TAKING A CLOSER LOOK AT THE 2011 NEW MEXICO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL SCHEDULE

UPDATE, February 4, 2011: I have received an official response via email from the festival regarding the questions and concerns I expressed in this article, and that response has been added to the end of this article.

When I first heard about the New Mexico International Film Festival, I was moved by the ideas and ambitions behind the fest, so much so that I featured the festival as part of our Certified Film Threat in Progress column. Unfortunately, two days after running the column, the festival’s Kickstarter campaign was unceremoniously canceled. This caused confusion, a bit of anger and was eventually discussed at length in the comments section of the aforementioned column. And, honestly, that was the last time I thought of the NMIFF, until I received a Facebook message from a filmmaker that had submitted to the NMIFF and asked me to take a look at the festival’s schedule announcement.

Now, I’m just going to give you the details as I know them, what I don’t know and share what bothers me. You’ll be able to follow links so that you too can explore where I got the information, and form your own opinion/perspective. First, take a look at the film festival schedule as outlined on the fest’s Facebook event page:

The NMIFF is coming to Jemez Springs!

Tickets For Films & Lectures Are $10.00
Tickets For After Parties Are $5.00 (includes hors d’oeuvres by Make My Lunch, beer from Marble Brewery)


*****Friday, February 11th, 2011*****
3:00 PM Tickets Go On Sale For Friday, Free Trailers Play In Theater Two Until 5:00 PM
Location:
Box Office – Jemez Fine Art Gallery, 17436 Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025
Theater Two – Jemez Springs Conference Room, Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025

5:00 PM Free Preview Night Mixer
Wine & Cheese, Announcements, Introduction of Filmmakers
Location: American Legion, 17691 Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025

7:30 PM Screening
Preview Night Screening of “A Lonely Place For Dying” (feature narrative, 94 minutes)
Location: Jemez Fine Art Gallery, 17436 Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025
Special Note: As a film associated with festival staff this movie is not an official selection, cannot use the festival laurels, is not entitled to 50% of the box office and cannot receive the festival prize package.

9:05 PM Q&A
Q&A with “A Lonely Place For Dying” writer/director/producer Justin Eugene Evans & visual effects artist Marc Leonard.
Location: Jemez Fine Art Gallery, 17436 Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025

10:00 PM After Party
After Party With Filmmakers, Festival Staff & Guests (DJ Press Play, Super Sounds of the Seventies)
Location: American Legion, 17691 Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025

12:00 AM Stargazing Hike
Location to be announced, enjoy a late night hike with our filmmakers! Email info@newmexicointernationalfilmfestival.com to sign up.

*****Saturday, February 12th, 2011*****

11:00 AM Tickets Go On Sale For Saturday, Free Trailers Play In Theater Two Until 5:00 PM
Location:
Box Office – Jemez Fine Art Gallery, 17436 Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025
Theater Two – Jemez Springs Conference Room, Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025

11:30 PM Lecture
Star Wars On Laptops – Hollywood Visual Effects For Independent Films with Marc Leonard & Justin Eugene Evans
Location: Jemez Fine Art Gallery, 17436 Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 870255

1:20 PM Lecture
Directors Roundtable with Georgia Sugimura Archer, Justin Eugene Evans, Zak Forsman, Academy Award Nominee Gregg Helvey & Doron Kipper
Location: Jemez Fine Art Gallery, 17436 Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025

2:40 PM Screening
Screening of “Misdirection” (short narrative, 18 minutes) & “Food Stamped” (feature documentary, 60 minutes)
Location: Jemez Fine Art Gallery, 17436 Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025

4:00 PM Q&A
Q&A with “Misdirection” director Doron Kipper & “Food Stamped” directors/producers Shira & Yoav Potash
Location: Jemez Fine Art Gallery, 17436 Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025

5:00 PM Screening
Screening of Academy Award Nominated “Kavi” (short narrative, 19 minutes) & “Barbershop Punk” (feature documentary, 77 minutes)
Location: Jemez Fine Art Gallery, 17436 Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025

6:45 PM Q&A
Q&A with Academy Award Nominee Gregg Helvey (Kavi) & Georgia Sugimura Archer (Barbershop Punk)
Location: Jemez Fine Art Gallery, 17436 Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025

7:30 PM Screening
Screening of “I F*ing Hate You” (short narrative, 9 minutes) & “Heart Of Now” (feature narrative, 89 minutes)
Location: Jemez Fine Art Gallery, 17436 Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025

9:15 PM Q&A
Q&A with “I F*ing Hate You” & “Heart Of Now” writer/director Zak Forsman
Location: Jemez Fine Art Gallery, 17436 Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025

