NEW MEXICO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL – A CERTIFIED FILM THREAT IN PROGRESS

UPDATE #2, January 29, 2011: I’ve written a post about the New Mexico International Film Festival’s 2011 program schedule which, in light of this entire article below and the conversation had in the comments, should be read. I do not consider the New Mexico International Film Festival a Certified Film Threat in Progress anymore, and apologize for letting my optimism and excitement for what sounded like a truly unique idea get the better of me.

UPDATE#1: As of October 20, 2010, this campaign has canceled funding. Shame, really. Read on to find out what could have been, and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

We’re switching things up again with this week’s Certified Film Threat in Progress because, despite our best efforts, the interview that was originally planned to run today with filmmaker, and future film festival director, Justin Eugene Evans fell through… numerous times. Justin has been out at the Anaheim International Film Festival with his feature film “A Lonely Place For Dying,” and I’ve been wandering Philadelphia for the FirstGlance Philadelphia Film Fest and the Philadelphia Film Festival. Excuses aside, I still think that Justin’s project is worth taking a look at and, instead of moving it to next Monday’s column, figured I’d go ahead without the interview. Why? Because all my questions are pretty much answered at the New Mexico International Film Festival’s Kickstarter page.

The idea behind the festival is a simple one: the business model for film festivals today is broken. Common filmmaker gripes include expensive submission fees, poor festival attendance, shoddy festival projection or venues and a lack of compensation when the films play. Now, while I could argue the pluses and minuses of film festivals, and how and why they operate the way they do, for hours from numerous perspectives (I’ve worked for festivals, I’ve covered festivals as press and I’ve even been there as crew for festival films), for this situation, I’m willing to look at the more pro-filmmaker side of things, and how the New Mexico International Film Festival plans to change things up.

The fest proposes to do the following:

FILMMAKER COMPENSATION

  • Selected filmmakers will receive 50% of the box office gross
  • Selected filmmakers will be given space at both the ticket booth and at each screening to sell merchandise, and will be entitled to keep 100% of the earnings
  • Selected filmmakers will be reimbursed for travel (up to $200.00 for short filmmakers & $300.00 for feature filmmakers).
  • Selected filmmakers will receive a paid hotel room.
  • Selected filmmakers will receive pre-paid meals at participating restaurants.
  • Selected filmmakers will get their submission fees back.
  • There will be no awards. The emphasis is on the festival/filmmaker profit-sharing instead of trophies or cash prizes.

AUDIENCE ENJOYMENT

  • Every screening will be exhibited with the festival’s own properly calibrated, 1080p, 5.1 surround sound system.
  • Ticket agents will receive customer service training.
  • The festival will be shorter (4 days instead of the standard 7-10) to make sure only the best films are programmed, without fest filler.
  • The festival will travel every year and set up shop in a different New Mexican town.
  • Instead of paper signs or posters, 42″ 1080p kiosks will be set up throughout the festival area that show trailers, promotional stills, posters, sneak peaks, behind-the-scenes featurettes, film information and daily schedules.
  • The fest website will have digital schedules available. Preloaded iPads will also be located at every venue throughout the festival.
  • After Parties will focus on an intimate setting with more measured music rather than the normal, loud music associated with many festival party venues.

Sounds good, right? Well, it definitely sounds ambitious when you consider that Justin is only trying to raise $8,000 via Kickstarter. It is my experience that all the above will cost much, much more than that, but a smart festival director (and staff) can usually find the right sponsors or trade to shorten the gap. Still… ambitious.

So where exactly is that $8,000 going? From the Kickstarter page:

Your financial contribution will be used for:

  1. Buy cutting edge exhibition equipment, including projectors, speakers, carts & TV’s.
  2. Purchase sound-treating material. Since we will be exhibiting in small towns high in the mountains there won’t be any local movie theaters. We need to transform local spaces into acoustically amazing spaces.
  3. Media exposure. Our primary goal is to be the example of what every festival should be. We need other film festivals to know what we have done, to see how we have turned their stodgy business model on its ear and to feel pressure from filmmakers who hopefully will ask the question “If the NMIFF can do this, why can’t everyone?”
  4. Plane tickets, hotel rooms & food for our annual artists.
  5. General festival operational expenses. From cell phone bills to graphic artists, from vinyl banners to caterers, festivals are expensive. We have eliminated every unnecessary expense we can. However, there will always be overhead in running such a complicated event.

Again, to me, $8,000 doesn’t seem like enough, but then again, Kickstarter doesn’t stop you if you go over your fundraising goal, so with the right push, this fest could get all the funding it needs to conduct what is, essentially, a film festival experiment. A festival experiment strongly geared towards eliminating, or addressing, the most common gripes filmmakers have about the film festival circuit. But why, then, at the time of this writing, is the festival only at 14% funded with 16 days left to go?

Do filmmakers not know about it? Do they not care?

