How to Write and Produce a Film Festival Darling

Tips To Better Position Your Independent Film For Festival Success!
Hosted by Maren Olson

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Maren Olson

Webinar hosted by: Maren Olson

Financing Agent at CAA

Maren Olson works in the film finance department for CAA. Prior to joining CAA, Maren was the President of Traction Media, where she was responsible for the creative development, packaging, production, financing and sale of independent films. Olson has represented domestic and/or worldwide distribution rights to over 70 finished films, including Academy Award winner The Secret in Their Eyes, festival favorites such as An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, Natural Selection and Red Flag, and Sundance Audience Award winners This is Martin Bonner, Valley of Saints and Kinyarwanda. As a producer, she was responsible for critically lauded Short Term 12, which premiered at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival, where it won both the Grand Jury and Audience Awards. The film went on to win 19 other awards including the Gotham Award for Best Actress and Independent Spirit Award for Best Editing. Her production, Ava’s Possessions, premiered at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival. Ava’s Possessions, written and directed by Jordan Galland, follows a girl who is recovering from demonic possession. Olson has worked with Galland twice previously, having represented domestic distribution rights to his first two feature films, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead and Alter Egos. Additional projects include true-life gangster story The Wannabe, starring Vincent Piazza and Patricia Arquette, which premiered at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival, and post-apocalyptic drama Orion, starring David Arquette and Lily Cole, both of which she executive produced. Olson’s previous industry experience includes working in script development for producer Lawrence Bender (Kill Bill, Good Will Hunting, Pulp Fiction). She graduated from the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television with a B.A. in Film Production and a minor in Business. Full Bio »

Webinar Summary

It seems like every day another film festival launches or expands. Specialty festivals are becoming all the rage and major, established festivals have been expanding to accept shorts, digital shorts, documentaries, television pilots, specialty genre content and content focused on diversity. With the market growing, so are the number of submissions to any given festival, especially those which are producing results for the connections of the accepted films. You want to make sure your screenplay is on point, that the story is a fit for the style of the festival you are entering and that the film grabs a judge's attention from the get go. Part of assuring you have a festival darling film is understanding the festival landscape, knowing the right players and making connections that assure your film is being viewed by the decision makers.

But this all starts, as it always does, with the script. A majority of screenwriters do not write big budget tentpole blockbusters. They tell more intimate, character driven stories. And these are the kind of stories that most festivals adore. But why do some of these scripts attract financing, producers, and, ultimately, the attention of festival directors while others fall through the cracks? As a writer and/or producer, how can you identify the aspects of your screenplay that might be killing your chances of festival success and fix them before filming begins? And how can filmmakers and producers assure, even if they have a winning film based on a fantastic script in place, that they are entering the right festivals and navigating the circuit correctly? There is a chemistry to all of it. A mixture of the creative and the business side of things. It's imperative that you have an understanding of both.

Maren Olson has represented domestic and/or worldwide distribution rights to over 70 finished films, including Academy Award winner The Secret in Their Eyes, festival favorites such as An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, Natural Selection and Red Flag, and Sundance Audience Award winners This is Martin Bonner, Valley of Saints and Kinyarwanda. As a producer, she was responsible for critically lauded Short Term 12, which premiered at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival, where it won both the Grand Jury and Audience Awards. The film went on to win 19 other awards including the Gotham Award for Best Actress and Independent Spirit Award for Best Editing. Maren currently works in the film finance division of CAA, and was formerly the President of Traction Media, where she was responsible for the creative development, packaging, production, financing and sale of independent films. To say she understands all the ins and outs of the festival circuit, what festivals look for and how they operate would be a massive understatement.

Maren will teach you what kind of independent film project goes on to become a “Festival Darling” and what you can do to better position your independent film for festival success, from script to screen. She will deconstruct both the writing stage- from the major components of a festival-friendly story idea, to what to consider regarding location and characters, all the way to how to incorporate thinking about the budget when writing your script- as well as the production stage – from how to make sure your film gets properly considered by the right people, to which festivals you should submit to and when, all the way to the common ways festival friendly scripts turn into a film that no festival wants to play. She will teach you the 3 components of a festival-friendly story idea and why you must answer yes to each. She will talk budget, shooting locations and when the proper time is to bring on a producer. She will explain the mistakes people make and demystify the myths people believe when navigating the festival circuit. She will go over common pitfalls screenwriters, filmmakers and producers make that can be fatal when submitting to festivals.

