What happens when your short film premieres at a major film festival like Tribeca?

When my short film, The Evolution of a Gen-X Music Purchaser, was invited to premiere at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival I had the same reaction anyone else would: Utter joy and jubilation.

I also had absolutely no fucking idea what a film festival was like. I'd never been to one. Hell, this was the first movie I ever made so I had no idea what to expect.

My film had been rejected by every film festival I applied to until Tribeca selected it. I applied almost exclusively to the majors but I did add in some well known regional festivals which are Oscar Qualifying.  See, a short film is not going to make you any money. It's about showing your talent, or winning awards or finding other filmmakers with better connections than you have (networking).  Playing at a lower tier festival is nice but it likely won't further your career like playing at... Tribeca or another festival where winning an award allows you to submit to the Oscars. Seriously, the fucking Oscars.

So what happens exactly?

Well, they'll call you to invite you first. And they'll call you MONTHS before the actual notification date they list on their website. (some may e-mail but Tribeca called me)  Tribeca's notification date was March 6th and they finalized their program in January. They called me up, told me what program I was invited to and gave me a week to accept or they'd have to go with something else. Obviously, this is where you accept their invitation.

They do not help with travel costs. They might with a feature but I didn't make a feature so I don't know. Short films also do not get SWAG.  I got several comped tickets to other screenings, comped tickets to my own screening, a hat, a nice messenger bag and prestige but you're not getting an Apple Watch or something with a short film.

You do get access to the filmmakers lounge which has all the alcohol you can drink. You also get invited to events like the SAG sponsored party at Lucky Strike or the Director's brunch with Rober DeNiro.  Yes, you eat in the same room as Bobby D, and you are invited to be there.

You do get a red carpet. You do get interviewed and people do take notice.

It really is a big deal and you are treated like a big deal. Even though you made a short film and the vast majority of people don't give a shit - the festival cares and they make sure the press on hand for your premiere care too.

Random people will ask to take a picture with you.  Random people will approach you and discuss your film with you. People will ask you what you are working on next and it's good to have an answer. 

This is where you actually feel like a filmmaker. People paid to come to a theater and watch something you made.  That's surreal and it's a dream come true for any filmmaker.

You will also get e-mails from a lot of other film festivals who want to screen your film, for free.  I had one festival, who had rejected me, reach out and invite me to submit my film to them for next years festival. I reminded them that they had already rejected my film and they let me know that a programmer likely never saw my movie and that for whatever reason the selection committee passed on it. And again, it's a film. It's subjective as hell. Some people out there don't like Pulp Fiction. Weirdoes. 

Remember when you first started looking for a job out of college and they all required experience and you wondered how the hell do I get experience until someone gives you a job to gain experience?

Getting into a major festival is that experience and you're suddenly stamped with credibility. Even if they still think your movie sucks, they can always say "it premiered at Tribeca" and someone might assume it's good then.

And then after the festival you go home, to normal life, to a normal job and all you can think about is getting back there.


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