Since 2011, when I started making short films while attending Southwestern College, I had heard about Withoutabox (will defunct by 2019) through Luis Bohorquez, a former instructor at SWC. I then became aware of the hundreds of festivals to choose from on this website. In fact, part of our production book requirement for our final film(Omission?), was to select at least one festival we were eligible to submit to and describe why we wanted to submit to that festival. If my memory serves me correctly, I chose a festival titled, Silent River Film Festival. Okay, I just looked it up and SRFF still exists. And, the logo is the same from when I last saw it. I never did apply to it. In fact, it took me almost seven years to apply to a single film festival.
At the time while at SWC, I found the website and the process to submit a film on Withoutabox intimidating and, I suppose I was lazy as well. I wasn't aware what a festival consisted of and what it can do to your film and the the people involved in the film. I never asked.
Even after I transferred to UC Santa Cruz, during my two years there, the school didn't advocate and promote film festivals. At least I wasn't aware of it nor did I have professors who encouraged me or the class. Perhaps they did and I wasn't listening. The point is, film festivals weren't even on my mind at all.
I simply wasn't educated on what a film festival actually consisted of.
It wasn't until I moved back to San Diego in the spring of 2015 while working at NBC and freelancing that I started really learning about film festivals from all over the world.
When I started my MFA program at SDSU in the fall of 2016, it seemed everyone was getting into film festivals left and right. I suddenly became much more aware. It was certainly a much different film culture from what I had experienced before. I also learned about FilmFreeway!
Knowing about FilmFreeway and being motivated by the ambitious energy at SDSU, I was excited to see if I could submit any of my old films into the festival circuit. After a handful of short films that have lived in my hard drive for years, they were suddenly gone due to my rugged LaCie hard drive crashing. I know, I know, back up your hard drives! I have two LaCies now. Don't yell at me.
I started fresh. I had to complete my midway thesis film in the spring of 2017 in order to move on to the following remaining two years in the program. Under the condition of the committees approval, of course. The film is, Chato (9min). After completing the film and being invited by the committee to move on with the program, I was ready and excited to start submitting Chato to film festivals.
However, if you haven't seen the film, it deals with a heavy subject matter. It's not graphic, but its a sensitive topic and the actions are implied, which is more than enough due to the subjectivity of children dealing with sexual abuse. I spent the second half of 2017 all the way through 2018 applying to film festivals through Withoutabox and Film Freeway. It wasn't until July of 2018 that I finally caught a break after fifteen or twenty rejections.
I was honestly ready to give up with Chato. I kept thinking to myself, the film must not be good at all and on top of that, the subject matter in which it deals with isn't a popular one for the festival circuit. I'm doomed.
In July of 2018, I logged in to Film Freeway and finally saw the green colored "ACCEPTED" next to Chato!
By the time I found out about Chato being selected at Hidalgo Film Festival in Mexico, it had already screened two days prior in the city of Pachuca within the state of Hidalgo. If I had logged in a few days sooner, I would have flown out there to have witnessed my first film screening at a film festival.
I didn't care that I didn't win a single award. I felt I had already won. I'm very proud that my film was recognized at a festival. I have great admiration and respect for HFF for being bold and giving Chato an opportunity.
Viva Mexico y viva Hidalgo Film Festival!