FESTIVAL PREMIERES: What Do They mean?

One of my consulting clients recently asked me to help her clarify the difference between the various types of film festival premieres, and help her analyze her film festival strategy.

She asked, “What are World Premieres as compared to, say, Regional and/or Local Premieres?  More specifically, can I have a local premiere or a U.S. Premiere before the World Premiere, or is there a specific one that is supposed to happen first?”

Filmmakers and the media throw the word “premiere” around so often in the film world, I can understand how it can sometimes be confusing.  For the purpose of this article, we’re talking about various types of film festival premieres.  Or premieres that independent filmmakers should be concerned with.  We’re not talking about the red carpet “premieres” that Hollywood might have in London, New York, or Los Angeles that have nothing to do with a film festival.  Those types of “premieres” are usually held for publicity purposes to kick off a global theatrical release.

At film festivals, when you have a World Premiere, that means it’s the first time your movie will screen publicly in the world.  Some film festivals only accept films with World Premiere status, such as Sundance.  If you have already screened at another festival prior you could be disqualified from participation.  Some film festivals do not require a World Premiere status; so it’s important know their rules before you submit your movie.  I advise people to submit to the festivals that require a World Premiere first, because you can always submit to the other festivals later.

Likewise, there are festivals that require a country or regional kind of Premiere Status.  A US Premiere is the first time the film screens publicly in the US, and a NYC Premiere means its the first time the film is screened in NYC, and so forth.

My consulting client continued, “A Chicago festival that runs in mid-October is where I want to be the official Premiere of my short film…but…an L.A. festival that I also want to submit to is hosting their event during the first week of October and their notifications of acceptances/rejections are released two months before the Chicago notifications.  If I get into both festivals, can I still designate the Chicago one as a ‘World’ premiere even if I already screened at the L.A. one a few days prior?  Also, does any of this premiere lingo (world, U.S., International, Regional, LA, NY, East Coast, West Coast, Midwest, etc.) used at festivals, to distinguish one premiere from another premiere, really matter?”

I always suggest entering as many festivals as you can.  Sometimes one is limited by funding (if you entered all of them you’d spend thousands on submission fees).  If you get accepted into two or more festivals that each require a World Premiere, you always have the option to decline being in the less desirable.  In this case, I suggested if she gets into both the LA and Chicago fests, to screen in both.  I don’t see the trouble in saying your World Premiere is in Chicago—especially if the LA screening date was just within a few days of the Chicago date.

The use of the word “premiere” in various fests is just used to promote the fest itself.  If they can tell their regional newspapers that they have movies that have never before been seen in St Louis, for example, then it could draw more of a crowd because it sends the signal if someone wants to see your movie, they better come see it because they may not get another chance.

When my movie CASSEROLE CLUB got into Raindance, we had to promise it would be a UK Premiere, but they didn’t care whether or not the film previously screened in the US, etc.  But, when it was time to see if we could get into Berlinale, Berlin said we couldn’t be considered because we’d already screened at Raindance.  They wanted a World Premiere (or at least a European Premiere).  Now, had I been accepted to both Raindance and Berlinale, and had their dates been closer, I might not even mention Raindance, and if Berlin found out, I could have told Berlin that the Raindance screening was an unfinished test screening, or “Sneak Peek” and that the “finished” movie would show at Berlin for the first time, making it a World Premiere.  (I haven’t tried that kind of scenario yet, so I’m not sure if it would even work, but it seems plausible to me and Berlin might buy that).

Lastly, I think any “premiere” lingo is really about marketing and festivals just want to make sure they have ticket-buying customers.

MEETING RUTGER HAUER: Part 2 of 2

Part One was last week.

So, I was outside with My Fan, from FANS R PPL 2 and a woman came out screaming and crying, “Where are you!?”  I was mortified, and she tells me that the festival director, Anthony Pedone, a longtime friend of mine, just gave a 10-minute speech about me that moved people to tears and that I was winning an honorary independent filmmaker award of some kind, and that when he called me down to accept my award, I wasn’t there!  Instant panic.

I darted into the theater just as Jane Wiedlin was getting up on stage to accept the award on my behalf.  I ran to the podium and couldn’t think of anything to say other than, “Remember my Fan with the teeth thing?  His mom was coming to pick him up and I was just outside, and, I’m…” stumbling, then saw Rutger Hauer staring at me, I just shouted “Thank you Victoria!” and kept rambling.  I did manage to calm down and began to speak clearly, and said that I was so moved by the community that I’d decided to film a movie there in the future.  Everyone applauded, so it sounded like I hadn’t embarrassed myself too much.

The ceremony continued and while no one would tell me the actual name of my award I’d nearly missed receiving, it suddenly occurred to me that this was why the festival invited me, and why they decided to not have me on the Jury.  Duh.

The Closing Night after party would be held a bar nearby (that no one had bothered to find out was closed).  So when everyone learned there was nowhere left to go, the after party was moved to the only place open on a Sunday night in Victoria, Texas… Olive Garden.  Yes, that’s right.  Olive Garden.

En route, I checked the clock: 9:45 p.m.  I was starving and had a suspicion their kitchen would pack up before I had the chance to choke down some mass-produced fettuccine.  I called the restaurant.  I discovered that the entire Olive Garden would be closing for business at 10 p.m.  I didn’t know what to do, but I thought I ought to warn the guy: “We’re in town for the film festival, and while I’m not the guy in charge, you should know there are about 150 people driving there right now for our after party.”  He was speechless, yet firm with the news that, “If you’re inside and seated by 10 p.m. I will serve you but no one else will be allowed inside.”

The SUV peeled into the parking lot and we all darted inside.  Jane Wiedlin and her beau Travis were already seated at a long table across from Rutger Hauer and his lovely wife.  I took the seat at the head of the table next to them.  It occurred to me that after watching FANS R PPL 2, and hearing the moving speech about me, and witnessing my tardy acceptance of the honorary award, I didn’t need an introduction to Rutger.  He already knew who I was.  That was kind of cool, although totally surreal that we were about to embark on our first inspiring conversation over an endless supply of bread-sticks.

As the others from the festival arrived, there was turmoil over who would be allowed in, threats we’d all leave, dozens proclaiming “Don’t you know who I am?” (I didn’t say that), the manager caved and allowed everyone inside for what would become known as the Occupy O.G. movement.

The next surreal moment, as if there could be another, was when, after everyone had ordered tons of food, drinks and wine, and the bread-sticks kept coming, the co-founder of SXSW, Louis Black, picked up the tab for the entire party.  Wow!  Thanks, Louis!

While leaving Occupy O.G., I was reminded why I love film festivals.  Even if some are the most disorganized events you’ll ever attend, you’ll meet incredible people, embarrass yourself to no end, get a massive sunburn, make new friends, and share memories that will last a lifetime.  If you’re a filmmaker, artist, actor, writer, or anyone interested in visual storytelling of any sort, I highly suggest attending as many film festivals as you can.  Regardless of their size, scope, or location.  Just keep in mind how far south (or North) you are, and pack accordingly.