10:00 PM After Party
After Party With Filmmakers, Festival Staff & Guests (Marc Leonard DJ, Ambient Electro)
Location: American Legion, 17691 Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025

11:30 PM Free-Roll Poker Tournament
Compete with cinephiles & filmmakers for a fantastic prize package!
Location: American Legion, 17691 Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025

*****Sunday, February 13th, 2011*****

11:00 AM Tickets Go On Sale For Sunday, Free Trailers Play In Theater Two Until 5:00 PM
Location:
Box Office – Jemez Fine Art Gallery, 17436 Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025
Theater Two – Jemez Springs Conference Room, Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025

11:30 AM Table Reading
Table Reading of 2011 Award Winning Screenplay by Michael Tabb, directed by Chris Ranney, produced by Brent Tiano
Location: Jemez Fine Art Gallery, 17436 Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025

2:40 PM Screening
Screening of “Misdirection” (short narrative, 18 minutes) & “Food Stamped” (feature documentary, 60 minutes)
Location: Jemez Fine Art Gallery, 17436 Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025

4:00 PM Q&A
Q&A with “Misdirection” director Doron Kipper & “Food Stamped” directors/producers Shira & Yoav Potash
Location: Jemez Fine Art Gallery, 17436 Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025

5:00 PM Screening
Screening of “Kavi” (short narrative, 19 minutes) & “Barbershop Punk” (feature documentary, 77 minutes)
Location: Jemez Fine Art Gallery, 17436 Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025

6:45 PM Q&A
Q&A with Academy Award Nominee Gregg Helvey (Kavi) & Georgia Sugimura Archer (Barbershop Punk)
Location: Jemez Fine Art Gallery, 17436 Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025

7:30 PM Screening
Screening of “I F*ing Hate You” (short narrative, 9 minutes) & “Heart Of Now” (feature narrative, 89 minutes)
Location: Jemez Fine Art Gallery, 17436 Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025

9:15 PM Q&A
Q&A with “I F*ing Hate You” & “Heart Of Now” writer/director Zak Forsman
Location: Jemez Fine Art Gallery, 17436 Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025

10:00 PM After Party
Prize Package Presentations With Filmmakers, Festival Staff & Guests (DJ Press Play, Classic Eighties)
Location: American Legion, 17691 Highway 4, Jemez Springs, New Mexico 87025

WHAT WE KNOW AFTER LOOKING AT THE SCHEDULE

WHAT WE DON’T KNOW

  • The final total number of submissions, and how they break down in the submission categories of Short Films (Documentary), Short Films (Narrative), Feature Films (Documentary) and Feature Films (Narrative) (New Mexico International Film Festival’s WithoutaBox page.)
  • The percentage of the selected films that were submitted and programmed, curated and programmed or programmed via other considerations.
  • The quality of the films submitted.
  • How many films had submission fees waived.
  • How much money the festival earned from submissions.
  • The total cost of putting on the three day festival.

Some of you have read all of the above and thought, “so?” Believe me, I understand that. I think in 99% of the cases out there, I’d probably shrug and let the concerned filmmakers know that you really need to do your research on a festival before submitting, if the above are the types of things that could alarm you. That said, since this is the fest’s first year and I did give a lot of exposure to the festival early on by pointing out their Kickstarter campaign, I feel like I should also share what bothers me, based on the above, so when future filmmakers are researching fests, they can see it all.

WHAT BOTHERS ME

  • If the fest truly got over five hundred submissions, why are three films slots (amounting to a total of three screening blocks) out of seven split between the festival director and a filmmaker that he has a prior working relationship with? Right there, that’s about 42% of all programmed films, and 100% of all programmed narrative feature films.
  • Why, in a three-day festival, were only seven films programmed, and of those seven, six of them shown twice? Why not program and screen more films, instead of the lectures, parties and other events? Six films out of five hundred (ignoring the festival founder’s film) is 1.2% of films submitted that were programmed. According to Film Festival Secrets, that’s about on par with the seemingly ever-exclusive Sundance Film Festival, but below the more large-to-medium film festival average of 3%-8%. If the NMIFF had gone with more films over the three days, keeping the same one short/one feature format and only shown each block once, they’d have gotten at least six more films, bring the acceptance percentage to around 2.4%, and that could even be improved upon if just one block was a block of short films instead of just a short/feature.
  • While the fest never claims to be for first-time filmmakers or for specifically programming newer films, why program, of the remaining 58% of the program, a film nominated for an Academy Award last year and another film that premiered at last year’s SXSW? Why not give some new films a shot?
  • Why program two films from the same director, Zak Forsman?
  • Why program your own film? Special screening slot or no, that opening night could’ve gone to someone else.
  • Now, the argument against what bothers me is an easy one: this is not a unique situation when it comes to film festivals. Internal festival politics, friendships and curating vs. programming considerations and debates abound for every festival. The submission fee money in does not necessarily equate to profit, as festivals cost money to put on. I don’t know what the films that were submitted looked like, and in the end, maybe this IS the best lineup the festival could put together (if that was their goal). Parties, panels and other events often flesh out the remaining time around the film screenings. In other words, this is nothing new.

