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Festival Circuit for short films – part 2

Once in a while, simply google your name and your film’s title. Surprisingly, you may find reviews of your short or even festival appearance you didn’t know about.

Once I did that (all I wanted was to check my facebook page) and I found out that my film was screened at a festival in Ireland and I didn’t even know in the first place that it had been accepted. It turned out that the festival tried to get in touch with me but for some reason I didn’t get any emails from them.

If you can, try to attend the festival. It’s a great way to meet other filmmakers, to network and maybe even to meet sales agents and distributors. And if your film is great beyond imagination, you may even meet someone who could help you with your next project.

Before you attend the festival, make sure that all your promotional materials are in place (such as business cards, post cards, stickers, posters or something more imaginative).
If you can, get a copy of the Delegate Guide and get in touch with the people you would like to talk to before the festival, it may be really helpful. Be well prepared for those meetings and be aware of what you want to talk about, otherwise you will waste your time and this person’s and look very unprofessional.

When you are at the festival, try to get as much exposure  as possible. You have to be an extravert. Don’t refuse interviews with the local media, panel discussions or Q&A’s. Attend as many parties, workshops, panel discussions as you can. You never know who you are going to meet there.

If you have the time (I know how stretched for time we all are), get in touch with the local media before the festival to let them know about your film and your willingness to provide them with a press kit, trailer and time for interviewing you.

Of course there are many ways you can promote your film. The list of books and articles covering this subject is endless. My advice to you is: do what feels right and always try your best but don’t drive yourself crazy with the promotional efforts. Try to reach as many people and as many special interest groups as you can.

Any film festival or screening of your film is a great way of reaching your audience, meeting people, networking and presenting your work to the industry professionals who could help you with your next short or feature. It’s trivial possibly but you never know who is going to watch it.

So to sum it up, don’t miss the festival circuit and good luck to all of you with your submissions.


“You’ve got it made” by Nigel R. Smith

Festival Circuit For Short Films – part 1

Before you set off to promote your short film, at film festivals, you have to clearly identify the goals for your film. Is it just to show it to the world at the festival, perhaps to find a sales agent? Or could it be to find an investor for it or maybe for your next film?

Once you have set your goals, you will be able to choose the right festival for your film. It seems obvious but you have to remember that each festival is different and not every festival is attended by the industry delegates (if this is what you looking for, for instance).

Festivals are also divided into ones that are only for short films and documentaries, for example, and ones where major players are feature films and shorts are only screened as sideshows or out of competition.

What I usually do (since my aim is always to get screened at as many festivals as I can, to get the biggest possible exposure) is to make a list of all the festivals for shorts, that my film qualifies for. Every month I check all the festivals that are marked for deadlines which are due within the next month or two. I repeat this process for about a year.

Many other filmmakers’ methods are to divide festivals into categories starting with the most prestigious ones and making their way down this list.

Clermont Ferrand (France)
Hamburg (Germany)
Milano (Italy)
Encounters (UK)

Palm Springs(USA)
Aspen Shortsfest(USA)
CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival (Canada)
Message to Man (Russia)
Sao Paolo International Short Film Festival (Brazil)

If you want to go this way, make a list of the most important festivals (check our comprehensive database) and first submit your short to these ones. If you aren’t going to be accepted to any of them, start sending your film to the festivals from your 2nd list, etc.

Most festivals usually don’t want to accept films that are older than two years. So even if you are lucky, you only have two years of festival circuit with your short.

Some festivals (mainly the American ones) have submission fees and you have to decide how much money you are willing to put aside for the submission fees. My rule is to only pay for the most prestigious ones and hope for the best. There are loads of festivals around the world which screen shorts so if you have no money, you still have a good chance that your film will be screened somewhere around the globe.

Talking about money. Film festivals are expensive (regardless of whether you have to pay submission fees or not) so keep a close eye on your budget:   the money spent on postage, promotional materials, submission copies and screening copies, etc.
And this is even before you get accepted to any of them and you decide to go. Of course, sometimes the festival organizers are willing to pay for the participants’ accommodation and stuff but it’s not always this way. And even if they do, it’s useful to have some pocket money.

Over the past few years online submission services have become quite popular, especially for the paid festivals. The most well known websites in this field are:

Before you submit your film to any festival make sure that you have all the contracts signed and all the clearances for the music or images have been sorted out. If you don’t have the legalities under your belt, it might be difficult for the festival to accept your film, not to mention trying to sell it to a distributor or gaining a sales agent.

