Rejection! That’s something every filmmaker gets a lot of yet never gets used to. And when rejected by a film festival, my last thought is to actually attend that festival. Well, in the case of the Palm Springs International ShortFest, attending the festival lead to the most progress Adonis has made so far.
Attend the festival because “you never know”
Adonis started the film festival circuit with a bang. Two small festivals (with two awards at the Riverside International Film Festival) warmed us up for going to Cannes. After winning the American Pavilion Emerging Filmmaker Showcase at Cannes, getting a rejection from the Palm Springs Shortfest stung. I had really wanted to be part of the festival as it is considered the biggest short film festival in the country. It would have been a very prestigious honor to be accepted. Adonis could still be viewed at their film market but I figured if it was anything like the Short Film Corner at Cannes, then it wouldn’t be worth my time, especially when it could get lost amongst 3,000 other short films. Monika Skerbelis, director of the Emerging Filmmaker Showcase at Cannes, suggested that I attend, promote the film, network, have fun and “you never know.” She was right.
I headed to the Palm Springs ShortFest with Adonis co-star, Velinda Godfrey, who was also attending because she was the producer on Boats Against the Current, which was screening at the ShortFest. Step one was to promote Adonis. Velinda took on the honorary role of Adonis producer and mentioned Adonis (and Boats Against the Current) to everyone she met. She’s quite the producer!
Promoting a film at a festival also means hanging posters and putting postcards and “swag” everywhere possible, especially in the film market. Everywhere there was a table, there would be Adonis postcards and magnets. In a field dominated by black 4×6 cards, I think the circle Adonis cards stood out very well. And when meeting people and talking about our films, getting comments like “oh, the film with the round postcards!” meant that those promotional items must have been working.
Networking at the ShortFest
Speaking about meeting people, networking with fellow filmmakers and other important people is another important aspect of festivals. I got to meet other film festival programmers, distributors and producers. I had a fantastic time hanging out with some great people with fantastic films such as David Anderson and Dominique Martinez (Boats Against the Current), Traven Rice and Timothy Mather (Side Effects), Zao Wang (Honeymoon Suite, an elegant and fantastic take on werewolves), Diego Modino (Efimera, one of the most stunning films I’ve seen in a while), Chad Matthews (Detention and also director of the Hill Country Film Festival), and amazing cinematographer Michael Dallatorre, among many others. The quality of the films at the the ShortFest were amazingly high so it was an honor to hang out with some of them and I hope to stay in touch if not work together someday.
Also, spending some time with some ShortFest volunteers and staff was enjoyable. Everyone I met was really nice and enjoyed being part of the festival. In particular, Domenique Wulfekuhle was incredibly helpful and a super-nice guy who is quite the Adonis supporter. And it turns out that he knows Adonis star James Snyder. Small world.
Have Fun at the ShortFest!
Having fun, another thing to check off on the to-do list at festivals, was easy at the ShortFest. The festival had great parties every night. Palm Springs, despite being approximately 1000 degrees outside, is a fun place. It seems to be stuck in the 60’s, so everything is retro-cool.
At the final party, I met a distributor who was very excited that I was the director of Adonis because it was one of his top 5 favorite films at the ShortFest. He was attracted to the film after seeing the magnet, which lead him to the poster (the marketing is working!). Meeting him was a great finale to a great experience.
After initially not wanting to attend the festival, I came away feeling hopeful, met new friends and filmmakers, networked, got great feedback about Adonis, and had fun. Basically, the Palm Springs International ShortFest was everything that a film festival should be. And the moral of the story is to not give up after rejection, because you never know.