How to make award-winning
films & videos ...
By Hunter Todd, Chairman & Founding Director
(Winner of more than 117 international awards as Producer, Director
and/or Cinematographer of over 300 films, including Features, Shorts,
Documentaries, TV Specials, TV Commercials, Business & Corporate
Please Note: This is really just intended for
beginning filmmakers, students and first-time film/video makers.
To all our seasoned pro's out there, this is not really intended
for you ... just the dear beginners!
The 46th Annual WorldFest-Houston
- April 12 - 21, 2013
Get a script...
“A good story, well told - is the true beginning of any movie.
Tricks and techniques will not make a bad story better. Hollywood
manages to prove that every day. Your story needs a beginning, a
middle, and an end - with an intro, a conflict/crisis, and a resolution.
These are the very basic elements. Need a good story? Pick your
favorite short story or one by O. Henry. A story that is simple,
short and to the point.
Not a great artistic feat, simply line drawings of each scene and
every scene, so you can plan it all out. Helps in editing too. If
you have a pal that is an artist, even better.
Buy a Tripod!
One of the most basic mistakes our juries see in thousands of entries
is the "nervous camera" which really detracts from the
film. Hand-held is just fine if it helps the story. But for most
shorts, a steady camera platform helps tremendously. Jiggly cameras
simply come between the story and the viewer. A good tripod can
cost as little as $25 new! Great cameras are OK, but too much shake,
rattle and roll will give your viewers a serious case of mal-de-mer!
the Zoom Lens!
Few things are as annoying to an
audience or a film festival jury as OVER USE OF THE ZOOM LENS! You
will notice that Hollywood rarely - if ever - uses the Zoom ...
use wide shots, then cut to a close up or medium shot ... never
zoom! It is highly distracting even in home movies about a cute
baby! Even a crude dolly-in shot from a wheel chair or wagon is
better. Once in a rare while you can use the zoom for impact, but
we hate to see it messing up your good story. Keep it in the bag!
You will thank me later.
Choose your weapon!
Buy or rent a digital video camera that offers the highest resolution
you can find. Really good ones can cost as little as $750 to $1,000.
Professional models are coming down in price and can be rented for
small daily fees over the weekends. You can buy a used Bolex 16mm
movie camera for just a few hundred dollars, shoot on film and then
edit on tape which does give you far better quality. Shooting on
film and then digital editing on tape is the way the pros and the
big studios do it, and you can too!
Can You Hear Me Now?
Clear audio is critical. The puny built-in mike on your video camera
just won't cut it. It is a cheap, low quality mike. It is too far
from the action, too far from your actors. You can get an inexpensive
wireless, clip-on model from Radio Shack or any sound or video store.
Good sound quality is critically important. Listen to the actual
scene playback! If you use a boom mike, be very careful to keep
the mike out of the shot! Check playback!
Lights, Camera, Action!
Available light is not really good! Inside and outside it makes
shadows and hides details. You can get a camera mounted mini-fill
light for just a few bucks! Or bounce a big spot off a white foam-core
sheet. Same outside, fill-light works and gets rid of bad shadows
on the face. Even a plywood board with shiny foil glued to it helps
bounce sunlight into the scene. Hollywood does it, and so should
you. Keep the light steady though. Wiggly light is also very distracting.
Take Four, Scene 32! Rehearse,
rewrite and re-do!
Try to run through each scene with your actors. A dress rehearsal
of the entire show is fine. Shoot each and every scene many times.
At least three to five takes! Shoot from different angles, use close-ups,
long shots, medium shots, establishing shots, cut-aways! Replay
the takes every time. Look at them on a big monitor; check the sound
and the video quality. Make sure you have a good take that you really
like. Sometimes a re-do is impossible later. Watch out for that
boom mike in the shot! Hollywood does that all the time!
Cut, slash, edit and re-edit!