Of course, don’t forget to read the rules and regulations thoroughly before you send your film. It might turn out that there is something you don’t like about the festival (the other day I was just about to send my film to a festival in Italy but I decided to go through the regulations once more and it turned out that the festival wanted me to give them the full rights to screen my film on TV and Internet anytime and anywhere free of charge. That kind of deal could exclude me from selling the film to TV myself or finding an agent who would be willing to represent the film.)

Usually I send a submission letter to each festival  together with a CD with all the press materials on it. I know that some festivals say that press kits end up in the bin but then, once you get accepted to the festival, its staff will ask for all the materials you could include in the press kit. That is why I usually put everything in one envelope. (it saves both, money and time)

Don’t forget to keep a record of all your:
–    Awards.
–    Festival appearances.
–    Upcoming festivals.
–    Screenings.
–    Other events.


My Lessons in Gratitude.

While going to the airport for holidays our car caught a flat tire leaving us no option but to take a mini cab to and from the airport. Our ride to the airport was uneventful so not much to report but on the way back something worth mentioning happened.

Our plain arrived late due to a heavy traffic across Europe. First feeling after touching a ground? After 10 days of sunny Spain, London felt and smelled like November: cloudy, cold and rainy (not a typical weather in June).

The cab driver had no choice but to wait for us for almost an hour staying around the airport, even though the cab office knew we were coming in late.

But it’s not about logistics or any complains about easyJet (I have none this time around). I want to talk about the driver’s gratitude. We paid him the agreed fee of £45 and gave him a £5 tip. We always tip, unless the service or the food is so bad that even Marek, my hubby, can’t convince himself to do so, although he’s much more forgiving that I am. The driver was so humbled and grateful for the £5 that I could clearly see that he didn’t expect that.

I do have to say that I don’t often see such gratefulness even in my small community of spiritually awaken individuals. They all say they are grateful but it doesn’t feel like that. IT’s not in their body language. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging. I’m most likely as guilty as everyone else and most of my life I have been a very ungrateful gal.

Another gratefulness lesson came the next day when I had no choice but to call in for a mobile tire changing professional. The dude was quick; he came within 15 minutes all ready to roll. I asked him if he wanted something warm to drink since it was bloody freezing outside. He seemed deadly surprised by the offer but still said “No, thank you. Just go inside, stay in the warm and once I’m done I’ll call you.” When he was all finished and done I kindly thanked him for his service and shook his hand. For a split second he was unsure of my intention but then extended his hand and his gratitude flowed in from his soul. I didn’t notice this before but he was missing two fingers and of course his hands were dirty from the work he had just done. When I looked up at him his eyes were filled with gratitude.

Being grateful for “so-called small things” is what makes us human. That’s one of the reasons how and why we connect on a deeper and more meaningful level, instead of being detached from each other, which only brings fear, distraction and war.


Fernando Meirelles – concerned moralist from Sao Paulo

Since the mid 1990’s the Brazilian cinema has been considered as one of the most interesting cinematographies in the world. Retomada, the revival of the Brazilian cinema was possible thanks to Jose Carlos Avellar, who in 1992, founded RioFilme, a company that financed and distributed new films.

Since the mid 1990’s the Brazilian cinema has been considered as one of the most interesting cinematographies in the world. Retomada, the revival of the Brazilian cinema was possible thanks to Jose Carlos Avellar, who in 1992, founded RioFilme, a company that financed and distributed new films. Two names are symbols of the revival: Walter Salles and Fernando Meirelles, the best known Brazilian filmmakers at the moment. Meirelles actually has a debt of gratitude to pay to Salles who produced Cidade de Deus – a film that made Meirelles famous worldwide.

However before he became famous Meirelles had to go through a lot. Born on November 9, 1955 in Sao Paulo, he got a university degree in architecture. Although film was always one of his passions and during his studies he started a production company called Olhar Eletronico (eO), which enabled him and his friends to make videos, TV commercials and TV shows for children. In 1986 they made a documentary film Olhar Eletronico. Two years later in 1988, Meirelles, together with Fabrizia Pinto, directed his first, religious coverage, fiction film Menino Maluquinho 2: A Aventura, awarded with an Honorable Mention at the Children’s Cinema Competition Jury at 2000 Cartagena Film Festival. The year 2001 brought another of his directing coproductions Domesticas awarded i.e. with the Grand Prix at 2002 Toulouse Latin America Film Festival. This time he shared his director’s chair with Nando Olival.
After his first successes Meirelles decided to work on the subject he had been thinking about for years. The new project was meant to be based on the novel by Paulo LinsCidade de Deus, on which Meirelles worked together with Katia Lund. And so in 2002 his first feature-film and also Meirelles’ best known film was made, titled as same as a book it was based on – Cidade de Deus.

