So I received my rejection letter from the Ottawa International Animation Festival today. My film was not selected for the competition screenings nor was it selected for the showcase screenings. To put this into perspective, the Ottawa animation festival is the second largest animation festival in the world and the largest in the Western hemisphere. This year they received 2,376 entries all vying for 151 competition/showcase slots. Given that my film was a limited-animation, quirky look at a real-life experience, I wasn't surprised that it didn't get accepted. I figured that I'd have around a one-percent chance, if that. Still, when you produce a film, there's always the lingering hope that it might get accepted into festivals and appreciated by the crowd.
However, something cool that the Ottawa festival does is that, if your film is rejected, you can resubmit it to be shown at their Thursday night "salon des refusés" party/screening. And if you present your original rejection letter at the bar, they'll give you a free drink. In reality, this is the best outcome that I could have hoped for: the chance to finally finish a film, submit it to a festival, and get a free drink--and hopefully a few chuckles if my film is selected for the salon des refusés screening.
Even though my film was rejected, I'm still left with the feeling that I've already won something more valuable. This is the second festival that I've ever submitted a film to--the first being a student competition put on by SMPTE/RAVA. After allowing so much time between film submissions, this year's entry was a learning experience as I had to review the competition rules, film submission specifications, and deadlines. Honestly, I enjoyed learning about the process almost as much as I did creating the film itself. By reviewing the entry guidelines for Ottawa when going into the production phase of my film, it allowed me to quickly retool the display settings, resolution, and video codec to match what they asked for in their submission guidelines document. It also gave me a larger amount of screen space to play with during production--something that I hadn't put a lot of thought into since I'm used to working in the limited screen space useful for embedding Flash movies into webpages. Normally, if I have to move between a Flash/HTML interface and a video screen, I compose the animations using SD guidelines and then use Adobe After Effects to scale up the vector animation to HD format. And I only do that because my laptop and computer don't work in HD very well. Yep, it's about time to upgrade. At any rate, by reviewing the OIAF guidelines, it allowed me to eliminate a time consuming step which provided the additional benefit of giving me more time to polish the rest of the films visuals, timing, and audio--a fact which became necessary when I discovered a week into production that I had created the wrong background and had to start over from scratch!
Obviously, this won't always be possible--animating your film based upon festival guidelines--animation takes too much time, especially as your stories get more complex and you raise the bar for the visuals. However, with this experience under my belt, I'll be better prepared for the next film I create and the next festival I enter--if for no other reason that it's forced me to reexamine how I plan my films.
This Fall, as I stand there at the Ottawa International Animation Festival, thinking about the next film that I'm going to produce and submit, I'll wager that drink will taste better than any I have ever tasted before.