By Julia Morizawa & Alexandra Qin
Our Short Film Fund was established to create another avenue for screenwriters to get their work out there and in front of the industry. Having a screenplay produced is instrumental in the building of a professional career. A solid produced credit will garner interest from agents, managers, and production companies.
The films we have commissioned through The Short Film Fund have gone on to screen at hundreds of festivals including Tribeca, BFI London, Austin, Cannes, Palm Springs, Encounters, and many more. Screening and winning awards at reputable festivals can launch an emerging filmmaker’s career. Attending those festivals and meeting like-minded people can lead to connections that will help pave the way for future projects and success.
We connected Alexandra Qin, writer/director of THIRSTYGIRL, with festival programmer and Short Film Fund judge, Kimberley Browning.
Alex won the 2nd Place Prize of $5,000 in finishing funds for the 2022 Fall Season Short Film Fund. She is an award-winning screenwriter and independent filmmaker based in New York. Kimberley is an established filmmaker, a Short Film Programmer at the Tribeca Festival, and the Program Advisor for Tribeca’s AT&T UNTOLD STORIES. Her recent production credits include UPROOTED (HBO Max) and BEING MICHELLE. She is also a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Short Film and Animation branch.
As part of our Short Film Fund prize package, the Grand Prize Winner will receive a Film Festival Strategy Package from Kimberley which includes a comprehensive evaluation and notes during post-production, as well as a film festival submission strategy and planning session to create a plan that helps navigate the festival circuit and supports the filmmaker’s goals and career development.
The Festival Strategy Process
Kimberley collaborated with Alex to create a Film Festival Strategy Package for THIRSTYGIRL when the film was in its early stages of festival submissions. The two started with a long Zoom call where Kimberley shared her thoughts on the film and then set expectations for their work together and for what she envisioned to be THIRSTYGIRL’s film festival journey. Kimberley had many wonderful things to say about the film and Alex as a filmmaker. Alex found this especially reassuring given that this is her first film.
However, Kimberley also noted that the film’s unusual structure would keep it out of some bigger festivals. Most notably, THIRSTYGIRL does not have a traditional ending, which was Alex’s intention because it is a proof-of-concept for her award-winning feature screenplay of the same name. Kimberley explained that at the higher level, there are so many perfect films being submitted, that the littlest “issue” can prevent a film from advancing during the selection process. But Kimberley assured Alex that the craft was evident and that the film would certainly play at some good festivals.
“What I love most about Kimberley is she really approaches this work as a coach. She makes it clear that she can’t make any promises and that the outcome of the film festival submission process is completely out of our control. She was honest about where she thought my film would land and why.” –Alexandra Qin
After their initial call, Kimberley created an in-depth spreadsheet with a plan for festival submissions over the next few months. She kept the list quite targeted so as to not create undue financial burden and, similar to the college application process, Kimberley recommended some “reach” festivals, some “target” festivals, and some “safety” ones.
Alex admits that initially, she felt resistant to some of Kimberley’s suggestions. For example, Kimberley recommends against submitting to competing festivals, meaning two festivals in the same city/state that happen around the same time. She believes that having to withdraw from a festival can harm the relationship with the programmer. So she asked Alex to choose between submitting to HollyShorts and AFI, both of which are in Los Angeles, and suggested that THIRSTYGIRL was a better fit for HollyShorts. Unable to follow through on the advice, Alex ended up submitting to both. And Kimberley was right – THIRSTYGIRL got into HollyShorts and not AFI.
“I think one’s film is kind of like one’s child. No matter where my film falls objectively in comparison to other films, I’m always going to believe that my film is special (and it is!) and that it deserves the best. So the hard lesson I learned is that my film is good, but not good enough for *the best* film festivals (and even a lot of film festivals I had never heard of). And that’s okay! But it was a bit of a fall from grace at first.” –Alexandra Qin