Paulo Lins described on 700 pages a young boy’s childhood and growing up in one of the biggest Brazilian favelas called Cidade de Deus in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro. It’s a fickle name considering the fact that Brazilian favelas rather look like places God forgot a long time ago.  People, abandoned by the state and jammed in a small space (as for the size of population living there), live day-to-day on the brink of poverty with no chance and no hopes to get out of that hell. Indeed, it’s an infernal reality that is ruled by crime and brutality. For the favela rules are the rules of those who hold power, the drug mobs always fighting to widen their influence zones. It’s the world in which one has to grow up fast because every „self-respecting” inhabitant of that human trash becomes a gangster as a young boy. The main protagonists of Meirelles’ film are just those boy-gangsters, whose lives he talks about and whose perspectives we watch their surrounding world from. The Meirelles film tells a story of the Brazilian slums, it tells something significant about our reality, in which poor districts and a percentage of people living outside the so called ‘brackets of society’ begin to dangerously outnumber the percentage of people living in civilized conditions. Thus Fernando Meirelles provoked the inconvenient question, especially for decision makers. What really constitutes social standards nowadays and if eurocentric self-satisfaction of some achievements in our civilization is a bit over the top?

The socially active cinema became, only because of this film, his visiting card. In a similar tone he made his next film The Constant Gardener (2005), a movie adaptation of spy novel by John Le Carre. This time Meirelles filmed a thriller which takes place in Kenya. A starting point for diagnosis of activities of pharmaceutical consortiums active in the Black Continent is a story of a difficult marriage between a British diplomat Justin Quale and an activist from a humanitarian organization, Tess. Following Justin, who first suspects his wife of cheating on him and then on his own attempts to unravel her mysterious death which happened in rather vague circumstances, the audience sets out for a journey inside Africa. However it is not a land known from postcards or an image Karen Blixen drew in the beginning of the last century. Everyone setting out for this journey must be prepared for a land stricken with disaster, poverty and death. The story of Justin and Tess and their struggle is a pretext for showing unpardonable practices of global pharmaceutical companies testing their new medicines on ill Africans. Under the guise of carrying  out humanitarian aid they treat masses of terminally ill people as an experiment. For the pharmaceuticals companies this means heaps of profits by shortening the testing stage before new medicines are launched on the market, the western market, of course. Once again Meirelles – a moralist gave us a pretty pessimistic view of our modern world.

Cidade de Deus and The Constant Gardener aim the sting of criticism at very real happenings present in our world. They show people set in a carefully recreated scene, very real indeed (films were shot, with mafia bosses consent, in the real Cidade de Deus and African slums). In his next and latest production, Blindness (2008), Meirelles changed this point of view. He focuses on a fragment extracted from reality, that poses  a symbol of the world, the story widens into an allegorical, suspended in time and space parable – diagnosis of a disease that mankind suffers from. This disease is analgesia and people who suffer from it are dehumanized, degenerated creatures, slowly becoming beasts. Mankind consumed with a blindness epidemic gets a chance. Paradoxically this chance is the blindness – the last hope for opening of human minds and hearts and for return, by Freud, from the world of instincts and nature to the world of culture and its humanistic values.

Blindness opened 2008 at the Cannes International Film Festival. It is a film version of the same title novel by Portuguese Nobel prize winner Jose Saramago. His works are foremost allegoric parables in which he includes his deep anxieties about the modern world and modern people. Similar anxieties Meirelles articulates in his films. It is not surprising then how persistently he tried to screen the novel of one of the greatest modern visionaries. The vision is dreary? Well, perhaps it’s a chance we will see daylight faster.

Chosen filmography

2008 Blindness
2005 The Constant Gardener
2002 Cidade de Deus
2001 Domesticas
2000 Palace II
1998 Menino Maluquinho 2: A Aventura

Chosen Awards

2000 Honorable Mention of the Children’s Cinema Competition Jury at 2000 Cartagena Film Festival for Menino Maluquinho 2: A Aventura
2001  Jury Award at Ajijic International Film Festival for Domesticas
2002  Visions Award – Special Citation at Toronto International Film Festival for Cidade de Deus
2004  Nominee for Best Director at Academy Awards for Cidade de Deus
2006  Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Film for The Constant Gardener
2008  Audience Award at Sitges – Catalonian International Film Festival for Blindness


European Cinema (1945 – 2000)

In the post-war history of European cinema one might have observed two tendencies that have defined the cinema until today. On the one hand there are filmmakers, concentrated around specific schools or trends, and on the other there are outstanding directors, however derived from one of those schools or trends. The main characteristic of the European cinema has been a tendency to make the author’s movies and those outstanding directors have been creating the very core of such cinema.

