Monday, July 11, 2011

Attending the Nantucket Film Festival - The Basics

It was almost a year ago that we started making our comedic short film The Oblique Sector - a kind of homage to The Twilight Zone crossed with a comic cautionary tale about internet dating. I wrote the screenplay with my wife Amanda and made the film with our good friends Director Jason Reulet and Director of Photography Brad Kelly.

We finished the editing process just in time for the late deadline for the 16th Annual Nantucket Film Festival. We were overjoyed to be informed that we would screen as one of only 17 shorts in the program this year. The Nantucket festival prides itself on its focus on writing and storytelling, so our acceptance was a source of special pride for me.

What's it like to be invited to a prestigious festival? Well, it can be very stressful at first, if you don't have the pieces already in place. In our case, we had literally just come out of the editing room with the finished product, and suddenly we had less than two months to get ready to attend.

Fortunately, we have enough friends and colleagues who have gone this route before and who could advise us on what we needed to do. Here is just a select list:
1. Have a website.
2. Create an engaging trailer
3. Choose stills from the film
4. Get a good publicity photo and bio for the director.
5. Generate a quality exhibition copy of the film.
6. Poster, Postcards, Business Cards and other marketing materials.
7. Press releases.

All of these things involve decisions, time and money. So you can imagine that the lead up to the festival felt a little crunched. Along with these elements ,we also needed to organize a screening for the cast and crew, and begin the process of submitting the film to other festivals around the country.

Oblique Sector Posters!

Now, with those things accomplished, we were ready to hit the island!

Independent filmmakers probably tie in rank with theater artists for net worth, which makes visiting Nantucket a very pricey proposition. Short film directors screening at the Nantucket Film Festival must find their own accommodations. Mirror readers will probably guess from my occasional photographs that Amanda and I are fortunate enough to have family on Nantucket. However, the rest of our team needed to acquire some form of housing. This came through with the generous offer of a beachside house at a sharply discounted rate, allowing our director, producer and director of photography to enjoy our world premiere and share in the perks that attending the festival offered.

Another factor that makes attending this festival on the island of Nantucket especially hard is the fact that it's...well...on an island. You can't drive a car there, which puts the damper on the time-honored festival strategy of getting reservations at a cheap Best Western outside of the city limits. For the Nantucket Film Festival, you are left with only two options: flying or ferry.

Grey Skies For Nantucket

About a month before the festival I saw anEversave deal on Hy-Line ferry tickets to Nantucket - 2 first-class round-trip tickets for 50 dollars. I shared this with the rest of the crew and several of us pounced on it. When taking the ferry, you also have to factor in the cost of parking your car for days in a paid lot on the mainland. These lots can run anywhere from 12 to 17 dollars.

Normally, getting around on Nantucket is relatively easy. There is a pretty good shuttle bus service, and, if the weather is conducive, a bicycle can get you where you need to go. However, darting about to screenings, parties and events during a film festival can prove challenging. Brian Williams, a member of the Festival's Board of Directors, joked at one event that trying to get around to the various venues was like using the Underground Railway.

For instance, many films are screened at the 'Sconset Casino which is about a 15 minute drive from downtown Nantucket. Public transportation often won't cut it if a screening is running late and you need to get to the other side of the island in under ten minutes. Having a car is a bit extravagant, but will make your experience of the festival a lot better. Young's Bicycle Shop gave a us a great rate on our rental car because we were filmmakers attending the festival, and they were also gracious with our drop-off and pick-up schedule.

Dining regularly on the island is almost out of the question. Restaurants are very expensive - even burgers can sometimes cost 11 dollars. One of our first stops was the grocery store to stock up for the week. Although, there is some relief for filmmakers as the festival's receptions, parties and events often provide free food and alcohol!

So, what about those perks, anyway?

Artist Badge Nantucket Film Festival

The festival gives you an artist pass to use along with your tickets to screenings and events. You get one artist pass for your short film. Since several of the principals involved in our film were attending, we shared the pass and divided up the perks.

First, you receive tickets to screenings. Nantucket does not classify artists as pass holders when it comes to tickets. In other words, your artist pass does not entitle you to just sort of show up at any screening and enter with the patrons and sponsors, sans physical tickets. Your tickets to movies must be pre-selected and you will receive them when you first check in at the administrative office. One of your advantages is that you get to select your complimentary tickets before they go on sale to the public. I would advise any short filmmakers attending the festival to do this - certain screenings sell out very quickly once festivalgoers can buy them. We ended up very happy to have procured our admissions early.

As an artist, your free ticket priveleges do not include the opening and closing night films, nor do they include certain special screenings. If you want to attend these special films, you need to purchase tickets. I would highly recommend doing this as I found many filmmakers attend these programs, and the directors of these films are very approachable afterwards. Don't wait until you get to the festival to purchase these or you will end up on the rush line.

Lots of people to see the sold out Shorts Program II! #NFF2011

Of course, you also receive complimentary tickets to your own screening, and the festival programmer was very helpful in getting a us a couple of extra passes since our whole crew would be attending.

Next, you also receive admissions to a few of special events that are unique to this festival. Late Night Storytelling is a Moth Story Hour-type event in which authors, movie stars and Nantucket natives tell stories based on a theme. This event is hosted by Anne Meara and it draws an audience of celebrities. There is also a Screenwriter's Tribute, which this year honored Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby). And there is the All-Star Comedy Roundtable and the "Morning Coffee With..." panels. We received tickets to some of these events as well.

And, lastly, there are the parties and receptions sprinkled throughout the week. You get a couple of passes to each of these events and the festival provides a complimentary shuttle to some of them. Be prepared, the staff and guests of the Nantucket Film Festival party hard with great food and nice venues! These soirees are fun and they are attended by just about every luminary that is on the island. This is a festival where you not only meet Paul Haggis, but you run into him numerous times.

Next, I'll put up a post up about what our whirlwind time was like, and how our screenings went!


Thomas Garvey said...

Sounds like fun, Art! But what if you hated "Crash" and "Million Dollar Baby"???

Art said...

Hey Tom,

Well, it might be awkward for you, but certainly not for him. ;)

You would find that Paul Haggis is a wonderful guy, very knowledgeable about the business, and generous with his time.

He also wrote Letters to Iwo Jima and worked on Thirtysomething way back.

Thomas Garvey said...

Okay, he's four for four in my book . . . oh, well! This is when you're glad the thing is catered! Seriously, though, I'm dying to catch a glimpse of "The Oblique Sector," and I want to hear more about the festival screening!