Jessica Kingdon and the Film Fest Circuit


by Bria Cole | May 11th, 2017

Opening the Maryland Film Festival in the newly renovated SNF Parkway Film Center, Jessica Kingdon’s short documentary, Commodity City, is stirring acclaim and excitement across prominent festivals. After premiering at Slamdance, followed by True/False and Sarasota among so many others, the DCTV Docu Work-In-Progress Lab alum was the recipient of the Tom Berman Award for Most Promising Filmmaker at this year's Ann Arbor Film Festival. And before she heads to Sheffield Doc/Fest, Jessica will be teaching our upcoming Get Your Film Into Festivals workshop this Tue 5/16.

DCTV Workshops Manager, Bria Cole, recently caught up with Jessica.

    Congrats on your incredibly exciting festival run! How would you describe your experience?
    Kind of life changing. To be around people who are making work you respect and celebrating that with them, plus having challenging discussions with new people, plus going on legit benders with grown-ups all give you more motivation to keep making things. You'll see an awesome movie and only later realize that the person you are casually chatting with is the director, and then naturally get into some deep conversation about their movie.

    When promoting your film, what else is essential to making your film more visible?
    Having good stills – that's often what people will identify your film by alongside the title. I bring postcards to festivals with the info to hand out. I bring posters when I can but they are cumbersome and expensive and usually not worth it for shorts.

    What are some things that your producer does that really helps you out?
    Posting on Facebook is harder than it sounds! I need to be pushed a bit because self-promotion is hard and embarrassing. Also helping me keep my focus in terms of what I'm trying to get out of all of this.

    What has been the most work when it comes to applying or attending film festivals?
    Once you're accepted, getting all the DCPs and press materials in order and ready to go. Especially if you have many festivals at once and they require a DCP, it can be challenging logistically (and financially) to coordinate every required item. Also finding accommodations because they fill up quickly and can be expensive around the festival's location and timing.

    What is one key tip for filmmakers to keep in mind as they finish and submit their projects to film festivas?
    Honestly, it is like a lottery, so the more places you can submit to, the better. Email programmers directly and see if you can get a waiver. Tell them why your film is worth it. Think about how important a premiere status is to you (for shorts it doesn't matter nearly as much). Also I didn't realize how social it becomes, so it helps if you can go out and meet as many people in film as you can at events.

    Who is a memorable person you've met at any festival?
    Too many to say. Nearly every single person I meet I want to know more about. From more established people I've been following, to people who are starting out.

    What's your focus right now for future festivals?
    Managing time and figuring out which ones to go to. But more importantly, I feel the need to focus on my next film!

Learn to navigate the many overlaps and tangles of the ever-changing film festival circuit with Jessica in Get Your Film Into Festivals this Tue 5/16. Register here!