Having been a Senior Programmer at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival for 15 years, Mickey Duzdevich knows everything there is to know about film festivals. As Dodge College’s new in-house Film Festival Specialist, he is excited to share his expert knowledge and help students navigate the ins and outs of the festival process. We had the chance to sit down with Mickey to talk about his past work as a Senior Programmer and how he plans to help students in his new role at Dodge College:
What is your favorite part of the job so far?
My favorite part of the job is meeting with students. The students are just so excited and it brightens my day. I’m doing like four or five meetings a day just figuring out what to do with their films and it pumps me up! I’ll always find a festival that fits and make a strategy that works for them. Having them in awe at the little tips and tricks I give them that they never would have thought of is so fulfilling for me.
What services do you currently offer to Dodge students as our Film Festival Specialist?
A lot of students don’t know about many of the film festivals that are out there. As the go to person for all film festival questions, I want to help them pick festivals that they have at least a 50% chance of a programmer seeing their work. I’m also trying to find a way to cut the cost of festival submission fees, this includes finding cheaper festivals that are still well known. I also want to build a place where students can go if they have any questions throughout their filmmaking process. Right now Dodge is ranked #4 [in the The Hollywood Reporter Film School Rankings], and I want to see that grow!
What quick advice would you give to your students to help get their films into festivals?
Be mindful of when you submit your film. You never want to submit to a late deadline because that is a cash-grab for festivals. You never want to submit to an early deadline, unless it is towards the latter half to save money, because it is seen [by programmers] as a “film in progress.” The regular deadlines seem to be the sweet spot for most things that are programmed. Like I said, if you need to save money, submit in the last few days of the early deadline and it will roll over into the regular deadline.
Also, don’t submit a “work in progress.” It’s likely that a programmer won’t view it if a reviewer passes on it. An example of this is when I passed on Paranormal Activity after a reviewer rejected it because it wasn’t fully complete. When they saw it, they saw strings and people in green [that were not yet edited out in post-production]. They couldn’t figure out what was going on. It went from a reviewer straight to the rejection bin.
Could you tell me about yourself and how you ended up as Dodge College’s new Film Festival Specialist?
I grew up in a small college town in Northern California called Chico, and the plan was to stay there and go to Chico State. That wasn’t the way I wanted it to go. While I was in high school I always had a very cinematic view on the world, so I started taking film classes. As college came around, I had the opportunity to go to UC Santa Barbara for Film and Media Studies.
I graduated in 2006. At that point, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I thought, “People in film, they just go to Hollywood, right? That’s how it all works.” One of my roommates at the time was interning for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. I thought, “I’m going to do this internship for a film festival and meet so many people, after I’ll find another job in Hollywood.” My long time goal was to become a producer.
Eventually, I got a job as Print Traffic Coordinator [with Santa Barbara International Film Festival]. At the time we were still hauling around 35mm prints, so my job was to move these prints from one theater to the next and make sure all the international films arrived. I had so much free time after delivering the films that I got to go watch them and make connections with the directors, writers, and producers. I grew with the company and eventually became their Senior Programmer.
Although originally I had other job goals, I realized that this other world, the festival world, was amazing. I’m discovering unseen talent and helping independent filmmakers make their dreams come true by making it in Hollywood. Now at Dodge, I’m helping students who are that unseen talent be seen by film festivals and people around the world.
Can you share more on your past Film Festival Experience?
One of the biggest memories I have from working at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival was doing a Q&A with Chadwick Boseman. I discovered his first ever independent film. He came to a festival and was just the nicest guy in the world. What was amazing was years later when we had him back for Black Panther, he remembered me. We started talking like we were old friends. When he passed, it hit hard because I felt like we had made a connection at the beginning of his career all the way until he was at his height. Its our favorite thing as programmers to discover new talent, so it feels great when you get opportunities like that.
What are you excited to do with your position in the future?
I am really excited for the Career Center’s upcoming workshop, it is going to be so much fun! I have done festival Q&A’s for years, and being up in front of audiences is a great time!
I also really want to get to a point where festivals start reaching out to us and asking what projects we have available. It would be wonderful to get to a point where they are calling us saying, “Hey, we loved your films last year, what do you have for us this year?”
Any parting thoughts you would like to share with us?
With the students just about to start shooting in the spring, for those students, I want to say rely on your own voice to tell your story. It goes a long way with programmers. Don’t create a film with the idea of trying to get into film festivals. What is your voice? Run with it. That is what programmers are looking for. They are not looking for the same thing that they have seen 1,000 times. They are looking for your own personal voice, and that’s the best advice I can give. Oh, and also cutting your films to a maximum of 15 minutes because programmers rarely program longer films.
Join Mickey for his upcoming workshop with Dodge College’s Career Center: Get Your Film into a Top-5 Festival
Learn the ins and outs of the festival world with former Santa Barbara Film Festival Senior Programmer Mickey Duzdevich – find out the keys to the submission process and the DO’S and DONT’S of the film festival world.
*DATE: Friday 3/11 at 4:00pm-7:00pm*