Tag Archives: staff

Checking In with Festival Director, Deirdre Evans-Pritchard

Last week, we closed our call for submissions for the 2014 DC Independent Film Festival. We’ve received an incredible response of over 1,000 films from the international film community. Our staff has worked hard to keep up with the flow of submissions to make sure each film gets the attention it deserves. While we understand enthusiasm is high to take part in the festival, unfortunately, we can only spotlight about 60 during our five-day run.

In addition to choosing the festival lineup, our amazing group of volunteer-only staff is busy scheduling seminars, workshops, panel discussions and more. Our staff – willing to donate their free-time to support film and filmmakers – is one of the unique aspects that drew me to becoming festival director. While there are many opportunities to see films in the city, at DCIFF, we prioritize our programming to focus on filmmakers and the benefits they could reap. For DC residents, coming out to see exceptional films is an experience beyond just entertainment which provokes thoughtful discussions and, most importantly, directly helps local talent.

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Our wonderful staff celebrate during last year’s successful festival

Another unique aspect is our accessible submission requirements. DCIFF accepts films of any length, genre or format as long as the content is not pornographic. We also keep submission fees low, encouraging filmmakers from Metro DC and around the world to enter films. We’ve found this gives filmmakers from a variety of backgrounds and experience levels equal footing in the submissions process. To further increase younger filmmaker participation, we recently created the high school submission category and received a healthy response.

As the festival draws near, stress gives way to excitement! Finalists will be chosen and notified between December 20th and 30th. We look forward to seeing all filmmakers and community members on February 19th!

Deirdre Evans-Pritchard previously worked for DCIFF running the “Filmmakers on the Hill” seminar and the workshops and education initiatives before taking over as executive director and programmer. After many years of promoting media arts and artists, the 2014 festival will be the third straight under her guidance.

The Phantom Tollbooth and Kickstarter Success Tips

In 1998, James Rosenberg launched Adopt-A-Classroom, the world’s first online crowdsourcing site, allowing community members to donate money directly to teachers for classroom supplies. The concept has come a long way; in 2012, there were over 450 crowdfunding platforms. Kickstarter, one of the most popular platforms, has steadily grown as a source for filmmakers over the past several years. More than $100 million has been pledged to over 8,500 independent films as of January 2013.

Our own DCIFF team member Hannah Jayanti recently premiered her own documentary, The Phantom Tollbooth: Beyond Expectations, at The New Yorker Festival after successfully funding through Kickstarter. I sat down with her to discuss her experience and what filmmakers should know when working with the platform.


DCIFF: Congratulations on the New Yorker Festival! I’d love to hear more about the film’s background and what attracted you to this project.

Hannah: I was first hired to film a short video to promote the 50th anniversary of The Phantom Tollbooth’s publication. I immediately fell in love with both the author, Norton Juster, and the illustrator Jules Feiffer. I knew there was a longer story to be told. Since we were self-funded during the first year and I worked full-time, we shot on the weekends and edited late at night. Kickstarter seemed like a natural progression to help make the film a top priority.


Norton and Jules outside where they wrote The Phantom Tollbooth

D: What made you choose Kickstarter?

H: We were lucky to have an incredible audience built in to our project. In the film, David Hyde Pierce says, “You’ve either never heard of [The Phantom Tollbooth] or think it’s a biblical text.” Most films go through a commissioner or producer to determine its marketability. Our audience enabled us to bypass this process and go straight to crowdfunding. It’s also fitting that we funded Tollbooth through Kickstarter because the novel itself focuses on progressive education and the importance of innovation.

D: What were the positives and negatives you experienced working with the platform?

H: Like most crowdfunding sites, Kickstarter projects are not funded by a few large donors but by many smaller contributors. You also achieve direct interaction with your audience. The constant contact your audience craves can translate to a lot of leg work but the payoff is rewarding. The personal relationships we gained have made this film completely worthwhile.

D: Was social media a large part of your funding strategy?

H: When we first launched Tollbooth, I was tweeting individually. Once the project gained traction, our social media took off. I had to learn very quickly how to effectively run an online campaign. Most days I felt like two different people, spending half my day editing and the other half communicating with our social media audience. I had never managed an intensive campaign before but, on a small production like ours, you needed to understand social media, finance, marketing, and the creative aspects. That was one of the biggest challenges. If I had one piece of advice to our readers, I would say learn to wear many different hats.

D: Any other last words of wisdom?

H: If you would like to learn more about the crowd-funding process, check out Indie Game: The Movie’s case study. They have great insight on their indie film experience with funding, filming and self-distribution.

The Phantom Tollbooth: Beyond Expectations is available online for digital download now or pre-order a DVD for November 20th.