    But it was supposed to be.

    From the New Mexico International Film Festival’s “Filmmakers Rights” post published on August 24, 2010:

    The New Mexico International Film Festival believes filmmakers have rights. These rights have already been codified into law, both on the state and federal level. Basic contract law and civil case history serve as a stark contrast to how the festival circuit exploits filmmakers. But, the festival circuit is unregulated and the lack of oversight has resulted in a status quo rife with corruption, laziness, deceit and fraud.

    We cannot change the system, not on our own. We cannot force the thousands of film festivals throughout the world to behave ethically. But, we can be the change we wish to see in the world. Therefore, the New Mexico International Film Festival will live by the followingFilmmaker’s Bill of Rights:

    Article One: Filmmakers shall receive a portion of the money earned from the direct exhibition of a filmmaker’s motion picture.

    Article Two: Filmmakers shall receive the opportunity to sell merchandise from their motion picture whenever their film is exhibited and retain the majority of any money earned from said sales.

    Article Three: Filmmakers shall receive reasonable compensation for travel, lodging and food if an exhibitor intends for the filmmaker to attend the exhibition of the filmmaker’s motion picture.

    Article Four: Exhibitors shall return submission fees to the filmmakers of any motion picture selected for exhibition.

    These four articles are an excellent start. It doesn’t mean that filmmakers do not possess additional inalienable rights. We may expand these over the years. And, we are definitely open to hearing additional suggestions. But, for now, we believe adhering to these four basic rights is the beginnings of a revolution.

    Are we being hyperbolic? Not at all. Consider this…by and large, the festival circuit has never given filmmakers adequate compensation for the exhibition of their motion pictures. A filmmaker raises anywhere from $5,000.00 to millions of dollars to create their art. If they are lucky a festival will offer them a hotel room (which was donated to the festival), a festival pass (which costs them nothing) and access to a filmmaker’s lounge (we admit that some filmmaker’s lounges are impressive…on the other hand, some are simply a room with donated granola bars and soda. Some kick out the non-famous filmmakers if a famous filmmaker wants to make the room private. And, if you don’t believe us, just call our festival director, who can tell you some of his personal horror stories.) Since the beginning of The Great Recession filmmaker compensation has declined tremendously. And, filmmakers have reluctantly accepted this.

    But, contract law requires an equitable exchange from both parties. Just because a contract is signed doesn’t mean it is enforceable. Most festivals engage in a contract that is onerous. We will assume it is accidental. We will assume the other festival directors glanced at the status quo and didn’t bother to ponder if it was fair…just that it was. And, therefore, they emulated what they saw.

    We are striving to be a different example.

    So, to be the change we wish to see in the world, the NMIFF shall:

    1.) Split the box office of each screening 50/50 with filmmakers. If the film is a feature playing by itself then the solo filmmaker shall receive 50%. If the feature is playing with a short film then the feature shall receive 40% and the short film 10%. If the exhibition is a block of shorts then the group of filmmakers shall equally divide 50%.

    2.) Create opportunities for filmmakers to sell their merchandise, with the filmmakers retaining 100% of their gross sales.

    3.) Compensate filmmakers for travel, lodging and meals. Since we are a new festival with few sponsors we currently have strict caps on compensation packages. It is entirely possible a filmmaker will still spend a small amount to attend the festival…but, compared to the overwhelming majority of festivals in the world, our compensation package is unrivaled and accomplishes exactly what we intend; to minimize the expense for filmmakers to attend the festivals that exhibit their work.

    4.) Return festival fees to the filmmakers of motion pictures we select for exhibition. Applying to festivals is expensive. If we have selected a filmmaker’s movie it it is because we think it is a great film worthy of a packed audience. By returning a filmmaker their submission fee that is one more festival a filmmaker can apply to without going deeper into debt.

    For details regarding the New Mexico International Film Festival’s filmmaker compensation packages, please click here.

