Sunday, 4 November 2007

Unmade Film Festival

Staged script readings are a part of many film and theatre festivals and so are chances to pitch ideas to a panel of studio execs or funders but I can't think of any films that have arisen from this process.

A fellow student on my course has declared the ambition to set up a new film festival in a city without one and on hearing about it, I made the following suggestion which was endorsed by others in my class as being a pretty good idea. So, for what its worth, here it is:

There should be a film festival devoted to unmade films. That is; films no further in development than ink on a page and hopefully not as far as that, more like ideas in the pipedream phase of germination. This is to be a festival of the films everyone wishes they could make if only....

Entrants would get three minutes to make a pitch to an expert panel and the audience aided by an expert facilitator/M.C. (who could be a comic or a quick witted writer but not as sarky or mocking as Dave Gorman's 'Genius'). After three minutes, the audience get s to vote if the 'pitcher' can stay on to tell them another three minutes of their film idea or get off the stage. The expert panel can ask questions and make comments but only the audience gets to vote.

All possible barriers to entry such as a having a selective submission process or requiring typed manuscripts or hefty fees will be avoided. The format shall be more an 'open mike' than 'X Factor' where everybody is encouraged to have a go at pitching a movie. By holding the festival in a pub or club on a weekend, it might also appeal not just to aspiring screenwriters but the average man and woman in the pub who think they know a good idea for a movie but just couldn't be arsed to take it any further. Some people might get up just for a lark but then, those could be the really great ideas. Entrants wouldn't need to have to have a fleshed out story idea. It could be just a suggestion for casting and subject such as "George Clooney as a racing driver" which is quite often what the studios start with. In that case, the facilitator could ask the audience for suggestions for a plot to flesh out such a premise. Afterwards, the pitches would be written up as poster tag lines and there would be a ballot for a prize. Although there is entertainment value in the process, there is a genuine prize and value in explaining story 'development'. It might also encourage people to go and write down stories they've heard.

The beauty of this idea is that it could stand alone and unlike a 'finished' film festival, there are very few logistics to consider. There are no projectors, no shipping carnets, no programme notes. Just a stage and a few people game to have a go. If the panel represented people who could actually develop an idea into a film and if a couple of the panelists were able to draw a crowd (e.g. Matt Damon and Quentin Tarantino) and the prize was a serious amount of money or an authentic development deal, then there's a good chance that quality entries would come in.

My expectation is that the first winner will be a taxi driver or a hairdresser, as they so often hear things people would never tell their closest friends and they say truth is stranger than fiction.

So, if you have any entries, get in touch.

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