Short Film Fund Prize Package | The Film Festival Strategy Experience

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

Alexandra Qin with Thirstygirl lead actress Samantha Ahn

The Film Festival Experience

THIRSTYGIRL premiered at the Oscar-qualifying Provincetown International Film Festival in June 2023. Then it went on to screen at the Oscar-qualifying Palm Springs International Shortfest. Once Kimberley came on board, she suggested that Alex submit THIRSTYGIRL to just over twenty festivals. The list included HollyShorts, Aesthetica, San Diego Asian Film Festival, and Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival – all of which the film was ultimately selected for. The film was also selected to screen at the Bushwick Film Festival in New York.

“The best part of working with Kimberley is that she is my *cheerleader*. I felt it from the very first call. She makes me feel supported, seen, and secure in my filmmaking journey. And she helps reframe my mindset from competition and fear, to trust and gratitude. That’s the biggest gift one can give to a filmmaker during this scary phase!” –Alexandra Qin.

Alex has been fortunate enough to be able to attend several festivals. She says that watching the film with an audience for the first time, especially in such an intimate and supportive setting as Provincetown, was magical. She almost cried! Seeing her film and her name on a big movie theater screen was a lifelong dream come true. And hearing the whole room laugh at the funny moments was such a delight.

Alex confesses that she feels too shy to excel at networking with other filmmakers, often suffering from “imposter syndrome,” but that she has made a couple of new filmmaker friends at each festival she has attended. She says that’s probably what she is most grateful for from the film festival experience – “My new film buddies.” Coincidentally, one of those new buddies is another Shore Scripts Short Film Fund alumni (and now Judge), Sam Baron.

“As I go to more festivals and watch THIRSTYGIRL more, I’m able to see the things I love about the film instead of focusing on its (many) flaws. So I’ve been growing in confidence as a filmmaker, which has been great.” -Alexandra Qin

Alexandra Qin on the set of Thirstygirl

Advice for Other Filmmakers

When asked to give advice to other filmmakers embarking on their festival journey, Alex stated that applying to festivals is a lot like applying to college. For every film, there is a festival out there that it’s right for, but filmmakers need to be realistic about where their film lands and where they can realistically get accepted. That’s where having a professional strategist, like Kimberley Browning, comes in.

Also, Alex warns to prepare for rejection! For her, the first few rejections were a little heartbreaking. But now that she’s grown used to it, they make any selections all the more sweet.  

“The best advice I could give is to release the outcome. I cannot control which film festival my film will get into. It’s completely a matter of personal taste. And no matter how hard I work, I can’t even control how good my film will be. All I can do is work on becoming a better filmmaker. And learn to enjoy the journey, with all of its ups and downs.” 

When asked if there was anything else she’d like to share, Alex stated, “All I have left to say is THANK YOU to Kimberley Browning, Julia Morizawa, Dave Beazley, and the entire Shore Scripts team for your support of THIRSTYGIRL! Winning the Short Film Fund has brought so many gifts, the least of all being the financial support you provided. I can’t say how grateful I am for all of you and what you do for emerging filmmakers. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Shore Scripts extends a very special thank you back to Alex for sharing her script with us in the first place, allowing us to be a small part of her filmmaking journey, and taking the time to share her experience with other writers and filmmakers.

To watch the trailer for THIRSTYGIRL and learn a little more about Alex’s filmmaking experience, check out her Post-Shoot Q&A. The short film is a proof-of-concept for Alex’s feature screenplay which was the Grand Prize Winner of the 2022 Page Awards, a 2022 Nicholl Semifinalist, and the Winner of the 2021 Finish Line Social Impact Screenplay Competition.

Want to know more about the Short Film Fund? Click here to see the prize packages, check out the rules, and submit your script.

Alexandra Qin is an award-winning screenwriter and independent filmmaker based in New York with a background in technology, social justice, and visual/performance art. She was born and raised in Paris, France, to a half-French, half-Filipina mother and a Chinese father. Outside of her work in film, Alexandra is the founder of Emergent Works, a non-profit that teaches formerly incarcerated people to code and helps them start careers in tech. As a performance and visual artist, Alexandra’s work, inspired by her own addiction recovery journey, explores the many faces of addiction. Her first solo show, Losing Things, an immersive multimedia monologue performed alongside 365 illustrations, one for each day of her first year of sobriety, premiered in New York in December 2019.

Julia Morizawa is the Short Film Fund Manager at Shore Scripts. She is a writer/producer with over 20 years of experience in film, television, new media, theater, and fiction podcasting. Original projects include JESUSCAT (OR HOW I ACCIDENTALLY JOINED A CULT) (feature film), SIN & LYLE (short film), TWENTY-TWO (stage), and AMERICAN COMEDY HORROR STORY: ORPHANAGE (fiction podcast). Her most recent project, DRAGONFLY (animated short film), premiered at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival in 2023 and was awarded Best Short Screenplay by Scriptation Showcase and Screenwriting Master in 2019. Listen to Julia talk more about the Short Film Fund on the ISA podcast Just Click Submit.

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