    Lastly, we believe in manners, courtesy and basic human decency. Filmmakers spend tremendous sums of money and thousands of hours on their motion pictures. They sacrifice careers and income in order to pursue this craft. The least we can do is thank them for their work.

    How is this inaugural program for the New Mexico International Film Festival all that different from what has come before? How is it “striving to be a different example”? I know the fest “cannot force the thousands of film festivals throughout the world to behave ethically,” but what are the ethical considerations of the festival director programming his own film opening night, and then programming two films from another filmmaker he has a prior association/work relationship with? Sharing box office income? That’s been done. Putting up filmmakers and getting them to and from the festival? That’s been done. Merchandise revenue sharing? That’s been done too. In the end, what bothers me is how unsurprising the New Mexico International Film Festival’s program is, when I thought things were supposed to be different. Looks like the same old film festival song and dance to me.

    As I finished this up, a post showed up on the New Mexico International Film Festival’s Facebook page, entitled “We Don’t Want To Be Your Friend.” Yeah, that’s fine by me.

    NEW MEXICO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL’S OFFICIAL RESPONSE

    Dear Mr. Bell:

    Thank you for giving us the opportunity to respond to your recent post about the New Mexico International Film Festival’s schedule and selection of this year’s program.

    Since we announced our festival we’ve said our philosophy is: “Not Bigger . . . Just Better.” We have attempted to schedule only the best quality films from among those available and submitted to us. Could we have scheduled more films? Certainly. But, it would have forced us to include films that we considered to be substandard. While we hope the quality of submissions improves in the future, for our first year we frankly received a tremendous number of poorly made movies. And, we’ve been told that’s common for young festivals; inexperienced filmmakers strategically submit to young festivals hoping for higher acceptance rates and lower standards. We know that audiences, however, expect more from a festival. If we screen low quality movies they won’t come back. And, we’ll be stuck in the same cycle as most overly ambitious festivals; marginal screenings that result in smaller subsequent audience attendance which in turn continues to drive higher quality movies to the festivals with a large built-in audience . . . as this cycle continues, festivals cannot grow and ultimately become irrelevant or simply die.

    We’re thrilled that Oscar nominees submitted to our first annual festival. And, we disagree with your conclusion. Although the NMIFF program is small, roughly 1/3rd of our schedule are festival favorites, while another 1/3rd are completely fresh material. This includes the short film “Misdirection” which another festival that you recently highlighted, First Glance Hollywood, has also programmed.

    Regarding your observation that Justin Evans, a director of the Festival, has a prior working relationship with Mr. Zak Forsman, please note that Justin removed himself from consideration of Mr. Forsman’s films for this very reason. Rather, the question of whether any of Mr. Forsman’s films would be selected was left entirely to other staff members of the Festival who have no prior relationship with him. In addition, I think it is worth noting that the Festival received over 30 submissions from other filmmakers with whom Festival staff had a prior relationship, and none of whose films were selected. The assumptions in your post point to an almost impossible standard, and one that cannot be realistically achieved. Festival directors, filmmakers, and artist know other festival directors, filmmakers, and artists. Because of this, we have done what any ethical arts organization does; we have instituted checks and balances to ensure that no staff member is solely responsible for selecting a Film by a filmmaker that the staff member may know.

    Like all startup festivals, we have a small staff. However, unlike most startups we intend to work within our means so that we can consistently deliver a quality experience for our audience…which in turn benefits the filmmakers we select.

    As far as screening a film by a festival staff member (Justin Evans), there are several facts people may not be aware of. We had a seventh selection for the Festival that we were prepared to show, but the filmmaker dropped out two days before we were scheduled to announce our line up. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any other feature films that we felt strongly about, and the final version of Justin Evans’ motion picture which was made in New Mexico, has never screened in the State. While the film has played at 21 film festivals, been nominated for 27 awards, won 11 including 6 for best feature film, and has been invited to submit to an additional 47 festivals (and counting) it hasn’t played in its final form for the very people who made the movie; the New Mexican cast, crew & investors. Based on the situation, we chose to strip Justin Evans’ movie of any official status. It is simply a screening, nothing more. Significantly, Mr. Evans asked for and received the approval of the other three Festival directors to screen the film before our final schedule was announced.

    Although your post has critiqued our schedule, it is important to note that in response to your article we offered you the opportunity to review our submissions and nominate a selection for the 2012 festival. We value outside input and thought this would give you an opportunity to resolve the assumption that good movies were ignored. Unfortunately, because of other commitments, you were not in a position to accept our offer.