 

Maren will give you the tools to get traction on your project. She will lay out, in clear, precise terms, how to assure your project is given the best opportunity to become a "Festival Darling."

 

 

"Excellent - informative. Maren brought facts and experience to a very nuanced subject about "Film Festival Darlings - offering an extremely in-depth analysis to the elements of what a writer or producer should consider when moving forward in the Indie film world. My fav Stage 32 webinar so far. Thanks."

- Robert G.

 

"Fantastic seminar. Like a good filmmaker, you kept us engaged from opening to close. Thanks again!"

- Bob B.

 

"Maren had a lot of practical information and road trap warning for indies. I appreciated the components of a festival face, comps, and specific advice that is useful."

- Betty S.

What You'll Learn

The Writing Stage

  • Does Your Film Have the Three Components of a Festival-Friendly Story Idea?
    • Hint: you must answer "yes" to all of them!
  • The Key Differences Between Scripts That Go on to Become “Festival Darlings” and the Ones That Don’t
    • Why do some scripts have more success than others?
    • Why do people mean when they say “It’s not a festival film”?
  • Considering the Production Logistics for the Script
    • Does budget matter?
    • How to consider location, characters, stunts and animals.
    • When to bring on a Producer?
    • When to bring on a Director, and how to decide on the right one!
  • Mistakes and Misinformation: What You Should Avoid

The Production Stage

  • Screenwriting Competitions, Fellowships, and Other Accolades.
    • What matters and what doesn't
  • Festival Planning
    • How do you make sure your film gets properly considered by the right people?
    • Which film festivals should you submit to, and when?
  • How Does a Festival-Friendly Project Turn Into a Film That No Festivals Wnat to Play? 
    • Common mistakes and pitfalls to avoid
    • How not to hurt your chances

Q&A with Maren

About Your Instructor

Maren Olson works in the film finance department for CAA. Prior to joining CAA, Maren was the President of Traction Media, where she was responsible for the creative development, packaging, production, financing and sale of independent films.

Olson has represented domestic and/or worldwide distribution rights to over 70 finished films, including Academy Award winner The Secret in Their Eyes, festival favorites such as An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, Natural Selection and Red Flag, and Sundance Audience Award winners This is Martin Bonner, Valley of Saints and Kinyarwanda.

As a producer, she was responsible for critically lauded Short Term 12, which premiered at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival, where it won both the Grand Jury and Audience Awards. The film went on to win 19 other awards including the Gotham Award for Best Actress and Independent Spirit Award for Best Editing.

Her production, Ava’s Possessions, premiered at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival. Ava’s Possessions, written and directed by Jordan Galland, follows a girl who is recovering from demonic possession. Olson has worked with Galland twice previously, having represented domestic distribution rights to his first two feature films, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead and Alter Egos.

Additional projects include true-life gangster story The Wannabe, starring Vincent Piazza and Patricia Arquette, which premiered at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival, and post-apocalyptic drama Orion, starring David Arquette and Lily Cole, both of which she executive produced.

Olson’s previous industry experience includes working in script development for producer Lawrence Bender (Kill Bill, Good Will Hunting, Pulp Fiction).

She graduated from the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television with a B.A. in Film Production and a minor in Business.

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Testimonials

"Excellent - informative. Maren brought facts and experience to a very nuanced subject about "Film Festival Darlings - offering an extremely in-depth analysis to the elements of what a writer or producer should consider when moving forward in the Indie film world. My fav Stage 32 webinar so far. Thanks." - Robert G.

"Fantastic seminar. Like a good filmmaker, you kept us engaged from opening to close. Thanks again!" - Bob B.

"Maren had a lot of practical information and road trap warning for indies. I appreciated the components of a festival face, comps, and specific advice that is useful." - Betty S.

"I have taken a lot of screenwriting classes but Maren gave me some new insights and understanding. The information was very relevant and helpful. She covered an extensive amount of information for the amount of time she was given. Thank you." - Janet L.

"Great webinar! Great to hear Sales Agent perspective - very helpful in developing films." - Ron H.

Questions?

If you have a generic question about Stage 32 education you can take a look at our frequently asked questions section on our help page, or feel free to contact support with any other inquiries you might have.
 

Reviews Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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