets down his briefcase, opens it
and starts to make notes on a CLIPBOARDED FORM.

I'm a recall coordinator. My job is
to apply the formula. It's a story

Here's where the infant went through
the windshield. Three points.

A new car built by my company leaves
somewhere traveling at 60 miles per
hour. The rear differential locks up.

The teenager's braces around the
backseat ashtray would make a good
"anti-smoking" ad.

The car crashes and burns with
everyone trapped inside. Now: do we
initiate a recall?

The father must've been huge. See
how the fat burnt into the driver's
seat with his polyester shirt? Very
"modern art."

Take the number of vehicles in the
field, (A), and multiply it by the
probable rate of failure, (B), then
multiply the result by the average
out-of-court settlement, (C). A
times B times C equals X...



Jack is speaking to the BUSINESSWOMAN next to him.

If X is less than the cost of a
recall, we don't do one.

Are there a lot of these kinds of

Oh, you wouldn't believe.

... Which... car company do you work

A major one.

Fight Club is full of lessons in its script. I didn’t know how to make a bomb out of soap (still don’t), but it was interesting to hear how it might be done. I didn’t know you could turn people’s own fat into soap, and I certainly hope this car recall business is made up. The points being if you are one of those many people out there working on a script keep this idea in mind.

Screenwriter’s tip: Teach your audience something.

5 Steps To Low Budget Film Success

In recent years, we’ve seen a number of directors and producers put together successful films on a relatively low budget such as The Blair Witch Project, (1999) , Clerks (1994) and Open Water (2003) – just to name a few. But on a limited budget, it can be extremely difficult for these filmmakers to be successful in their endeavors. They must carefully follow a certain set of guidelines for a film to reach its maximum potential.

With that in mind, there are a few simple and basic guidelines to keep in mind when attempting to put together a successful film on a limited budget.

1. Draft a Creative, Engaging Script

An important ingredient to any successful film is a good, quality script – which is the most critical aspect to the success of a low budget film. As evidenced through the success of Writer/Director Kevin Smith’s film Clerks, a quality script can carry a black and white film that was shot on a $27,575 budget to an enormous amount of success. The film eventually grossed over $3 million in theaters, with millions more by way of VHS and DVD sales. Due of the cult following of the film, an animated series, a comic book, and a sequel were spawned using the exact same characters Smith created for the film.

The key to writing a good low budget script is creativity and originality. With no budget for special effects, elaborate sets and desirable filming locations, a script must carry the film from start to finish. It’s the creative element that will keep the audience guessing and interested in the development of the story.

2. A Visionary Director

In most cases, successful low budget films are directed by individuals who are willing to take risks, are innovative, and know what it takes to put together a quality film. Examples of this are again, Kevin Smith, who wrote, directed, produced and acted in Clerks, Jared Hess, who wrote and directed Napoleon Dynamite (2004) and Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, who co-wrote and co-directed The Blair Witch project (1999). All of these writers/directors put together an original script and played a vital role in managing and directing the creative elements that made their films so successful.

For steps 3-5 of Andrew John's low-budget film success article. Here

What others are saying about low-budget film success:

"Take 12 kids to a house and chop them up" -EG

Tarantino vs Hitchcock

Find out the difference between showing and telling with directors Alfred Hitchcock and Quentin Tarantino. In this quick research/opinion article see if you can come up with your own comparisons between the legendary directors. HERE