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Meet a Film Festival MasterTuesday, June 29, 2021

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TL Westgate of Creative Inlet in Orlando is a long-time 48er and the current record holder for having his 48HFP films accepted in the most festivals.  He did his first 48 Hour film in 2008.  Each year his filmmaking skills have improved and to date his team has done the 48 nineteen times and garnered several Best Film awards.  We sat down with him to find out more about his festival success.

Your 48 hour films have been accepted into quite a few festivals.  What are the numbers?
I like to put festival laurels on my film posters. My 48HFP films have been accepted to 246 festivals, received 208 nominations, and won 112 awards.

TL_Westgate_-_For_Luck246 Festivals!?!?

If I include my non-48 films, that would add another 87 festivals, 21 more nominations, and 18 more wins. I'm proud of this not because "I" won these awards. As we all know, making films is such a team effort. And "I" couldn't have won any of those without the great people I work with. Most importantly, my writing partner Michelle Bretana and frequent collaborator Dale Metz.

What is the main reason you enter your films into festivals?
Once my 48HFP films got good enough to get into other festivals, I would mostly send them out to places I wanted to visit! I'm in Orlando, so lots of Florida fests are easy to get to. My hometown fest up in East Lansing, Michigan was fun because I got to go back and visit my birthplace. Las Vegas was fun. And a super fun fest is in Austin, Texas. And who can forget Filmapaloozas in Paris and Rotterdam?!?!

But that's not the real reason for submitting. It's more about once you get in, then you get to network with other filmmakers and see what other people are doing. I've made some great friendships over the past several years of being on the fest circuit. Despite the competition, it's great to connect with and cheer these people on with their endeavors, as well.

What have been some of your favorite festivals and why?
The Austin Revolution Film Festival that I alluded to is fantastic. It's soooo well attended. I've been to some smaller fests where there were just a handful in the audience. It's almost embarrassing at times. But ARFF gets hundreds of filmmakers to attend. It's a rollicking good time! Also, the Paris and Rotterdam Filmas were fantastic trips on top of the fun of Filmapalooza.

Do you submit your original 48 hour film to festivals or do you continue working on it before submitting?
Do I submit the exact same file I delivered to the 48 by 7:30pm Sunday? No way! But then again, I don't do too much else, either. Definitely no more shooting. The film is in the can. I just tweak the edit a bit, maybe give another pass at the color grading and VFX (if any). Despite thinking George Lucas should not have tinkered so much with re-releasing Star Wars, I do see why he did it. I've sat in festivals watching my films and thought "I could trim that a little bit," or "the audio needs some more work." The edit is never done. That's why you just have to let go.

How did you get started in filmmaking?
I was a stage actor as a kid in little ol' Naples, Florida. That led to making videos in high school when we got our first in-school TV station during my senior year. From then on there were lots of really bad attempts at filmmaking. It wasn't until my first 48 in 2008 that I started to put it all together. My degree is in Media Production from Florida State University and I had been doing video production work for 15 years at that time. The 48 allowed me to use my production skills while honing my story telling ability.

How many 48s have you done and how did you get started with the 48?
By my count, 17 iterations of the 48. Most of those have been in Orlando, Tampa, and Jacksonville here in Florida. Just missing Miami. Maybe this year. Dale Metz and I have teamed up to also do the Sci-Fi 48 out of Austin twice (run by Alyne Harding and Keira Marti!). As to how I got started, it was the summer of 2008 and I had met Michelle Bretana through a Yahoo script writers group. We were planning on writing and shooting something when somehow we heard of this 48 Hour thing and went to a meeting. We met some other filmmakers and had a fun weekend making our first 48. Looking back, though, we can see where we had lots of room for improvement. We got better and started getting some noms and even a few wins in the 48. But it wasn't until our film TechSquad in 2013 that we were finally good enough to get into other festivals, as well.

What have you learned from the 48?
How to play nice. By that I mean that everyone on a team in the 48 is there out of the goodness of their hearts, for no pay, to help you make a film in an almost impossible time crunch. Be respectful of their time, talent, and opinions. Some of the best stuff in our films wasn't in the script. And that's because someone on set said "hey, what about this..."

TL_Westgate_-_BodyhackersWhat is your advice to other filmmakers on getting the most out of their 48 experience?
Paramount would be - don't sweat it. You're not going to be making The Godfather. And if you can in 48 hours, then I definitely want to see it. Just relax, enjoy the weekend, make it fun. Else you'll stress out too much and wind up pissing everyone off. Then you have no crew and no actors and no one wants to work with you ever again. Every film you make is your calling card for the next production. Put some quality work together so you can show your next set of actors and crew "this is what I can do and I'd like you on my next set." Keep in mind that even if things go sideways and you turn in a subpar edit or don't finish on time, you can still work on your film! Maybe you don't win in the 48 that year, but you still have a film under your belt. So, despite the weekend window to finish, take your time and do the best you can.

Do you have any tips or tricks for filmmakers who want to submit their films to festivals?
I would say start small. And local. Branch out from your area to establish yourself. Here in Orlando we have local film showcases that highlight area filmmakers. See if there's something similar where you live. And don't email festivals asking if you can submit or if they'll take a look at your film. Just use FilmFreeway the normal way. Search for smaller fests, get some acceptances, maybe a nom and a win or two. Then build up to larger fests once you know you have quality work. Don't submit to Tribeca and Sundance right away. See if you film garners attention and awards at smaller venues first.

And then, if you get in, attend! If at all possible, that is. And when you attend, don't be a jerk! The odds are against every film to get noms and wins, so don't sweat it. I always say "to get in is the win." If your film gets accepted, be happy! Anything else is gravy. Don't get upset at someone else whose film wins an award you thought you should have gotten. Learn from watching other films. Another thing I always say is that the best thing is to hate your older work. By that I mean that if you look back and see what's wrong with your older films, that means you're improving.

Thank you, TL!

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