Categories: Movie News

How to Get Into Your Dream Festival: Advice From ‘Huella’ Filmmakers and Evolution Mallorca Founder Sandra Lipski

Published by
Margeaux Sippell

Submitting to film festivals can be overwhelming for filmmakers doing it for the first time — or even the ninth time. And once you get accepted, the work has only just begun. The director and producing team behind Sundance short film selection Huella shared some insights into how they got accepted to Sundance — and what they did after that — in a virtual panel presented by MovieMaker and Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival in partnership with Latino Filmmakers Network (LFN), Sundance, and Acura.

The panelists included Sandra Lipski, founder of Evolution Mallorca and The Festival Key, where she offers custom festival strategies for filmmakers; Gabriela Ortega, the writer-director of the short film “Huella”; and Rafael Thomaseto and Helena Sardinha, the producing team behind “Huella.” The film tells the story of a flamenco dancer (Shakira Barrera) who is visited by her ancestors after the death of her grandmother reawakens a family curse

As a festival programmer herself, Lipski shared some insight into how she chooses what films will be accepted into the program for her Evolution Mallorca Film Festival.

“There’s a certain level of quality that you’re trying to obtain for your program, because at the end of the day, you’re selling a ticket and you’re offering a cultural experience, so you do want to have a certain standard to that,” she said. “But in terms of choosing… it’s very much a gut feeling, where you just make an emotional connection with the movie.”

Even before your film is selected, the team behind “Huella” stressed, you need to have all of your marketing materials ready for the festival run. Ortega gave some advice to fellow directors about how to write the most effective director’s statement.

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“For the directors in the room, what was really challenging in this process was [writing] a director’s statement,” said Ortega. “I learned in this process the importance of a really heartfelt, strong, personal, and essay-like director’s statement for the press… For me, it was important to talk about how as an immigrant I live between two cultures, and because of that I don’t identify with either language. So I wanted to express emotion through dance, and that was a big thing,” she said.

“I dedicated it to my grandmother because I lost my grandmother during the process of this film. And stuff like that was very personal and heartfelt and hard to write, but I think the more I boil it down and say, ‘What do I want to say about grief?’ I see quotes of that in the articles that are coming out… the more specific I was with the director’s statement, the more I’m seeing what I actually want to be seeing in the articles.”

Another important part for filmmakers is hiring a publicist, if your budget allows you to. Though Ortega has submitted to festivals in the past without the help of a publicist — like for her short film “Papi,” which will soon be streaming on HBO — she, Sardinha and Thomaseto felt a publicist would be extremely useful for Sundance.”

“For ‘Huella,’ although it’s a short film and it’s not as common to see a PR company with a short film — whereas with a feature it’s completely necessary — for us we really had this conversation, once we found out about Sundance, [that] we needed a PR person,” Sardinha said. “It became about not only showcasing Gabby [Ortega] and Shakira [Barrera]’s career, but also, we are developing a feature film out of ‘Huella,’ so we want to create attention and we want people to notice the short.”

Thomaseto said it takes some work, but having a good publicist pays off.

“We did a lot of homework to find the right person. It took us three weeks to hire our publicist,” he said. “We’re really happy and we’re sure that we made the right decision, but it was also us making sure we did it with time and making sure we were feeling comfortable. It’s hard getting PR, regardless. Right now we’re in a moment where there’s so much information… But our story, the movie, it’s beyond just ‘Huella.’ It’s our team. We made this movie with so much passion all around.”

Huella was an official selection of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival in the Shorts category.

Main Image: (L-R, top) Helena Sardinha, Rafael Thomaseto, Margeaux Sippell (L-R, bottom) Sandra Lipski, Gabriela Ortega.

Margeaux Sippell

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