When I finally made the decision to actually make Rubber Ducky, I decided early on in my mind to learn as much as I could through the whole experience. I wanted a crew of people that were better than me so I could learn from them. I wanted to experiment with different techniques like using no dialogue. And in the back of my mind, I wanted to test the waters of the film festival world.
We were incredibly blessed to build a talented crew from around the United States, and in many ways I absolutely loved working without dialogue, and, in collaboration with Alex Lerma (DP) and Andrew Bartlett (Producer/AD), enjoyed pursuing creativity and thoughtfulness with the visuals.
Early on, Andrew and I decided to pursue a very open production and quick release to build an audience and demonstrate to them and ourselves that we could deliver, rather than pursuing a festival premiere and possibly more showings. The film had premiered and was online before any festival screenings, so it's hard to say how or if that affected its judging in the many festivals I entered. Needless to say, there were more than a few rejection letters.
However, we made the cut for a small handful of festivals, and I decided to attend several and test the waters. I'm not entirely new to the vast ocean that is the film festival world, but still had only attended several. With Rubber Ducky being my largest production to date, (and being young and single) I felt like it was a good time to try and learn a little bit about the festival world and how it might help advance the starving filmmaker.
There are almost countless variables as to what makes a film succeed at a festival, and my experience still being quite limited, most of what I've "learned" is just theory which only more personal sacrifices on the altar of filmmaking can potentially prove. But the oft-heard facts, I have indeed re-proven.
My journey kicked off in San Antonio last March, one of my favorite cities, and at the Christian Worldview Film Festival, one of the few I have attended, and that I have grown to love. I continually am challenged and inspired at CWVFF and met many new and old friends this year who encouraged me to become a better man and filmmaker. Rubber Ducky didn't pick up any awards, but we were honored to screen three times and I gained some more experience at the terrifyingly fun practice of watching your film with an audience. Happily, it seemed to be well-received.
The next stop was at the Clean Shorts Festival in Oklahoma which was a new one for me. Put on by the Eastern Oklahoma County Tech Center in Choctaw, it was a fun festival to attend. The faculty and students that host it are passionate and welcoming and made the experience enjoyable. Screening alongside 90+ other short films, we were honored and very surprised to take home the Audience Choice award at the end of the fest.
Neither money nor time last forever, and after Clean Shorts I headed home. Rubber Ducky had been selected and nominated at The Attic Film Fest in Austin, and my friend and lead actor's dad, Steve, graciously provided the way to head south again, and Colt, he and I went to Texas. The Attic is run conservatively by a passionate group of film and filmmaker-lovers. Only 21 films were screened this year, and we were excited to be nominated for Best Actor, Best Editing and Best Production Design, winning the latter thanks to Carol Kiemle's hard and exceptional work. The films are screened at the Alamo Drafthouse, which is an incredible theater experience and the festival was one of the best I've attended.
Let's face it. The film industry is filled with ego and fakery. And the lack thereof is something I appreciate in the smaller festival circuit. The filmmakers that I respect the most, in addition to being talented and creative in their work, are those who are humble and kind. The ones who want to know about you and your journey and encourage you to work harder and create better. I think we'd all rather hang out with a bunch of people who aren't famous or even successful, but are genuine and humble, than a bunch of people who aren't famous or successful but act like they are. When you find the ones that are successful (and sometimes famous!), and yet are more interested in your life than their latest film, it's inspiring and encouraging. In your networking, seek to build others up. Be honest. Be humble. And treat everyone you meet as more important than you. After all, collaborating on a film is all about being a team player, and it's hard to be that with an ego.
Rubber Ducky has a few more festivals to screen at, and also still the potential for a few more rejection letters. Traveling where I have has been loads of fun, encouraging as an artist, and inspriring as a filmmaker. As I mentioned earlier, I'm still in the theory stage on the business, politics and career-advancement elements that I'm seeking to learn about festivals. If I ever figure them out, I'll let you know.
In the meantime, I'm traveling home again. Ready to dust off my boots, roll up my sleeves and make a movie.