“The best swordsman in the world doesn’t need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn’t do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn’t prepared for him; he does the thing he ought not to do and often it catches the expert out and ends him on the spot.” – Mark Twain
Larger Korean fests have nothing to fear. They have significant budgets, superstar red carpet events, and ample volunteers. They have the worldwide recognition and credibility that comes from being around for decades. A fest like KIXFF is run on the catering budget they use for their opening night buffet (or much less).
So we do things differently. We have to. We operate cheap and ethically. We focus on our niche and we do our best to meet their needs. This year’s goals were quite simple: Not bigger; just better. Focus on efficiency and doing what we did last year better. Also, stay focused; stay bold.
This means DIY. This means brains over budget. This means challenging established norms. We operate our fest on a non-profit basis. We do it with a small but dedicated team. We blaze the trail for films about the global nomad. And we challenge film festivals to be ethical; charge filmmakers if you’re being fair — inviting most of your films from producers and other fests; while choosing only a handful from expensive entries is NOT fair.
KIXFF is a filmmaker’s fest and we want to be able to demystify much of the process around film fests. One step is transparency. Obviously, we can’t tell you everything. Some things like the back room programming meetings need to remain private… because the issues at hands are the blood and toil of filmmakers. However, there’s still a lot we can shed some light on.
Programming a one day fest on our budget is hard… programming 3-4 days? We had 50 fewer submissions than last year (150), but the overall quality was higher. Our revenue stream was lower, and we still haven’t cracked the egg that is big money sponsors. Still! We are determined to host some free screenings, and we run the KIXFF Filmmaker’s Workshop out of established funds. And ticket prices are low, as to keep to our low-budget mantras. We work that money and stretch it as far as we can. We do a lot with a little.
It’s crunch time.
We’re about a month out now. We’ve made final selections, contacted filmmakers, are downloading all the films for screenings, okaying promotional materials, designing and printing, purchasing equipment, budgeting and pricing festival swag, setting up volunteer teams, meetings for translators, visiting potential venues, meeting with venue owners, planning parties and bands, working sponsorship deals, and then there’s Netflix introducing Stranger Things and we just have to take a quick break.
But I wouldn’t change a thing.
That said, I’d like to say thanks to our team: There’s Roz on marketing, Pablo doing design, Lynne on events, Marc in programming, Stella in community relations. And Seoul Players who are there to assist us even as they plan their own rigorous events.
A thanks to our volunteers, who watched countless hours of film and gave their feedback, to the design, marketing, and programming teams, the translators and the event planners. I’d like to say thanks to the audience that will come out next month to revel in the awesomeness that is this year’s selections. And finally, the filmmakers themselves whose blood sweat and tears, give us reason to host this event.
Now, it may seem naive to think that being transparent really matters. In fact, some might say, “How idealistic. Good luck with that. First, no one cares. And second, if there are some that do, they care because they can use it against you.” Right. Being too open about things does take away some of the mystery. But I think I can leave the mystery to the filmmakers, and what goes up on the screen. The fests can get over it.
Other fests might look down their nose at us…
It doesn’t matter. We don’t compete, because there’s room for a small fest like ours. Korea is in a unique position for having such a large foreign population that’s educated, single and working class. Many have day jobs but available free time to pursue other activities. While many countries have expats, expendable income and free time are critical for growing art. And we can do our best to also streamline the whole expat/migrant population, at least to tell their stories.
So here’s to KIXFF 2016. Part 2. Back to the Basics. A sequel…. (I’ll stop now.)