22 Jun 2014
I have made 28 feature length films between 2000 and present (2014); twenty-six of them were made entirely with a zero-budget and two of them were fully funded by the Arts Council of Ireland. In short, I have worked non-stop both with and without money.
In my experience there is a big difference between no-budget and funded projects- a whole new aesthetics and set of possibilities would emerge when working money (and in my case very little of it). However, regardless of your situation if you do not make ‘narrative cinema’ you are entirely ignored to the highest degree. 99% of film festivals will reject you unless you have a very strong connection to someone on the inside and that person takes an interest and pushes you through.
It does not matter if the film is good or bad, it does not matter if you submit to as many film festivals as possible (paying the entry fee- which I am totally against unless it is very low and reasonable). It does not matter how hard you try and it does not matter if you submit your films or not, because there is a clear set design whereby the majority of experimental film festivals are only accepting short films (usually 10 minutes or under). Furthermore, this must be 10 minutes of celluloid and/or with a relatively narrative approach touching on socio-political subjects. So the realities of the film trade (with minimalist/experimental/lyrical/poetic narratives) may be fine for the occasional self-organised screening but now thankfully because of the internet you can release the work ‘online’ and a small opportunity exists for people to see your films – but other than that there is nothing. Forget it.
No wonder the early films of Philippe Garrel, Werner Schroeter and the experimental films of Raúl Ruiz, Stephen Dwoskin, Derek Jarman and similar artists were completely ignored and only when they were dead and gone were they suddenly prodded and poked for many retrospectives across the planet.
Considering all of this I still hold a strong belief in this formula: the lack of acceptance by the film industry replete with a misfit status can help you. Furthermore, being an outsider has value but you have to do whatever you are good at non-stop without paying any attention to unnecessary distraction.