Make Your Own Tie-Breaks
When questioned about how diversity factors into the programming process, the response was more split, with some participants saying they prioritize the quality of material over a diverse cast and crew and others saying that diverse hiring absolutely factors into their decision-making process. Common among responses, though, was the idea that a project’s diversity is helpful in breaking ties between two films of similar merit.
“We are conscious of promoting diversity, but quality of submission is still the most important factor.” — Programmer
“Promoting diversity is significant for us. And yes, if it comes down to two equally good films, we will of ten pick the one that gives our festival more diversity.” — Festival Founder
“If two films close in quality are in consideration, we will always choose the film about/by the less well-represented group.” — Artistic Director
“I don’t let it impact the early screening process, but for tie breaking, diversity factors in.” — Executive Director
“If I had a final vote on a pair of equally deserving films, I would likely lean toward promoting diversity.” — Submissions Screener
“Diversity can help a good film, but not a mediocre film.” — Programmer
Alumni whose work has been previously programmed at a festival are certainly not a shoo-in with future projects, but their follow up might get a bump past the initial screener phase, going straight to a programmer. Many fests offer submission fee waivers (a nice perk for being “in the family”), so while festivals are very conscious of keeping track of what their alumni family is up to, the proverbial leg-up they’re starting with isn’t quite as strong as you might imagine. Some surveyees add that they’re more likely to take extensive notes on these submissions. That way if it is unfortunately a “pass” this time around, they’re equipped to reach out directly to the filmmaker and explain why they will not be programming their latest work. Ultimately, for the programming team it’s a tricky line in making alumni feel a part of the festival’s family while also maintaining strong ethical lines and ensuring only the best work gets programmed.