“Not just a film festival.” Thus reads the slogan of Philadelphia-based organization Project Twenty1. To be sure, this isn’t some ill-defined, flighty boast about how they offer moviemakers “so much more than the average festival” (although they might) through networking and parties, etc., etc. The group is literally more than just a film festival; their event is comprised of the Philadelphia Filmathon (your standard festival screenings, panels, et al) and the 21-Day Filmmaking Competition (where teams of determined moviemakers battle to take the “Secret Element” provided by Project Twenty1 brass and turn it into a short film that premieres 21 days later). Intrigued? So were we. Thankfully, Project Twenty1 executive producer Stephanie Yuhas was kind enough to answer some of our questions—and even hits us with some bullet points.
Andrew Gnerre (MM): At 21 days, your event is longer than a lot of run-and-gun, time-limited moviemaking competitions. Why so long?
Stephanie Yuhas (SY): We want people to make a quality short film that is good enough to make the rounds at international film festivals. We’ve also created a platform where animators can participate without straining their wrists! We’ve tested it ourselves and three weeks feels natural: A week of pre-production, a week of production, a week of post. Any shorter and you will lose quality; any longer and people might lose interest.
MM: Is it hard to get people to commit to 21 days? Will someone with a full-time job be at a disadvantage?
SY: Absolutely not! Many people use the extra time to brainstorm, and then shoot or animate during the evenings and weekends. Almost everyone that participates has some other type of “day job” so they have something to sustain them while their films gain popularity.
MM: Let’s say I’m someone reading this interview, getting really excited about making a movie in 21 days. But I can’t get any of my friends to commit. Should I just forget about the 21-Day Filmmaking Competition?
SY: Ditch those bozos and meet some people that are in it to win it!
Project Twenty1 is committed to networking filmmakers with animators, talent, writers, musicians, artists—even film lovers who are willing to come on set to make you sandwiches!
For Philadelphia locals, we sponsor a huge Launch Event where we pack a bunch of volunteers into a room, give Registered Team Members a special sticker and tell everyone to go attack each other with business cards. This really works—last year, an actress named Dawn Harvey got on screen in several different films because she made an effort to coordinate with the teams.
For people outside of the area, we have an online forum where anyone from anywhere can volunteer for projects, donate music and post headshots. We are also incorporating Twitter by asking people to search for the hashtag #p21 to find volunteers or ask for help. (Read exactly how to do that here: www.tinyurl.com/twitter4film.) In 2006, Team Totorres co-produced an animation between Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey, all via the internet without leaving their chairs. It’s a new, exciting and greener form of filmmaking!
MM: New to the Filmathon this year, you’re offering exposure to submitted films within your network of partner festivals. How does this work with fees, guidelines, etc. of the other fests?
SY: We have always actively submitted our 21-Day Films to partner festivals and screening venues that need quality material that is 10 minutes or less. While making relationships with these partners, we started to co-sponsor events to spotlight selected Filmathon films. Examples include “Show Us Your Shorts” with FirstGlance Film Festivals, “Night Watch” with 3 POINT Pictures and, coming soon, “Cinema Undercover” with the Philadelphia Film Society, hosts of the Philadelphia Film Festival.
Sometimes great films, especially shorts and featurettes, slip through the cracks because they do not fit with the “flow” of a specific year’s festival—so why not give them a chance for years to come? Keep in mind, this does not guarantee filmmakers additional screenings, but they save tons of time and money on submission fees, and in many cases films qualify for additional awards and prizes. Finally, 21-Day films and Filmathon films have completely different screening partners, which doubles your chances of getting seen if you are crazy enough to participate in both festivals!
MM: What separates Project Twenty1 from other festivals?
SY: Each portion of our events makes us distinct.
• We don’t play favorites. As festival producers, we frequently become friends with our filmmakers, and go on to work with many of them on productions separate from the festival. To avoid any conflicts of interest, we have an independent board of volunteer screeners from the community vote on the Philadelphia Filmathon selections.
• We believe that films never expire. Many festivals only accept films that are one to three years old, when we know plenty of 30-year-old films that are still relevant today.
21-Day Filmmaking Competition:
• We distribute the top films on DVD. Not only is that amazing recognition, but we’ll personally get you up on IMDb for it. As a bonus, if we ever profit on the DVD sales, we’ll pay you if your film is on there!
• We’ll give you non-exclusive digital distribution because compressing, uploading, etc. is a pain in the ass.
• If your film gets a large amount of hits, we have adshare enabled to give you revenue.
• We pimp you to the press. For example, as soon you guys at MovieMaker Magazine contacted us, we put out an e-mail to every past Project Twenty1 filmmaker for a chance to get their photo featured in this article. [Ed. That’s Team Genesis to the left there shooting Lucky Number 21.]
• You still own the rights to your films—you’re just letting us pimp them for you. Check the fine print of other festivals; this is not always the case.
• We have an independent panel of judges. Not only is this important for the same reason as our independent screeners, but we ask studio executives and Oscar-winning producers to review your films. That means your films get in front of the eyeballs of people that can actually do something if they like your work!
• We have references. If you are in doubt, contact one of past filmmakers and ask them why Project Twenty1 is “Not Just a Film Festival.” Actually, that’s a great idea, you should go do that; maybe you can make a new friend and produce more work!
For complete info on Project Twenty1, the 21-Day Filmmaking Competition and the Philadelphia Filmathon visit www.projecttwenty1.com.