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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How do I record the BEST festival submission video?

Matt Ward in a non-ideal location for a fest submission video
A lot of folks have wondered aloud to me what makes a good festival submission video. Well, first let me share with you a personal failure. As a promoter of comedy I am more aware than most comics of what some look for when booking an act for a festival or otherwise.  However, I am guilty of making many mistakes myself when choosing my festival submission videos.  Here is a list of things I could do (and so could you) to improve my/your submission video.

Plan in advance to film
Look, this may seem like an impossible task, however, if you don't plan out the video shoot for your festival submission video, it likely isn't going to be the best.  Decide what room is going to have the best lighting and sound and hopefully the most responsive crowd to schedule your video shoot. Get permission from the venue if needed to record and plug your filming/recording to your friends.  Keep in mind, all things fail, equipment, crowds, promoters, your jokes... So you may have to schedule several video recording attempts before getting the video you can submit.  This is common, don't stress out.

Get someone else to film it
At this point just about everyone has a facebook friend with a high end camera.  If not, you may want to consider hiring someone that is in film school (post a hiring message in the film department of your local college) to come shoot your set.  Do not under any circumstances have your girlfriend or buddies sit around the camera and laugh constantly.  It is super annoying when one or two laughs drown out the reaction of the other audience members.

Shoot a longer video?
I recommend shooting 15 to 20 minutes of video.  Do this in five minute chunks.  This simply means you could cut the video into five minute sections in case the festival requires a shorter submission.  This allows you to have a set long enough that most bookers would accept it for feature work as well.  So if you get a great 20 minutes on video, you certainly have 5-10 strong minutes in there that you could use for a festival, but also a decent feature booking video.

What about the rules festivals apply?
Some festivals require your video to be uncut, NOT a best of clip.  Cape Fear is one of those festivals.  We do this because we want to see the transitions as well as the jokes/laughs. Some festivals require you to submit a video from the beginning of your set.  The next section will address some advice for that.

Best advice about material for my/your video?
Open strong.  That's it.  I fail to do this in every single submission video I have ever used.  Opening strong is the attention getter for the folks that have to watch 9 more hours of submission videos.  Opening strong is achieved by getting to the laugh(s) within 30 seconds of the opening of your set.  Closing strong is important, but not nearly as important as opening strongly.

Now what?
Time to get to planning. Think about the room in your area that has the best stage/sound/lights/crowds. Now work with that venue to get a date where you can record.  Open-mics are fine, non comedy venues are fine, provided they look legit and not like you are performing in an Applebees. Work on your opener and network to get a videographer.  The more pro (but not over the top) your video looks the more attention it will get. Ok Matt (and you), go out there and make a better submission video!!


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