Film Academy Vienna students Clara Stern and Michael Podogil talk about their own personal film festival experiences.
Listening into the Room
The closing credits of the short film preceding MATHIAS have started to roll, and I’m getting nervous. During that brief darkness between films, I feel my pulse throb. And then I hardly notice the images on the screen, since I’m most of all listening for reactions in the audience: Is it totally silent? Are people laughing? And if so, when?
For me, trips to festivals with my short film are special ones. You perceive cities differently when you experience them for the most part in their cinemas, while traveling between festival locations, and while walking back to your hotel at night through the empty streets. The experience has an energy all its own: you’re constantly getting to know new people, attending film talks and Q&A sessions, rushing from one film to the next, and occasionally viewing nearly twenty short films or four feature films within the space of a single day—and your head’s spinning with ideas and stories, characters and locations. Most nights, you hardly sleep.
Even though I have to spend a day after every festival catching up on sleep and getting myself sorted out, I’m always excited and happy about the opportunity when it once again comes time to pack my suitcase. This autumn, I’ll be traveling to China, Wales, and Germany. And who knows where to next? In any case, my travels will once again find me sitting nervously in the audience and listening into the room.
A Fucking Drama
Filmmaking is a Fucking Drama: the search for actors, locations, and appropriate costumes is nerve-racking, waiting for funding requests to be approved or rejected wears you down, and filming itself is an ordeal where you “just” try to realise everything like you’d imagined it before.
But even so: I can’t imagine a more wonderful job than that of the film director. You work as part of a team full of outstanding specialists, aiming to tell stories in a powerful way, to render extreme situations understandable, and to create convincing experiences of emotional roller coasters.
And now it’s all gone well. Our Fucking Drama has been shot, edited, and dubbed. We’re happy, and it goes without saying that we want to present our work to the whole world—just like thousands of others who’ve likewise given themselves over to the insanity that is film, seeing things through to the very end. So we scrape together yet another hefty sum of money and send our entry to festivals (dozens of them!), which send back answers that are largely frustrating—because they’re rejections. But we press on—because this is still our short film’s best chance at finding an audience.
We receive rejection after rejection. And the euphoria over getting through the production phase gives way to frustration about how nobody wants to show it. A large festival will typically have to choose among over 3,000 submitted films! So the right person has to see your film at the right time and while in the right mood in order to rescue it from disappearance amidst the countless other entries. Hopefully this happens at some point—or maybe it never does. A FUCKING DRAMA.
Ultimately, though, we’ve had no cause to complain—and we’re in fact infinitely grateful: our film’s national première will take place at Diagonale in Graz, and its international première will be at the BAFTA Student Film Awards in Los Angeles, where it’s been nominated in the Best Live Action category. In Hollywood—we were floored.
And thus the next round of nail-biting begins: How will the film be received at the festival? Do we have a shot at winning prestigious awards? We’d sure like to win one. Why? Because it’ll make it easier to get our next labour of love financed. Which is where it all finally comes full circle.