Making and Marketing a Successful Fantasy Short Proves an Exhilarating, Painful, Learning Process for Film Director

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Experience Prompted Creation of Instructional Video: Film director Sylvia Binsfeld knew that making her own special-effects intensive short from scratch would not be easy, despite her years as a successful commercial director. Her experiences led to an unanticipated new project; the making of an instructional video on the art of getting into film festivals.

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Film director Sylvia Binsfeld knew that making her own special-effects intensive short from scratch would not be easy, despite her years as a successful commercial director. Finishing the film – an award-winning sweet, innocent dream fantasy called DORME would present an entirely new set of circumstances and the task of getting it seen. And yet her ultimate perseverance and subsequent success inspired Binsfeld to start yet another film project; one that would benefit the same people who sought to do what she had done.

Pulling from her own experiences and those of colleagues, Binsfeld has created: “How to get Your Film into Film Festivals – and what to do when you get there”. The 50 minute instructional video is available online at

“There are so many talented filmmakers whose films will never be seen by the public because they don’t know how to take their work to the next level,” says Binsfeld. “Filmmaking requires such a huge amount of dedication – it’s really hard work and long hours. And, it requires a keen understanding of how to promote your film at the festivals and get it seen by an audience.”

The video – hosted by indie actor Chris Arend – is a complete filmmaker’s guide, taking you step-by-step through the process of submitting to film festivals, and shares insider tips on how to increase your odds of getting your film in. Once your film has been accepted, the video shows you how to optimize that window-of-opportunity while at the festival.

Binsfeld says she devoted many hours trying to figure out how to finance her film, how to make it and then, ultimately, how to get it into festivals so people could see it. She spent months designing, painting, building the sets and finding just the right props. The process, she says now, was exhausting and painful, yet extremely rewarding.

“Getting funding for a short fantasy film is near impossible,” says Binsfeld. “I felt lucky to have gotten what I did. I knew I had to make this film and decided to put whatever I had on the line for it. The only thing I had was my home and so I funded the rest of production with an equity credit line.”

While Binsfeld strongly discourages people put their homes on the line to finance a film, she is firm in her belief that one should do whatever it takes to get their project off the ground if they are truly passionate about it.

The experience of Dorme involved a lot of trial and error, especially when it came to special effects. “I had a horrible experience with the first people who were going to work with me on the effects,” says Binsfeld. “I decided not to work with them. Luckily, Steve Wright, the special effect and compositing wizard, took a liking to the film and took it on. He had the skills to give me the quality I desired and was willing to work with me shot for shot. There were 65 shots in this complex film, 64 of them requiring some sort of compositing or effect, most of them several.”

The one shot illustrated here had a green screen layer that was composited over a very high resolution (3500x2400) digital matte painting of the night sky, a lantern glow element motion tracked over the boys lantern with interactive lighting on the shirt, plus six floating and rotating fantasy planets.

Dorme was invited to screen in more than 35 leading film festivals around the world, winning several awards along the way. It will be released in the back of a picture book: Dorme, A Magical Dreamland Visit, next year.

“I decided to make this instructional video in order to help other aspiring filmmakers who need guidance,” says Binsfeld. "I figured filmmakers, as artists, tend to be strong visual learners."

The new clarity that comes from getting the information in a visual and conversational way is essential to making the most out of your film festival experience, especially when it involves piecing together a press kit or prioritizing your time at the film festivals. Besides being inspirational and entertaining, How to get Your Film into Film Festivals!, with its vast insider information, saves filmmakers money and shaves years off their trial and error time. Cost for the video is $29.95 and is available at HOWTOGETINTOFILMFESTIVALS.COM and AMAZON.COM.

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Howard Ruben

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