    Although we are unsure of the genesis for your post, you have told us that you had several sources. We are aware of at least one disgruntled filmmaker who had a personal relationship with Justin Evans who was not accepted into the 2011 festival. She assumed that being his facebook friend meant she’d get preferential treatment. She wanted to know why her film wasn’t accepted and our festival director gave her an honest critique; which frankly we believe caused her to decide to seek revenge by contacting several prominent independent film websites and blogs. You were the only one to publish a story. While we appreciate the opportunity to respond, we remain concerned that the damage may already have been done.

    Once this year’s Festival is over, we would politely ask that you review our original promises. Then, interview the filmmakers who were selected to the 2011 festival. Ask them if the projection quality was in 1080p with 5.1 surround sound. Ask them if the color rendition, brightness, sharpness, and dynamic range represented their film accurately. Ask them about sound quality. Ask them if we paid them on time. Ask them if their accommodations were inviting and their meals satisfying. Ask them if we returned their submission fees to them, as promised. Ask them if we met our promises and delivered a robust prize package. And then, ask them if they’d come back.

    That’s what we promised. That’s what we will deliver.

    In sum, we take our promises and our ethical commitments here at NMIFF very seriously, and have worked hard and will continue to work hard to avoid any conflict of interest. We would invite any filmmaker who has a question about our selection process or criteria to please contact us directly, and we will be happy to talk to them.

    Sincerely,

    Angelo J. Artuso
    Director, New Mexico International Film Festival

    So, there you go. The only clarification I wish to make is that I wrote what I wrote, for the reasons I expressed, based on research I myself conducted, as set out in the above. The idea of a single, disgruntled filmmaker using me, or Film Threat, to take some sort of revenge against the festival, seems ludicrous to me and isn’t in keeping with anything I wrote. Unfortunately, despite my words to the contrary, that idea seems to persist. I heard from more than one filmmaker, at different points prior to the publishing of the post. None of them advised me, or even asked me, to write anything. I wrote what I wrote, based on what I saw in the schedule, as I explained above. If my word on that matter is doubted, that is beyond my control at this point.




    Posted on January 29, 2011 in Festivals by
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    24 Comments on "TAKING A CLOSER LOOK AT THE 2011 NEW MEXICO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL SCHEDULE"

    1. Mike Chinea on Sun, 30th Jan 2011 3:39 pm 

      Interesting. I have no problems being rejected by NMIFF but now I have to wonder if they even looked at my project? We did not have any known actors but a couple of my actors gave stellar performances, others not so much. I’ll match the performance of my leading lady Tiffany Shiau with any Oscar winner out there. I know that we did not have the best sound, lighting and parts reeked of amateur video etc. But isn’t that what film fests were all about? Seeing little films with heart? Maybe Film Threat can hold a Rejected Film Fest and have the viewers decide whether your film sucked or not. Or maybe I’ll start my own film fest, Mike’s Second Chance Festival. Thanks for letting me rant. Mike Chinea


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    2. Mark Bell on Sun, 30th Jan 2011 5:23 pm 

      A Rejected Film Festival is exactly how Slamdance came about; created by filmmakers in response to being rejected from Sundance.


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    3. John Wildman on Sun, 30th Jan 2011 9:55 pm 

      I have been involved in film festivals that screened films that the film fest top brass were responsible or had some involvement in and in each case it made me uneasy and I strongly suggested not doing it.

      There is no way, even with downplaying it or justifying it one way or the other, for that not to be awkward on some level.

      This programming, as presented here, is lazy at best and self-promotional at the expense of fellow filmmakers at worst.


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    4. Taromina on Tue, 1st Feb 2011 7:42 pm 

      This guy is a major blowhard, you guys have called him on it, now you can expect his wrath. Justin is a pompous windbag, when he wasn’t busy slagging off his crew on DVX USER- AS THEY WERE MAKING HIS FILM, I might add, he’s busy telling the world how smart he is and how dumb everyone else is.
      He’s actually a kind of interesting specimen.
      I love how he talks about being frustrated with festival projection not being up to snuff, so he’s gonna change it. How? By projecting your film compressed to H264 in a town of less than 300 in the middle of nowhere. Oh yeah! That’s gonna change things, right?
      And that bit about Zak Foresman, nail on the head.


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    5. seal on Wed, 2nd Feb 2011 12:51 am 

      Wow! That’s $50 I will never see again. Unbelievable! I don’t know how these guys get away with this stuff. I guess another way to get your film seen is to organize a film festival and do what this guy did. What a joke!


