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Palm Springs ShortFest should be on the top of your festival strategy

So you have been working on a short film for months, possibly years. You think you have the next ‘Taxi Driver’ (only short form) and you aren’t sure what festivals to go for that will appreciate your genius…


By Pauline Findlay

You try your luck at Sundance, they only received 7,000 submissions this year! You send off anyway telling yourself your genius will be seen amongst 7,000 cream floats.

Then a few months later you get the email; “We appreciate your genius but can’t programme your film this year.” They mustn’t have seen it!

Well I met the Sundance programmer and she assured us they watch every submission – even the one shot on a cat purring! You return to your festival spreadsheet. Where next?

Palm Springs should be at the top of your festival strategy.

Why you ask? It will teach you more in a week than film school does in years about the business. The industry panels alone are worth the entry and the expensive flight.

It will teach you more in a week than
film school does in years about the business.

Palm Springs ShortFest is a weeklong festival of short films. Yes shorts! I know, no feature films, movies stars or hot directors to dim your light. Just a bunch of emerging filmmakers, wanting to network their little hearts out and melt in 43C heat. Over 320 films were programmed this year. This makes your odds pretty good and let’s face it you need the odds in your favour. It is also incredibly well respected in the USA.

Industry people take it seriously and see it as a place to find new talent, (you!). This is hard to believe since Screen Australia recently took it off the list of credible festivals that are worthy of travel funding. I know they can’t cover every festival but Palm Springs also has a Film Market attached and this should be enough reason to have it on the list.

Industry people take it seriously and
see it as a place to find new talent, (you!).

Distribution for short films is becoming more viable with our insatiable appetite for all things short to view on our mobile devices. So getting some cash for your short allows you to make your next short film and not need to ask them for funding. Leaving space for the next up and coming short filmmakers.

Palm Springs is hands down the best experience of my film career to date. The festival is buzzing with filmmakers from all over the world dying to see their peers’ work. I’m quite sure if Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were making short films today Palm Springs would be where they would meet.

Palm Springs is hands down the best experience of my film career to date.

Oh, and if you think your film is a ‘thinking person’s’ film then you have the community of Palm Springs that are very well educated in all things film. Most are retired industry types from LA so you just might find a backer for your first feature. Throughout the Q&A’s (yes they want to know about your short) they ask questions you might expect from your filmmaking buddies, not the local punter.

Kathleen McInnis is the Queen Bee of the festival and she loves filmmakers, especially new filmmakers. Your genius has been discovered. Kathleen is a publicist for feature directors most of the year and knows how to program a diverse festival.

Most are retired industry types from LA so
you just might find a backer for your first feature.

Oh and she has friends in high places – the roll call looked something like this on the panels: journalists from Variety, Hollywood Reporter, LATimes, NYTimes; festival programmers from Sundance, Tribeca, Cleveland and Seattle. If I still haven’t convinced you that Palm Springs is where you should be then let me tell you what the Australian Consul-General in LA do for you. They throw a party and invite industry people, well-established directors and studio types to talk and mingle with you; you get the ins and outs of working in Australia and LA.

Journalists from Variety, Hollywood Reporter, LATimes, NYTimes; festival programmers from Sundance, Tribeca, Cleveland and Seattle.

It gets better: they create a DVD complication of all the Australian films. Why do they do with this I hear you ask? Well they only give a copy to the invited press and anyone they have connections with in the LA studios! We were the envy of every filmmaker at the festival.

So is Palm Springs now at the top of your list?

by Pauline Findlay

[box] Pauline Findlay has written, directed and produced short films, documentaries, theatre plays and online web series. Trained as an actor in London, Pauline’s debut play Girls Talk played at the Soho Theatre in Covent Garden. In 2007 Pauline directed the first online documentary for the ‘Tropfest Super Short Series’. Pauline is a graduate of the Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS) in Screenwriting and Producing and was nominated for a Monte Miller award by the Australian Writers Guild (AWG) for her short film ‘Liv’ in 2011 and for her feature script ‘Lola’ in 2012 Pauline. Pauline also tweets and blogs.
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About the Author

Jade Fisher

Comments 1

  1. I’m convinced! My blockbuster (short) will be winging its way into that comp real soon Ayeee!

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