Apparently the most recent Oxford Film Festival had a similar idea as one of the listed above, in that they offered filmmakers merchandise space with the same “keep 100%” share offer. The result? Only 25% of the filmmakers took part. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I firmly believe that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. This project seems like an attempt at a solution.

Personally, I have my own reservations about the New Mexico International Film Festival (and I’ve mentioned some above), but I do admire that a disgruntled filmmaker is doing more than just complaining, is not just saying, “I could do better,” but trying to actually prove it. Justin and the New Mexico International Film Festival could fall on its face… but at least they’re making an effort. That said, the project does need help and I think this would be a sad, lost opportunity for filmmakers if this fest doesn’t reach its crowdfunding goal. It’s time to stop being theoretical about working and non-working film festival models and actually do something about them.

If you’d like to know more about the New Mexico International Film Festival, go ahead and comment below or head over to the the festival’s Kickstarter page and comment there. Next week we’ll be back with a new project for you to check out but, until then, we hope you enjoyed this closer look at the New Mexico International Film Festival.

DISCLAIMER: Donating or investing in a film or film-related project is always a risky endeavor, so it is important to keep that in mind before deciding to get financially involved with any film project. Film Threat, FilmThreat.com and our parent company, Hamster Stampede, LLC hold no liability or responsibility regarding any of the projects showcased on our site, their content or performance or the content or performance of any of the sites linked to in this article. Our involvement with the featured project is strictly what you see here: we find a work-in-progress project that sounds interesting to us, we ask all the questions we’d like to know the answers to and then we share that information with you, the audience. This should not be considered as personalized investment advice. What happens after you read this is your decision, and, again, before parting with any money for any film, think it through and BE CAREFUL.




Posted on October 18, 2010 in Certified Film Threat in Progress, Features by
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9 Comments on "NEW MEXICO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL – A CERTIFIED FILM THREAT IN PROGRESS"

  1. Tom Vaughan on Mon, 18th Oct 2010 4:26 pm 

    I’ve been following the New Mexico International Film Festival for a little bit now and have made my own contribution the to the Kickstarter campaign. Yes, this festival is ambitious and I think it’s important that it succeeds.

    I agree that the $8k Kickstarter campaign is not much, and I have questions about the timing of this campaign (shouldn’t you raise the money BEFORE announcing the dates of the festival?), but I do admire these men for putting themselves out there. Sometimes you commit to something and then figure out exactly how you’re going to pay for it.

    The more I read about their plans the more I understand that their longterm goals seem much more ambitious than their short-term goals. And remember, the $8K Kickstarter campaign is in addition to the entry fees and other income sources. It is not the only source of funding they will have.

    This model needs to be successful. Filmmakers need to get behind this and I’m personally frustrated that these gentleman have not enjoyed more support from us. I think there’s a legitimate question that if filmmakers don’t care about the model of this festival, what’s the point of doing it in the first place? I am hoping that question will not need to be answered.

    I encourage every filmmaker out there to make a contribution to this Kickstarter campaign as well as help spread the word about it.

    We should all be invested in this thing for at least the cost of a DVD. Every single one of us.


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  2. Anthony Kilburn on Tue, 19th Oct 2010 1:53 pm 

    The reason they’re not getting the support it seems is because the common “gripes” cited are not the major gripes filmmakers have with film festivals.

    The filmmakers who flood festivals with entries have only 3 problems with the current model:

    1) They don’t want to pay entry fees. It’s an unreasonable request, but the DIY crowd takes issue with promotion costing more than production.

    2) They don’t care how it screens. 35mm prints are expensive, HQ digital tapes are expensive, DVD is not. The DIY filmmaker only wants to have an audience provided for him/her. Yes, this is unreasonable, but the DIY crowd wants to make movies, not market them.

    3) They want to be compensated. This does not necessarily mean getting paid or keeping ticket sales…. this could simply mean getting the “superstar” treatment. Again, this is unreasonable, but we’re talking artists’ egos here.

    When the New Mexico Film Festival announces no entry fees (especially for the films that don’t get in), travel accommodations, per diems, and expensive parties (for the films that do get in), and all for no effort on the part of the filmmaker (you bring the DVD, the festival brings the audience and acclaim to you), then people will be JUMPING at the opportunity to support the cause.

    Until then, NMFF will be like the other promising projects on Kickstarter competing against one another for a few bucks.

    (For the record, I hope I’m wrong.)


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  3. Catherine Fridey on Fri, 17th Dec 2010 1:08 pm 

    I just entered the screenplay category in this festival via withoutabox, which had no announcement whatsoever that is was cancelled. What happens now….?


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  4. Mark Bell on Fri, 17th Dec 2010 3:17 pm 

    Catherine, I would touch base with someone via the main site for the film festival (http://newmexicointernationalfilmfestival.com/). I know that this particular Kickstarter funding campaign was canceled, but that does not necessarily mean everything else associated with the fest was canceled as well. It appears, looking at that website, that a new crowdfunding campaign is currently running on IndieGoGo so… you know as much as I do now.