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    6. Taormina on Wed, 2nd Feb 2011 12:27 pm 

      Re: the article:

      No sure who concocted this tripe. How egalitarian does a film fest have to be? Who gets to democratize the film fest process so everyone gets in and feels good? You know what? You want to bitch about the fact that either a) you didn’t make the cut or b) you think someone else did because they are tied into the festival director – throw your own festival. I don’t see any gross malfeasance here. Does a fest have to cut out decent submissions to portray an air of impartiality? Or accept sub par ones for the same reason? Ridiculous.

      Re: My impersonator:

      My best advice to you is learn how to freaking spell. I’m flattered that you want to be me but to pull it off you need to bump up your writing game, pal.


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    7. Dave H. on Wed, 2nd Feb 2011 4:19 pm 

      So people are now impersonating other people? What a mess. It calls each of these overly aggressive character assassinations into question. Someone has a motive here to discredit Justin, I think, because what I see outlined above by Mark, at best enters a gray area, but does not warrant this kind of insane vitriol.


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    8. Mark Bell on Wed, 2nd Feb 2011 5:07 pm 

      This article was not a question about the quality of any of the films programmed, or whether they deserved to be programmed. When the schedule was announced, however, regardless of film quality, it raised some ethical questions, which I expressed above. Not questions and concerns about the films’ quality, but the festival itself. All of the films programmed may be amazing, but, to me, that doesn’t the expressed ethical rhetoric and agenda of the festival, and the final festival program, adds up, which is why I wrote the article. To me, the program raised questions and concerns; I expressed those questions and concerns.

      I do not know what is going on regarding personal agendas, positive or negative, people may have towards this festival, their staff or the programmed filmmakers. What I wrote is what I thought, and it doesn’t go beyond those concerns. The festival has been offered an opportunity to respond, they will be doing so, and when they do, I will be posting that response as an update to the article above.

      Impersonating other people is against the Terms of Use. If you feel a comment is doing so, click the “Report Comment” link, and use the text box that appears to explain why you are reporting the comment. If you do not let us know why you are reporting the comment, and the violation of the Terms of Use is not an obvious one, the comment will not be moderated. So please, explain why you are reporting a comment, and we’ll go from there.


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    9. Troy on Sun, 6th Feb 2011 12:52 pm 

      Wow, I wish we would have known this before we submitted. This festival is a total sham. I’m sorry but if they really did have 500 submissions, like they claim, there had to be enough quality films in there to NOT have to select YOUR OWN FILM!!! What a crock. And to only select 7 films (actually 4 films, since THREE of them had ties with the festival) is a complete joke and very misleading.

      I am not bitter than my film did not get in. I wouldn’t have been able to attend anyways. But I’m sure “they” will play the bitter filmmaker card when responding to this.

      In closing, this sounds like nothing more than an attempt to have their own screenings on someone else’s dime. This festival won’t be around long. You can count on it. Word travels fast throughout the world of filmmakers.

      Troy


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    10. Name Withheld on Tue, 8th Feb 2011 4:58 pm 

      I really take some issue with the assertion that all the other films were of such low quality. I can accept getting rejected by a festival – as a filmmaker, I’ve been rejected from plenty. But my film is an award winner at other fests, and this festival is now trying to paint all the rejected filmmakers as inferior while they have their own funded screening party for them and their friends and colleagues. Real nice, guys. Way to be “different.”


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    11. Sucker on Wed, 16th Feb 2011 5:21 pm 

      I’m a sucker who applied to this fest. I was looking for any screening opportunity that would provide a travel stipend to attend (like Savannah, etc). I love the idea of small regional festivals. My films have screened at top tier international festivals, including the most coveted American festival… I can’t believe the festival director said there were no quality submissions. What a tacky comment to make to the people who just paid your rent. But as a filmmaker, I often say there are so few American programmers with any formal education in film…
      I like how they site Telluride as their inspiration from programming such a small fest. A festival that screens 7 films is hardly a festival. Complete and utter misrepresentation. Good thing they have a “lawyer” as their “festival director”. Withoutabox.com needs to reevaluate their criteria so people don’t get taken advantage of.


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    12. shortcinema on Tue, 22nd Feb 2011 7:57 am 

      It is incidents like these that support the question premise ” why bother submitting to film festivals”. If you have your head on straight about a distribution strategy then there is an argument to made to submit. But situations like these fuel the anti film fest argument.
      Frustrating, a waste of money and a broken system.


