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The Netflix of Rejected Films Wants Your Submissions

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unseen on screen
Guest post by: Andrea Gonzales-Paul

If you’re a person who has spent a lot of time and energy making an independent film that didn’t get into the festival circuit and/or didn’t secure distribution, please read on.

Backstory: I made a deeply personal documentary about how my liver almost — but didn’t — fail. I recorded most of it on my cell phone. The aesthetic lends itself to feeling like you’re following your friend’s intimate video diary from a very dark time in her life. To me, and many others, it was good enough to submit to film festivals and get a relatable story out there.

It sounded like a good idea at the time but as the “Unfortunately, our programming team opted to pass on your film” emails started pouring in, I began feeling depressed, discouraged and hopeless. The aspirations of making another film suddenly seemed like a terrible use of time and energy. So, like any stable person experiencing an existential crisis, I spent countless days ruminating and rereading each one of my rejection letters.

Yet, here’s the thing: My problem of being rejected wasn’t unique in any way and the film  wasn’t actually terrible, like the rejection indicated. 

Just taking a look at the some numbers; Sundance had received a record number of submissions in 2017 — over 14,200. New Orleans Film Festival extended invitations to around 3 percent of submissions. Ann Arbor Film Festival chose 5 percent for inclusion. The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival noted it was “by far the most competitive year to date.”

rejected films

We’re living in a time where people across the country can tell important, diverse stories thanks to the accessibility of cameras, editing software and YouTube tutorials. Too often, these independent filmmakers only have the budget to select a few festivals to submit to in an effort to find an audience. Obviously, it’s hard to hear “thanks, but no thanks” to a project that blood, sweat and tears went into — so it can be stifling for people who want to continue telling stories.

Unfortunately, by nature, festivals are limited in the number of hours they have to program. Each year might come with a different theme. Most of a programmer’s job is to say “no” to a lot of really great films, which means the rejection isn’t an indication that a film is bad. It’s a signal that the festival itself has limitations.

All of this is happening as both Apple and Disney are launching streaming services to keep up with Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. Notably, streaming services tend to look for films that did well on the festival circuit, not factoring in films that weren’t included. They’re not tapping into amazing content that has already been created, while spending an absurd amount of money creating entirely new content.

Alas, there might be solution on the horizon in the form of — Unseen: On Screen — a platform for films that went unseen during the festival circuit highlighting filmmakers unseen in Hollywood.

Netflix rejected films

The aim is to promote films that were rejected by the industry to encourage and inspire unseen artists who are often marginalized, face barriers to entry, and are underrepresented in Hollywood. With everything U:OS does, the theme is to challenge the status quo.

Most importantly, it’s celebrating the struggle and failure that comes with independent storytelling because there truly is an audience for every film.

Here’s how it works: If you have a film that was rejected from the festival circuit — or perhaps it got into a few festivals, but still didn’t secure distribution — email: contact@unseenonscreen.com

Please include a link to your film, information about said film, a directors bio, a list of festivals that you submitted to (please note which ones you did and did not get into), and links to platforms where audiences can follow and support you (yes, even include your Venmo/PayPal so we can encourage people to donate to you directly). To be considered, you must have spent money on festival submission fees.

Filmmaking has become democratized; distribution hasn’t been. It’s time to change that.

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