You may know that Rat & Dragon was founded on two professionals knocking their heads together above a giant wok and collecting the bits that fell off to create the most awesome ideas stir fry in the history of Mornington Crescent. It is true, dear reader, that over the last two and a half years, we have been on an exclusive mission to capture the furthest corners of the #otbt traveller world, but before all that, our founding members had their fingers deep in all the independent film pies.
It may have taken 2 years of non-fiction for the ghosts of Christmas past to bite us in the butt, but this March, one of our producer’s films screened at Cinequest film festival in the heart of Silicone Valley and thus brought a whole flood of reminiscing, reconnecting and recalibrating to your favourite maverick film team. You can read all about it here, but whilst we’re at it, we need to share a secret with you. For you, dear reader, deserve the best we can give, and after 3 weeks in California, the advice we have for you is: Get your butt to a film festival. Here’s why:
1) Unique inspiration
Its Friday night. You’ve just walked out of Batman vs Superman and thought “soooo, that was a bit same-ish, lame-ish…”, wondering if you’ll ever waste $20 for this cinema thing again. That feeling that you’ve seen that same story a million times before, just acted out in turns by disgruntled superheroes, Hugh Grant & Scarlett Johansson, a talking car, a plucky dinosaur, and a redneck family from Idaho… well, your gut is right. Big cinemas play what big distributors buy, and big distributors buy what they feel is a safe return on investment: the same story that was marketed to sh*t and got you into the cinema last time.
Film festivals are different, as, on the whole, you don’t need millions of dollars to get your film seen by an audience. They are curated by people who – yes – need to get butts on seats, but who also know their audience wants to see something fresh and new (or they’d just go to the cinema instead). Just because a film gets through the distributors criteria for big global cinema release doesn’t mean it’s good. And likewise, just because a film gets rejected by big distributors, doesn’t mean it’s boring, or ‘art-house’ or plain unwatchable.
Festival releases such as Loveless Zoritza, Yakuza Apocalypse, Dependent’s Day, Love Is All You Need?, and Lost in Munich will have you crying with laughter or heartbroken or deeply shocked or in awe, way before they get distributed (in some cases unfortunately “if” they ever do).
2) The cool factor
Remember that time you ended up at the casino bar at 4am with Antony Hopkins and Quentin Tarantino after everything else had closed and your group was just having a far too good time? Yeah, you don’t. But this older director Patrick we know has exactly those memories – because he was in the festival circuit when Antony and Quentin were getting known. Hollywood is employing more indie film makers than ever before because they bring new exciting visions to projects, that admittedly get watered down a lot along the way by stakeholders (refer back to point 1).
Festivals are your chance to see the big names when they’re just taking off and if you’re lucky enough to end up at The Breakfast Club after a good night of meeting people, you’ll probably know the whole backstory to what went into filming what you saw last night. And you know what they say: sometimes behind the scenes is even more interesting than what’s in front.
3) Get involved
Films are a collaborative process. Guess why everyone who’s won an academy award always sits up there for ages thanking their agents and crews and Jesus and their cat called Omelette until they are awkwardly asked to shut up and sit back down to let someone else have a go. And on the whole, films are really just a bunch of people getting together in a place and telling a story.
Well, festivals give you the chance to actually rub shoulders with people making films all around you, and engage personally with them at many Q&As, screenings or networking events. And if you have something of value, like an apartment with a great view, or a cool looking dog, or access to a prison, or heaps of enthusiasm, or (especially in London) spare time and your own car, you can actually find yourself helping out on an indie film set in the not too distant future. Making films, especially at festival level, is only possible by bringing people, assets and passion for the project together, so if you’re interested, chances are you’ll become a valued member of a film team. And if you play it right, your name might even be dropped whilst accepting an academy award one day.