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    13. IcarusArts on Wed, 23rd Feb 2011 4:20 pm 

      Great article! Thanks for taking responsibility for a festival you were sending people to (I wish Withoutabox took a little more initiative to weed out con artists) and for “exposing” these guys to the extent that you did.

      Their response is ludicrous. I wouldn’t fault them for programming friends films (everyone does it) if they had scheduled closer to 30 films. Their excuse that they got lackluster submissions? Pathetic. If you are having poor films submitted, you simply go after quality films that have played elsewhere. Almost every small festival keeps tabs on Toronto, Sundance, SXSW, Tribecca, etc and peppers some of their favorites into their program along with premieres and regional films. The new Salt Lake City Film Festival is a good example of that. So are more established festivals like Cinequest or Florida Film Festival or even big fests like AFI and Silverdocs. Basically everyone under Sundance, Toronto, and Cannes draws from other programs.

      My film premiered at Toronto and we were then approached by over half of the festivals we screened at afterward. Because of our big premiere, we had the luxury of not submitting to anyone that wouldn’t waive our fee, but smaller films can’t necessarily do that. Simply asking turned up some interesting reactions that lead to further investigation and a lot of bad seeds.

      There are so many wonderful small, emerging fests like Flyway and Salt Lake City that are trying so hard to really take care of filmmakers and audiences and it seemed as though New Mexico was one of those. I guess some big talk and nice graphic design go along way. The only thing I can say in their favor is that at least they actually held a festival unlike scam artists Alaska International Film Festival and Los Cabos International Film Festival (there are plenty more).

      One way to find cool small fests without being taken advantage of is to see what established festival programmers, sales agents, and filmmakers are recommending. Thom Powers of Toronto and Trevor Groth of Sundance, for example, are often throwing their weight behind cool, small fests.


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    14. Mark Bell on Fri, 25th Feb 2011 11:34 am 

      Comments weren’t working when Roberta Munroe dropped by, so she shared her thoughts on her own blog. It really fleshes out the financial situation festivals face, and regardless of the context that inspired the post, it is a good read.


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    15. Christopher J Garcia on Sat, 26th Feb 2011 2:34 pm 

      The first time I read about the NMIFF, I knew they were in serious trouble. I’d tried to do the same sort of thing three times (once came off, but had almost all the same troubles and we ended up with only five films screened and lost nearly three grand), and it’s an impossible way to do things on any real scale. If they’re looking at a 1% acceptance rate, they’ve either got standards that are way too high, or they’re simply trying to maximize income from submissions. I’ve always hated the idea of charging for submissions, and situations like this are exactly why.
      Chris


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    16. scammed on Mon, 28th Feb 2011 10:20 pm 

      Please update your NMIFF article with the information that SABI and
      Humble Magi are in truth business partners. They officially are
      partnered companies. Zak and Justin have worked together for alot of years and SABI is listed on Humble Magi website as a business partner. The website
      says they are part of The Humble Magi Group and investments in these
      companies is welcome. http://humblemagi.com/partners/
      http://humblemagi.com/investment/ It is dirty when one business gives film festival placement to a business partner and pays them with money from other filmmakers.


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    17. Tyrone D Murphy on Thu, 23rd Jun 2011 1:23 pm 

      We are making a doucmentary on scam film festivals, please send us you stories

      We also have an organisation called UFFO, the Universal Film & Festival Organisation. We promote an ethical code of conduct for film festivlas. http://www.uffo.org, It’s free, it’s easy and it works

      What more need to be said

      Tyrone D Murphy


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    18. Fans Of Film on Fri, 15th Jul 2011 11:50 am 

      As someone who attended the festival and gave some of my time to the festival, I fill this is embarrassing and way out of order. Not for the festival but those that would attack a 1st year festival that did everything they could to give the fans a great show and give the filmmakers an equal share.

      For the filmmakers that slandered the festival in this post or any other should be ashamed of themselves for thinking this fest was different than any other, any experienced filmmaker knows that festivals are a game of who you know, how good your film is and how well you have marketed for the festival, this is an age old argument that most I think are aware.

      There may be things I don’t know about the festival or others, but as someone that tried two years in row to start and run a film festival and failed, I can tell you it’s tough and I’m out a lot of money. Just to get a With Out A Box festival account is $500 to start. I can blame my failure on many things such as the festival targeted social and environmental films, man was that a mistake, who cares about social and environmental films.

      I do know Jemez Springs is not the middle of no where, in fact it’s one of the hottest tourist spots in New Mexico, and just a few mins away from Los Alamos, a town known for be in a dozen movies, this was not just any town in the middle of nowhere.

