Along with the feature films that premiere and compete at Sundance, there’s just as wide of a field of short films for the same purposes. From a pool of 8,712 short films submitted to the festival, 72 were accepted. Unlike the feature film category – partially affected by high-profile stars being a boosted possibility of acceptance – the shorts could come from literally anywhere.
When you go to a shorts program screening at the Sundance Film Festival, all shorts’ directors sit within the crowd, and are introduced by the staff to the audience before the first frame strikes. After the last film screens, all of them will walk down to the stage, and a Q&A will ensue. Sadly a good portion of the crowd will have already left.
Now here’s the strategy I took to getting myself talking to the filmmakers one-on-one…
While attending the Animation Spotlight program and Shorts program #2 of 5 so far, I was the only one in the audience who got two questions answered; I made sure during the last film to stir up questions about filmmaking that I wouldn’t be able to guess the answers to; specific, never general. I raised my hand immediately upon invitation of questions. I did this because 1: there’s a chance I could pick up a new nugget of information for myself and my career, and 2. it could serve the purpose of getting that filmmaker – and the other filmmakers – to shape you in their minds as someone who does what they do.
Following the Animation Spotlight screening, I followed 3 of the directors into the bus back to Main Street (the main area of the festival), and suddenly I was the only one present who knew who they were. So I introduced myself, asked a few more questions about their films, gave them my thoughts, and discussed other things like other films playing and the current state of animation in the industry, until they started asking me about my own work. After delivering a long-developed (yet brief) pitch of my project, we exchanged contact information and signified a collective, assured interest in working together.
I found that unlike many of the feature-film directors at the festival, the shorts’ directors tend to take every opportunity of connecting with similar individuals, aspiring to make a mark in the industry and collaborate with those who are worth it.
Written By Matt Johnston