I recently had the opportunity to participate in one of Seed&Spark's bi-weekly #FilmCurious Twitter chats on the topic of film festivals. As a feature film programmer for the Seattle International Film Festival (and a filmmaker/screenwriter, myself), I think it's essential to be as transparent as possible when it comes to dealing with filmmakers. This Twitter chat, along with my series of articles for Film Threat, represent my ongoing commitment to improving this aspect of the film festival process.
The best thing that we, as programmers, can do is to be upfront and straightforward with filmmakers when they ask questions. To that end, filmmakers can always tweet me inquires via my Twitter handle: @jbwilke, which then allows me to share my responses with the larger online community. If it's a very specific question, they can feel free to send an email to brad [dot] wilke [at] siff [dot] com.
The next best thing we can do is to play an active role in the indie film community, both online and off. This means participating in online forums, offline panels, networking events of all types, and all sorts of other ways to create a peer-to-peer relationship with filmmakers, writers, and producers, not to mention distributors, executives, and members of the media. Personally, a day doesn't go by that I don't have some sort of interaction with a former SIFF Catalyst filmmaker, answering a question, making an introduction, offering feedback. It's all in the service of helping better movies be seen by larger, more engaged audiences.
Most importantly, though, this is a two-way street. It's not just about lists of "Things I Wished Filmmakers Knew" or "What Film Festivals Programmers Need to Remember About Filmmakers." Rather, it's an ongoing and evolving dialogue between two populations that both care deeply about the same thing: telling good stories.
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below, especially if you have ideas how we, as festival programmers, can improve the experience for filmmakers and audience members, alike.