In the post-war history of European cinema one might have observed two tendencies that have defined the cinema until today. On the one hand there are filmmakers, concentrated around specific schools or trends, and on the other there are outstanding directors, however derived from one of those schools or trends. The main characteristic of the European cinema has been a tendency to make the author’s movies and those outstanding directors have been creating the very core of such cinema. Besides, it wasn’t a coincidence that American cinema’s mavericks (like Woody Allen, Robert Altman, or James Ivory, who is called more British than Britons themselves) gained much greater fame in Europe than in the USA.

The cinematic history of post-war Europe was started by Italian neo-realism. The most significant of its representatives were Roberto Rossellini (Roma, citta aperta 1945, Paisa 1946) and Vittorio De Sica (Ladri di Biciclette 1948 and Umberto D 1952). Neo-realism introduced new aesthetic solutions (true outdoor-sceneries, amateur actors) and took up the those days social subjects. Until 1970’s and the New Wave’s triumph there was no other cinema trend that was to be of such importance as the Italian neo-realism.

In the fifties the other masters of the European cinema, making their first masterpieces, were Luis Bunuel (Spain), Ingmar Bergman (Sweden) and Robert Bresson (France).

Bunuel, a provocateur and a moralist, creating in France, Spain and Mexico, was an author of such movies as: Nazarin (1958), Viridiana (1961) and La belle de jour (1967), in which dominating aesthetics is a tendency toward perversion, violence and naturalism. Years after he was back to the aesthetics of surrealism in movies like Les charme discret de la burgeoisie (1972) and Cet obscur objet du desir (1974).

At the other end of the scale were the works of Robert Bresson, who in his extremely ascetic movies enclosed deliberations taking the form of religious morality (Le journal d’un cure campagne 1951 and Un condamne a mort s’est chappe 1956).

At the same time Ingmar Bergman augmented existential questions about human nature. He started asking them in the trilogy made in years 1953-1957, consisting of Gycklarnas aftan,  Det sjude inseglet, Smultronstallet.

In the 1960’s the circle of cinema masters increased. The noble group was joined by Italians: Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, Bernardo Bertolucci, Luchino Visconti, the iconoclastic Pier Paolo Pasolini and the Russian excommunicated artist Andrei Tarkovski.

The seventies belonged to the filmmakers of New Wave which covered France, England and Czechoslovakia.

In France young filmmakers connected with Cahiers du Cinema magazine proclaimed the revival of the cinema in the spirit of unfettered creative freedom. Francois Truffaut, Jean Luc Godard, Alain Reisnais are but a few of the main New Wave names.

In Great Britain the revival of cinema should be connected with Angry Young Man, group of artists grew out of Free Cinema movement originated in the 1950’s. Its members where Lindsay Anderson, Tony Richardson, John Schlesinger, and Karel Reisz.

The term “Czechoslovak New Wave” is associated with the works of young directors, graduates of the FAMU film school. Its main representatives were Milos Forman, Jiri Menzel and Vera Chytilowa.

In the 1970’s and the 1980’s the main driving force amongst European filmmakers was to be the Germans: Werner Herzog, Volker Schlondorff, Rainer W.Fassbinder and Wim Wenders and Spaniards, a veteran Carlos Saura and a rising star Pedro Almodovar, who has been on the top until now.

The 1980’s in Great Britain was a successful time for Sally Potter and her avant-garde cinema as well as a visionary director Peter Greeneway. The extremely prolific duo Merchant-Ivory made successful adaptations of classic novels. Whilst at the other end Mike Leigh and Ken Loach became specialized in social dramas. A successor to the great Laurence Olivier appeared to be Kenneth Branagh, realizing his own adaptations of Shakespeare works.

Over the last couple decades British cinematography seems to have taken a special position amongst the other European cinematographies. In 1996, Anthony Minghella won an Oscar for The English Patient. Big popularity from the world over sought out directors of the youngest generation: Danny Boyle, and his brilliant Trainspotting (1996) and Guy Ritchie with his gangster movies (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels 1998 and Snatch 2000).

Amongst the Italian directors deserving of special notice one should distinguish the Taviani brothers and Nanni Moretti.

A unique phenomenon of European cinema has lately been Scandinavian cinema, which because of Lars von Trier has been reviving since the 1990’s. A director who received many awards for Breaking the Waves 1996 and the winner at the 2000 International Cannes Film Festival with Dancer in the Dark, is also a co-author of the manifesto known as Dogma 95’. Dogma imposed signatories with maximum asceticism during the whole process of film production. The most radical von Trier applied Dogma rules in the movie shot in 1998 Idioterne.

This is possibly the shortest journey through the history of European cinematography. More complex stories you’ll find in the articles when we focus on the specific countries.