We’ve been getting this question a lot lately – “why would filmmakers who are as busy as you guys are start a film festival in a environment in which thousands already exist? Are you, in fact, insane?”
No, but it does beg expressing why.
We do make films. A lot of them. About one feature every 9 months or so. These films have all been on long festival runs and we’ve seen a bunch of very different types of festivals. Some good. Some bad.
The desire to start the festival, however, came from our own backyard. We live in Austin, TX. In my humble opinion, Austin is the best city in America. We’ve got a great film community here where movies of all budgets are getting made. The only thing lacking was a festival highlighting the truly independent movies. The two big festivals in town – the Austin Film Festival and SXSW are amazing events that we go to and dig every year, but they tend to show films with much larger budgets than the majority of indie filmmakers can afford. So we were never breaking through at home with films that were having very successful fest runs in other markets.
We came to the decision after our third year of rejections that we would put on our own event in Austin, focusing not on competing with the big two, but on highlighting the films that they aren’t programming. Even when we did break through to one of the biggies, our focus remained the same —expose the Austin audience to a brand of indie film that they might otherwise miss. We’ve seen some great films y’all. And we jump at the chance to bring them home.
So, what are we about? What sets us apart? Well, we learned from some of our best experiences at other fests to make it truly, filmmaker centric. If your mission is to highlight independent film, then you need to have independent filmmakers at an event they WANT to attend. So, make it about them. Relationships, partnerships and collaborations have been born out of our event. We’re about playing movies, having a drink and supporting each other’s work in a town that knows and gets indie film.
Sometimes, what you try NOT to be is more important than what you are. Here are some things that we strive to NOT do in keeping with keeping the event very Austin and very….well…Twitchy.
We are not about to nickel and dime you to death. It’s expensive to travel and come to festivals. Some of that we can’t help. I wish our event could be free. But making you pay to get into your screening, charging to get to the award ceremony, billing you for the award or subjecting you to a talent show of people not very talented when you get there isn’t what we do here. We’re down to Earth, jeans and t shirts. We keep the overhead low so there isn’t as much of a cost to pass on to you.
We make movies. But we don’t use the festival to directly impact our growth as a company over the careers of others. While we do show some of our movies as a way to bring in an audience, we don’t put our movies in competition with others. I’ve lost to more than one festival runner in my time. It feels awesome.
Our festival is about the filmmaker and those in the truly indie network. I’m not going to have a filmmaker put in the work to market his/her film and then pay the money it costs to come down and attend the fest…only to be made subservient to some C or D level celebrity on the down side of a career that wasn’t that can’t, won’t help the networking effort anyway. The only celebrities we will ever approach will be people that could help your careers. To us, we have all the celebrities we need and want. We have the filmmakers who’s blood and sweat are on the screen.
As a fest runner, myself and our programming team picked over sixty films this year. We’re proud of all of them. So you will never hear me push one film over another or recommend, one movie over another. To do that would be unethical at best.
Again, its about you. So if a film wins, don’t thank me. Don’t thank Twitchy. In fact, thank you for coming.
So, that is how we do it. We play a lot of festivals. Some of the tests, we’re going on our 5th year submitting. We run ours with a very “Keep Austin Weird” mentality to help us stand out. So we hope you dig what you’re doing.