You may have the power to influence which movie wins Best Picture at some Academy Award ceremony in an unspecified point in the future. The power of film festivals to influence Oscar voting and the awarding of Best Picture has never been so great. It is highly unlikely that a film like "Slumdog Millionaire" would even have gotten enough notice to warrant a nomination if not for the power of film festivals. You may not be able to get to Cannes or Sundance or Toronto next year, but there are more than enough offbeat film festivals around where you can get a feel for how to approach your increasing importance once you do reach the level of the biggies.
If you live in the lower 48, chances are pretty good that a film festival is going to take place within less than half a day's drive of your front door. Admittedly, the bulk of these film festivals are not the type where you are likely to run into Brad Pitt in the bathroom. Heck, you'll be lucky to run into Stephen Tobolowsky at the best restaurant in town. As Yoda reminds us, however, size matters not. In many cases, the film festival taking place near you may actually be the equivalent of an exploding supernova of creativity and experimentation that actually gets sucked into non-existence in the black hole of some more prestigious festivals.
Keep in mind that the guiding creative artists of Hollywood today mostly started out as complete unknowns. Sure, nepotism has allowed directors like Sofia Coppola to get out of jail free, pass GO and collect $200 without needing to pay her dues in the form of heading up to Palin territory to showcase a low budgeted super-indie effort at the Anchorage International Film Festival. But can we really say that Sofia's movies are the better for having unqualified access to daddy Francis's influence than they would have been if she'd been forced to spend a little more time turning her face against the bitter Alaska wind?
The point being that for every Sofia Coppola, there are hundreds of talented artists showcasing their works at festivals as diverse as the A.D.D. Short Film Festival and the Athens Jewish Film Festival. Will most of those whose work is highlighted at these more offbeat or narrowly defined film festivals ever pose for pictures with topless sunbathers on the French Riviera as a panel of judges of debate over giving them an award in the shape of a palm leaf?
Clearly not. But what if you could tell your kids today about how you were there when a skinny kid named Steve picked up his award at some obscure and defunct festival for homemade 8mm movies back in the 1960s and then deliver the punch line that skinny little Steve was none other than Mr. Spielberg himself? Obviously, if you told that story, you would be lying, but that's just one indication of how much more prevalent and important these lesser-known film festivals have become. You can bet that if such a thing as the United States Super 8MM Film Festival had existed back when Spielberg was making epics on locations found around his suburban neighborhood that he would have been willing to travel all the way to Rutgers to strut his stuff.
Do Steve a solid. Pay it forward by being one of the first to take notice of the genius of some nerdy kid who 30 years from now is going to have that palm-shaped award sitting on a mantel next to a couple of Oscars. Here is a great guide to film festivals around the world.
For more from Timothy Sexton, check out:
- Arts & Entertainment
- Sofia Coppola
- film festivals