    EDITED TO ADD: If you’re really worried, and you spent money, talk to someone at withoutabox too.


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  5. Chris Ranney on Sun, 2nd Jan 2011 7:38 pm 

    Catherine,

    Mark is correct, the Screenplay competition has not been cancelled. I know because I am directing the table read.

    Good Luck!


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  6. Chris Ranney on Sun, 2nd Jan 2011 7:39 pm 

    Tom,

    Thank you for your support!


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  7. Justin Evans on Wed, 5th Jan 2011 1:28 am 

    Part of the confusion comes from the first paragraph of this article. While we’re thrilled that Film Threat likes our festival model, statements like “Read on to find out what could have been…” unintentionally create the impression that our festival has been cancelled. That isn’t so. The only thing we cancelled is our crowd funding campaign.

    Our submission rate has skyrocketed: over 500 films have submitted for the 2011 NMIFF. From what I understand that’s an unusually strong submission rate for a first year festival. Sony, Final Draft, Gorilla, DIYProjectorKits & Marble Brewery have all become official sponsors of the festival.

    Our we disappointed that our crowd funding efforts failed? Absolutely. But, many have made a tremendous leap in logic by assuming a failed crowd funding campaign meant filmmakers weren’t interested in the festival and that we were somehow closing our doors before we’d ever opened them.

    Here’s the truth: no one will ever fully know why the crowdfunding efforts didn’t work. Perhaps, filmmakers who paid $40.00 to submit to our festival didn’t feel they needed to pay twice. I agree with them! They don’t owe us anything and we don’t expect it from them. We did find submission rates spiked each time we launched a crowdfunding effort; perhaps filmmakers felt their submission fee was a contribution to the festivals budget. That would be perfectly logical.

    What is also clear is some festival directors have blogged or posted comments about our “failure” because they want our model to go away. No one wants to split the box office with filmmakers (except us!) It’s convenient for these status-quo festivals to make leaps of logic and post these irrational, unsupported opinions on line for you to read so you can see yet again how change is bound to fail.

    In six weeks they’re going to have to eat some crow. Despite their misinformation campaign, besides our missteps with the crowdfunding crowd, our festival will happen…and we’re exceeding our original promises to our filmmakers. On top of receiving 50% of the box office, 100% of merchandise, accommodations, food & travel reimbursements each filmmaker will be receiving a robust prize package from Sony, Final Draft, Gorilla & DIYProjectorKits.

    And, thanks to DIYProjectorKits our festival now owns our own 1080p projectors. And, these aren’t your typical projectors; these are highly customized projectors capable of so much more than the sad gear consumer electronics companies foist on the general public.

    Like it or not, the NMIFF is here to stay.


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  8. Mark Bell on Wed, 5th Jan 2011 3:27 am 

    To be fair, Justin, a large part of the confusion came from the fact that the festival’s crowdfunding campaign was canceled early (within two days of this article posting), without explanation on the Kickstarter page, or immediate update on the festival’s website. And honestly, if your campaign failed it failed, these things happen, but you shut down funding early. There is a major difference. For me personally, when I see someone attempt something ambitious like this and then suddenly disappear without explanation, I get leery all around. I mean, what happens if the fest doesn’t go off exactly as you’d like, do you just cancel it? Disappear?

    I’m not trying to be mean here, but when I select a project to feature, and I vouch for it to the Film Threat audience and vouch for it to other filmmakers… I’m not just picking at random. I believed in the festival model enough to feature it, and the campaign, promoted it on Twitter and… you canceled it without an explanation, within two days of my writing about it, which made me look, frankly, like an asshole. I didn’t appreciate that at all, and I really don’t appreciate you coming here after the fact and giving me shit for something I wrote in direct response to a complete lack of information on your part.

    You can claim “disinformation” and some kind of conspiracy theory about older festivals reveling in your “failure,” but you didn’t do yourself any favors with the disappearing act, and I don’t think it is a major leap in logic, at that time, for people to think the festival itself went away too. There was no info to the contrary, just an unexplained crowdfunding cancellation.

    In the end, though, I hope you do pull off the festival, to all the heights that you dream for it. But, come on, drop the conspiracy theory bullshit, and don’t come here giving me shit for caring enough to write about the fest in the first place.


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  9. Justin Evans on Wed, 5th Jan 2011 3:40 am 

    Mark, I think it’s a shame that phrases like “unintentional” are interpreted as “giving you shit.”

    I readily admit canceling the kickstarter campaign was an error. However, I didn’t disappear. I sent you the same email three times and never got a response. I tried to post it here as well; for whatever reason it wouldn’t show up. And, I tweeted about canceling the kickstarter campaign within 48 hours, which was rather tough because I was in the middle of moving halfway across the country.

    As for the “conspiracy bullshit” you may want to reread what I wrote. I clearly wasn’t talking about you. I’m choosing not to name the festival directors, but several have gone out of their way to do everything I mentioned above.

    I wish you the best as well, Mark…without the profanity or insults. :)


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