You can buy a really good movie editing program for just a few hundred
dollars. Final Cut Pro is more costly but worth every penny. Use
free programs like iMovie or Windows Movie Maker to cut your very
best takes together to assemble the final cut. Review it, make changes,
and use new or different scenes or cut-aways to make it more interesting.
Keep your short no longer than 15 minutes. Ten is even better. Many
film festivals will not accept a short film that is more than 15
minutes, like the 900 pound gorilla - Cannes! WorldFest-Houston
accepts longer shorts, but they better be really good! Step back;
take a beat … look at the video again later. Polish and make
changes until you feel it is perfect, then fill out the entry form
and send it in! Best of luck!
The Festival Madness...
There are now more than 4,000 so-called "Film Festivals"
in the world. When WorldFest began, it was the 3rd in North America,
after San Francisco and New York. We began in 1961, and after SFO
and NYC, along came Chicago, Seattle, Dallas, Cleveland and many,
many more. There are now even companies that promote your entry
into many film festivals. Some of these film festivals are scams,
just after your entry fee! Do remember, those Fest Entry organizations
charge all the festivals a fee for their services and some charge
a membership fee to handle your work. DO IT YOURSELF! -
We have discussed this with members of our Board, and many Agencies
and Studios. To put it simply, they are not really impressed that
you won the audience award at the Bugtussle Video Festival and the
Bustleberg Indie Video Festival (Yes, there actually is a Bustleberg
in Virginia, but no festival as of yet!), or others like it. Here
is what you should do:
Carefully evaluate your production. Then consider the top ten or
so film festivals in the world that might like your film. Start
with Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, San Sebastian, Karlovy Vary and then
consider Sundance, San Francisco, Seattle, USADallas, Chicago and
Houston. Please do not waste your money on some 1st Annual Flim-Flam
FilmFest! It does not impress festival directors at all when you
tell them that you just won the top award at some new and obscure
video festival. It is really pretty meaningless. Winning in some
of the significant film festivals we just listed is an important
accomplishment, winning in a new and unknown festival is not something
that will really boost your career, though it may boost your ego!
WorldFest receives more than 1,500 short film and video entries,
so to win here is quite a significant honor. Only about 15% of the
entries win in WorldFest. In some of the smaller festivals almost
all the entries win something. If they want to charge a Finalist
Fee, be suspicious! We know of some festivals that will give you
a Gold Award if you reserve a table at the awards dinner for a big
fee! A Golden Snail from the Tittywompus Indie Video Awards might
make you feel good but it is really meaningless in the real world.
Do remember, not everyone is a Spielberg, Lucas, Ang Lee, Randal
Kleiser, John Lee Hancock or Atom Agoyan! We do wish you all the
best of luck, work hard, do your best, enter festivals carefully!
How our Juries review each entry...
Our International juries carefully review each DVD Entry on Marantz
Professional Playback Systems, regular and BluRay - on big 72"
Panasonic digital screens. No little on-line lap-tops for your entry!
There is a different, award-winning jury for each of the ten major
categories. The Screenplay jury features a different judge for each
sub-category. For instance, our judge for the Sci-Fi category is
an international award-winning Sci-Fi director that has directed
more than 50 episodes of Stargate. What do we consider in reviewing
2. Attainment of goal
7. Technical excellence (in focus, smooth camerawork)
8. Pacing - story development
9. Sound / Music
10. Overall Impression (did they like it)
(We give each review category a maximum of 10 points, so a perfect
score would be 100, just like in college. To be nominated for and
win a Special Jury Award or a Grand Remi, the entry must score in
the 96-100 zone, Platinum requires a 90-95, Gold a 85-89, Silver
a 79-74, and Bronze a 75-78 - No awards are made for scores under
75. We do not give Remi Awards in a category if there are no qualifying
(We are very happy to be able to share with you
what our juries are looking for in a Remi Award-winning film or
video. Should you have any questions or comments, we do very much
welcome your input. Please send me an email - hunter(at)worldfest(dot)org
- and we will get back to you. Did this info help you? If so, do
let us know.) Are there any other thoughts or advice you might have?