Sundance, Tribeca, Toronto, Venice—even the world’s most glamorous film festivals got nothin’ on the local.
Recently, I attended the Three Rivers Film Festival in Pittsburgh, PA. 3RFF is a small scale film fest comprised of a collection of independent films. I saw prize-holders from Toronto as well as Pittsburgh produced shorts. My first night there I walked into a crowded little lobby on the second floor of a film school. A young man shouted over the heads in front of him to greet a fellow film student. Two white-haired women talked excitedly to each other as they scurried toward the will call table. Little did I know, I’d being seeing these faces a lot more. In fact, I would see them in the lobby of every theater I visited. It’s just the nature of small-scale.
If you are an aspiring filmmaker or even just a good ol’ film enthusiast like myself, local film festivals are a great idea. Here’s three nuggets to consider the next time your city’s festival pops-up.
1. Learn about film companies and supporting organizations in your region
Are you new to the city? Are you new to filmmaking? Supporting companies and organizations exist in nearly all major cities. Representatives may show up at panel discussions or lobby booths to promote their companies. Getting connected with these can help you with your career. Whether you are an actor, screenwriter or director you can find an organization that can serve you and you can find ones that you can serve. Organizations like Steeltown Entertainment Project (of Pittsburgh) programs tours and seminars. They even pioneer new film and TV ventures. Projects like this offer educational opportunities for multiple age groups. Perhaps, they may be able to get your current film-dream off the ground.
2. Meet people you can collaborate with
It takes a village to raise a… film. These smaller festivals magnetize indie filmmakers. You might meet aspiring directors and writers at Sundance, but going local means you can connect with people—ones with whom you can easily collaborate. At the 3RFF I learned about a ‘crew connect.’ At these events you can meet camera operators, lighting technicians, set designers, etc. that live and work in your region.
3. Attend forums that discuss filmmaking in your city
At 3RFF I attended a forum on filmmaking in the Pittsburgh area. The panel comprised of four directors (Mike Gasaway, Christ Preska, Charlotte Glynn and Melissa Martin) took questions from the eager audience members. Might I add—at smaller festivals you are more likely to get your questions answered just do to the sheer number of attendees. Anyways, Glynn talked about how she derives stories from the inspiration of specific Pittsburgh locations. Gasaway and Preska suggested the audience to find cheap/free sites where they can film. They shared some of the sites they had found in the area. Martin helped the audience think about funding. She recommended historical and activist organizations that might be eager to fund certain types of films. Each city has its own problems and perks.You can discover helpful insights at forums. Experienced filmmakers are face-to-face present at local fests.
We all know that film festivals are fun, whether you are a filmmaker or not. There is nothing like laughing and crying and cheering and booing with an audience full of film lovers. Yet, these local fests can also be informative. Look for opportunities to get involved with agencies, organization and crews in your area. And by all means…have a blast!