Part 14, Hitting the film festival circuit

buzz_mclaughlin_producerOur film festival run with The Sensation of Sight started out with a bang. Within a couple of weeks of having finished post on the film and with DVD screeners in hand, we submitted to several top festivals including Telluride, Toronto, and San Sebastian in Spain–the next big festivals coming up in the early fall.

Within three weeks of submitting, we received an invitation to the 54th San Sebastian International FilmFestival–one of the oldest festivals in the world and generally considered one of the top ten international fests. We were a bit stunned by this and surprised by the speed in which we were selected. We were also very pleased and excited by the news, especially when we found out that our film was selected for their New Directors sidebar, called Zabaltegi, and of the 18 films selected for this sidebar, ours was the only American film.

And then the work began all over again. First, the festival required that a 35mm print be sent to them by the end of August for their late September festival. So we immediately made arrangements with Technicolor for this to happen–an expensive and somewhat complicated process, although everyone at Technicolor was extremely helpful and seemed to take a special interest in our film from the start. When the first print was made we viewed it in a small screening room at the Technicolor complex in Los Angeles. This was a fun afternoon as the print was perfect and for the first time we were able to see the film as we had always envisioned it–a 35mm print projected on a big screen.

At the same time our post production supervisor Geoff Garrett suggested we make contact with Mark Matsuno of Matsuno Design, one of the major movie poster/graphic art designers in the industry. Geoff had worked with him in the past and thought that we’d be a good fit. We didn’t think we could afford someone of Mark’s stature to do our poster art, but immediately hit it off with him and his associate Laura Debole and they offered us a great break on price. They adjusted their schedule so they could join us at the Technicolor screening of the print and later we set about pulling a number of screen grabs–photo stills from the actual movie–that Mark and Laura used in coming up with their many initial versions of the poster art. We finally settled on Mark’s first design (David Strathairn pulling the wagon across the top of the title) and it’s become the signature symbol for the film.

The Sensation of Sight poster

As with everyone else we had worked with up to this point, I can’t stress enough what a pleasure it was to work with Mark and Laura. They truly partnered with us and gave us a vast array of possible designs from which to choose. Again, we were very fortunate to be able to work with top pros who in the process also became friends.

With a 35mm print ready to go and our poster design settled, we next had to have the dialogue translated into Spanish and subtitles lasered onto another print of the film, a complicated and expensive process that took several weeks. At the same time we had to ship over to Spain 1200 press kits that had to arrive by a certain date prior to the festival, another involved process of writing copy, printing covers and inserts, and assembling and FedExing the many boxes of materials to San Sebastian. And then there was the hiring of a European PR firm for the duration of the festival to help us prepare for and manage the onslought of press we were going to face.

Suffice it to say, we were becoming painfully aware that being selected for a major festival in Europe was another mountain to climb for a small indie film company. That’s not a complaint, but it was our reality.

(Next: San Sebastian here we come…)

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  1. John Wayne Bosley said,
    November 9, 2009 @ 1:28 pm

    Seems being accepted into a major festival is like having someone give you a beautiful rose with many thorns. It’s a great opportunity but with much work…

    (Hope your shooting SLA on digital… just sayin’) LOL

    So what’s your recommondations for getting into festivals? Many emerging filmmakers are fighting to get noticed and your film gained recognition very quickly.

  2. Buzz McLaughlin said,
    November 11, 2009 @ 4:50 pm

    John–Good analogy of the beautiful rose. You ask how to get into festivals…? well, all I can say is that in our case we were very fortunate to have David Strathairn, Ian Somerhalder, Jane Adams, Ann Cusack, Scott Wilson, Daniel Gillies, Joe Mazzello, and Elisabeth Waterston headlining our cast. We we fortunate to have Christophe Lanzenberg as our director of photographer. We were fortunate to have a team of producers and crew who were totally dedicated to making a good film. And last but not least we had a writer/director of exceptional talent who wrote a screenplay that got lots of folks excited and who managed to make the film he wanted to make. When everything comes together like that something special tends to show on the screen–at least it seems to have in the eyes of certain festival programmers. But how these things happen remains a mystery. A blessing to be sure, but still a mystery. I just hope we can pull it off again with our next one…

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  1. November 9, 2009 @ 2:21 pm

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