      Some of the filmmakers and staff where able to stay at the majestic Zen monastery with it’s own private natural hot pools WOW.

      Everybody in town was having such a good time that the owner of Los Ojos Restaurant & Saloon got mad and was inviting everybody to his bar to watch Hollywood movies, I even heard he was trying to charge for it, he even came and yelled at the festival. Now there is a scandal to talk about, that guy should prosecuted for screening Hollywood films, I can’t tell you how upset Justin was about this bar owner violating copyright laws against major film labels.

      My experience at the festival was awesome and was really looking forward to next year, but because of this slandering of a great 1st year festival that did put the filmmakers 1st and put on a high quality show for audience, may never get a chance learn from it mistakes if there where in fact mistakes made. It is my hope that the festival and New Mexico film community can recover from this tragedy.

      My name is Michael Palombo and have been working in film since 2007, with many credits on other filmmakers projects and getting ready to direct my 3rd short film, I spend all my spare time promoting other filmmakers on Twitter @FansOfFilm


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    19. Migdia Chinea on Tue, 16th Aug 2011 11:24 am 

      “anonymous (street meat)”

      By invitation: Screened at the California International Shorts Film Festival (Honorable Mention), Cannes Festival de Film, Daazo Centre European Films, Nominated by the Famewalk International Film Festival, Seoul Extreme Shorts International Film Festival, St. Petersburg International? Film Festival Beginning (Russia), the Burbank International Film Festival (so far).


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    20. Migdia Chinea on Wed, 17th Aug 2011 5:45 pm 

      Just now the Cyprus International Film Festival 2011.


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    21. Migdia Chinea on Sat, 20th Aug 2011 9:08 pm 

      Migdia Chinea
      Director Writer Producer
      anonymous (street meat) – UCLA/Ciboney productions. Exhibited:
      California International Short Film Festival “Honorable Mention” 2011
      Daazo European SF Centre, Hungary 2011
      Famewalk International Short Film Festival Nomination, California 2011
      Open Cannes Festival de Film SFC, France 2011
      Seoul Extreme International Film Festival, Korea 2011
      Cyprus International Film Festival 2011
      Burbank International Film Festival – AMC Theater Women’s Night Block One, California 2011
      Saint Petersburg, Russia, Film Festival “Beginning” 2011
      In the Palace International Film Festival, Balchik, Bulgaria 2011
      Early Melons International Student Film Festival, Bratislava, Slovakia 2011
      Le VII European Independent Film Festival (ÉCU) – France, Italy, Spain, UK 2011
      Indie Lisboa International Independent Film Festival, Portugal 2011
      East Silver Market, Prague, Czech Republic 2011
      Ffresh — the Student Moving Image Festival of Wales, 2011
      International Festival of Kinoproba Russia Lunacharskogo, 2011
      Watersprite Cambridge International Student Film Festival, UK 2011
      International festival of short films and visual art WIZ-ART, Russia 2011
      Digital Film Festival Izolenta, Sweden 2011
      busho Budapest Short Film Festival, Hungary 2011
      Miradox Portal, Russia 2011
      Breaking Ground European Film Festival, The Netherlands 2011


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    22. Migdia Chinea on Sat, 20th Aug 2011 9:09 pm 

      The second one doesn’t have my home address or email and it’s ok. Thank you and sorry for the inconvenience! Migdia –


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    23. Joe Mahma on Sat, 15th Sep 2012 9:08 pm 

      Wow. I was one of the rejected filmmakers from this bogus FF. I guess I’ll be sure and find a torrent of ALPFD and seed it for a long time. “Humble Magi?!?!” Justin Evans is a dickweed.


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    24. Tacos_Rule on Fri, 9th Nov 2012 10:55 am 

      I know Justin personally and I experienced what it is like being on set with him, so I can say for sure that creating a film festival in order to screen his movie is right up his alley. On the subject of shady film festival practices, you should ask him about csting a man named Stephen Rubin in his movie in order to win the Heineken Red Star Award. He has been travelling around giving lectures on how to make “Hollywood movies on micro budgets” but the problem is he has never proven his system to work. He spent a year posting how awesome he was on a site called DVX user and giving everyone advice on how to be like him. However, as soon as someone criticized his movie he went through and deleted each of his posts, replacing them with the letter “a”. If you attend a screening of A Lonely Place For Dying please stay for the Q&A and ask why none of the cast or crew ever show up to the panels. Be careful to not make him angry though, the guy threatens more lawsuits than Scientology.


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