The Greenwich International Film Festival Call for Entry is now open through January 15th, 2018. We sat down with Sam Kleiner, GIFF programmer, to discuss the submissions process and what it takes to be selected into the final slate of 2018 films.
What kind of films are you specifically looking for in this year’s Call for Entry?
GIFF’s program is special in that we make Social Impact Films a priority in our final lineup – over half of our slate of selected films have a social message that brings awareness to a specific issue and inspires action. We look for films that tackle issues that are both current and prevalent in the global community. We are part of a very philanthropic community at GIFF, and we like to show films that highlight issues that someone might be inspired to get behind and support. At GIFF, we try to highlight diverse stories with diverse casts —we celebrate female directors, directors of color, foreign directors, and any voices that have been marginalized in the film community. We also look for films that break the rules and challenge perspectives, or share a story that we have never heard before.
As a filmmaker, what can help my chances of being selected for the 2018 Festival?
A film with a clear vision and a unique story has a great chance of being selected, and extra kudos to films with a social impact message. Another factor that increases the chance of a filmmaker’s project being selected, is if they guarantee world premiere status to our Festival. Any Festival, GIFF included, loves to show a first look at a film before it has been seen by the public. We program a lot of films that have been on the Festival circuit and have played at Sundance or SXSW, but it is really special to GIFF to share the world premiere of a film with our audience. We are a community based Festival in Greenwich, and also love to showcase and highlight local talent. We keep a special eye out for filmmakers who are Connecticut locals, and films that were shot in the state because we find it very important to support and celebrate our local film community.
Who helps select these films?
Our Director of Programming, Colleen, and I make it a point to watch every single film that is submitted to our Festival. It is really great to work with someone who shares the same passion for film and is willing to have an open conversation and bounce back ideas of how we want the final program to turn out. We also have a pre-selection committee of twenty-five people who watch almost all of our submissions. The pre-selection committee is made up of people who work in the film industry, film students, and movie lovers with great taste. At the end of the day, Colleen and I have the final say about which films make it into the program, but it is very important for us to get a second opinion from our pre-screener community, especially if there is a film that we are both on the fence about.
With over 500 submissions, is it hard to narrow it down to 30-50 films?
Yes! It is extremely hard to narrow down our final program to 30-50 films. We generally like to showcase about 30 total features and shorts to our audience over the Festival weekend, but because of the vast quality of films that get submitted, we have extended our program to include an additional 20 films over the past two years. On top of the 500 films that are directly submitted to our Festival, we also shop for films that would be a good fit for our audience at Sundance and SXSW. Additionally, we go after films directly from studios, which can make selecting the final program even more difficult as the year progresses.
Many people would love to watch films for a living. What is your process in consuming these films?
I watch hundreds of films each month while our Call for Entry is open. I compare it to being a food critic, something that starts as a passion and becomes something that you have to apply some professional rigor to. Part of the process is taking breaks. Breaks are especially important for the social impact films that are submitted to GIFF. If there is something horrible happening in the world, someone is likely to be filming it, and it is our job at GIFF to watch those films that deal with that heavy material. Sometimes watching these films back to back can take a toll, but I try to remember the importance of sharing difficult stories with the world in the hopes that putting these films in front of an audience will help expose the issue that the film is highlighting. There are also times when I try to take little breaks and not watch anything to let my appetite build back up.
Is there a specific category of your Call for Entry you’d like to highlight?
Last year we created a brand new category called the Connecticut Shorts Program. This category showcased short films that were either shot in Connecticut or made by a local filmmaker. This ended up being one of our favorite events because it truly celebrated our community’s film talent and the beautiful state of Connecticut. We had a great Q&A with the filmmakers who were able to be with us at the Festival, and awarded the winning film of the program a trophy and $1,000 dollar prize. We highly encourage Connecticut filmmakers to take advantage of this new category and submit their films to our 2018 Festival.