Berlin start-up FilmFestivalLife launched in open beta today, opening up new doors for filmmakers worldwide
When German filmmaker Luca Zamai shuddered at the thought of yet another frustrating, burdensome film festival application, he had an idea. And a life-changing one at that: Why not create a website which helps international filmmakers get to release? If filmmakers want to be seen, they need strong festival strategies to properly promote their work to attract distributors and buyers. However, the film festival circuit is fraught with strict regulations and red-tape with little online guidance. So, creating on-screen action of a different kind; Zamai, together with Berlin filmmaker Nadine Baethke, pushed their director chairs into an office desk to script FilmFestivalLife.
FilmFestivalLife – years in the making
When the idea propped up in 2008, it won the Innovation Award from the German Ministry. But like many start-ups, the idea underwent a slew of changes before it refined into what it has become today.
“There are many layers to having a film festival life and that’s what we want to replicate with our site,” says Zamai. Essentially, the website provides international filmmakers with the tools to make their film a success with; access to festival information, opportunities to connect with fellow filmmakers, personal profiles, and a feedback system of festival experiences.
Although Zamai and Baethke established the crux of the site – months ago, selling the idea to potential investors proved difficult. “We got off to a slow start because it was hard to make an elevator pitch. It was perceived more as a cultural project rather than a business one. But now we’re up-and-running through public funding. It’s nice to see that the film community believes in it but we’ll need an investor to keep it going,” says Zamai. The platform is free-to-use, with premium services in the works – to be made available at a fee.
Vital data at your fingertips
Each territory around the world has a range of festivals with its own selection process, requirements and submission deadlines. It’s a puzzling web of information that can be time consuming and expensive. “It’s a vicious cycle of research, making submissions, and meeting specifications,” stresses Zamai. Hence, good research and strategy is key to a filmmaker’s success upon hitting the festival circuit. And that’s where FilmFestivalLife comes into it…
The core of the website is its database: A wealth of festival information presented in a simple and easy-to-understand manner. There are more than 1000 festivals worldwide that can be searched through various filters – depending on the filmmaker’s needs such as; location, prize money, etc. Once search results are listed, filmmakers simply click through to a festival’s brief overview and then visit its website for more information and to fill-out an application.
Making a name for yourself
Apart from its information-based component, there’s a social one. Yes, it has integration with Facebook and Twitter, but the site also allows its users to create a simple profile to showcase a career description, awards-won, and festivals of interest. “We’d hope that filmmakers can use it as a way of marketing and showing off their profiles,” Zamai enthuses. Like Twitter, you can ‘follow’ a fellow filmmaker’s success and progress on the site as well as establish relationships with filmmakers who’re at the top of their game.
“It also lets filmmakers share experiences; from the selection process to attending a film festival,” says Baethke. Ideally, filmmakers could connect in the offline festival world via their online one. “Attending the screening of your work at a festival is just so rewarding. It’s an intense week of excitement and celebration which can be shared by connecting filmmakers,” she adds. There’s also a blog which profiles filmmakers, offers tips, and spotlights festivals. Users can also rate their festival experiences so that each event gets its list of reviews.
And that’s a wrap..
“Film distribution system is a complex one. It’s hard to draw comparisons with the music scene because it’s quicker for them. The music industry is embracing the digital sphere and is a lot more advanced but in film it’s complex and slow,” says Zamai. When it comes to online filmmakers’ communities – there’s a good handful. When it comes to festival databases – there’s a few, such as filmfestivalsource.com and festivalfocus. But no website has managed to successfully marry the two concepts. With the film industry trailing behind online music and ebooks, it’s getting there – slowly but surely, and FilmFestivalLife is looking to encourage that cross-over. With all the uphill battles filmmakers face and lack of online festival communities, Zamai and Baethke seem to be onto an innovative, sure thing.