Interview with Festival Director Robert David Duncan (Miniature Film Festival)

The Miniature Film Festival is exactly what it sounds like – a small celebration of small films. We want to acknowledge and promote filmmakers from around the world who make one-minute micro short films. Our inaugural event in 2015 was held at the beautiful Barclay Manor heritage venue in Vancouver. Now in our second year, we are remaining true to our roots as a small scale festival that helps create a community for tiny films and the ingenious filmmakers who make them – a miniature festival for miniature films!

Check out our festival listing here: https://filmfreeway.com/festival/MiniatureFilmFestival

Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Robert David Duncan: We are succeeding at creating a worldwide community for makers of one-minute micro short films, and the people who love those films. I also suspect that we are the first set of Official Selection laurels for many of our participants, because we seek to include films as much as possible, since there is no right or wrong way to tackle a one-minute film. Filmmakers also have a chance to meet one another at our screening event, but perhaps even more importantly, we provide a hub on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/MiniatureFilmFestival/) and Twitter (@miniatureFF) where they can connect up around the world and form a network.

Matthew: What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2016)?

Robert: If you can make it to Vancouver, you will experience an intimate gathering by filmmakers for filmmakers with the public welcome too. The films will be screened in our attractive heritage venue, and there is an opportunity for attending filmmakers to introduce their films and do Q&A. Our screenings are in a great location in downtown Vancouver, and the discussions and friendships can flow out into neighboring attractions such as the Seawall, English Bay and Stanley Park. We also award prize laurels for the films we consider to have been the best of the festival.

Matthew:  What are the qualifications for the selected films?

Robert: All films have to be one-minute or less in length, with 60 seconds being a bullseye. I personally watch each film and do the programming myself. Although I am always open to new approaches, I do have a preference for films that have a strong story or message, and get that message across effectively. If the film affects me, makes me laugh, smile, cry or think, then that is a good sign! A minute isn’t a lot of time to work with, so any special effects or music really should support the story and not detract from it. One of my mottoes is that “constraint breeds ingenuity,” and I am always impressed by the ingenuity of filmmakers out there.

Matthew: Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

Robert: I’m a filmmaker myself, and have had really good experiences with festivals. I think filmmakers taking the time to target the right festivals with the right offerings helps minimize disappointments all around. On the festival side, I think it is a good practice for a festival programmer or festival director to see each film, and not “job out” the selection process so much that new and innovative approaches get weeded out by an inexperienced set of eyes. This is why I see each film myself, and filmmakers can know that their work was seen by me. Finally, I think every festival can be courteous to its entrants by honoring deadlines, and communicating the results in a friendly and supportive manner. Tools like FilmFreeway make this very easy.

Matthew:  What motivates you and your team to do this festival? 

Robert: Being a filmmaker, I remember how thrilled I was when my first micro short film got accepted into a festival and I received my first ever set of Official Selection laurels. I wanted to spread that happiness and encouragement around, and decided to create a “miniature festival for miniature films.” I operate very much from a punk/DIY ethos, and believe that everybody has a story to share, and that they should just pick up their phone or whatever gear they have lying around and bash out a film, like the early punk rockers bashed out songs. It’s a labor of love for me, and has become a fun part of my busy annual calendar. I also wrote a book called “Micro Short Filmmaking: A guided learning journey” and I teach classes in order to help spread the message that anyone can and should make a film.

Matthew:  How has the festival changed since its inception?

Robert: Interestingly, my challenge is to keep the Miniature Film Festival miniature! Everything seems to have a natural tendency toward getting bigger, which is not what I want. I want the festival to always be financially self-sustaining, so that I can self-manage it and not need to rely on grants or other sources of funding. We operate with a small, no-frills budget that comes from our entry fees, and that pays for the venue rental and miniature cupcakes, which have become our signature event snack. We offer a no-fee window at the beginning of the season that helps make the festival accessible to a lot of people, and we publish deadlines before we stage in our fee increases, which I feel are are very modest and reasonable.

Matthew: Where do you see the festival by 2020?

Robert: Still miniature! Seriously, I see us building out a longer day of events that could include a teaching and filmmaking component. We are also collaborative colleagues with other festivals, and we help each other out with guest speaking and additional screening opportunities for some of our winning films. I could also see our festival traveling, and popping up in different locations over the years. But mostly, I want to be consistent in creating a fun little festival that celebrates filmmakers and builds community.

Matthew:  What film have you seen the most times in your life?

Robert: Hmmm… tough call! I’d have to say between “When Harry Met Sally,” “Moonstruck” and “The Godfather: Part II” that “The Godfather: Part II” would have to win. I can watch movies like these endlessly.

Matthew: In one sentence, what makes a great film?

Robert: A story that moves you, makes you laugh, cry or think, and that keeps returning to your mind after seeing it.

Matthew:  How is the film scene in your city?

Robert: Vancouver is an amazing and beautiful place to make films. There is a great indie/DIY spirit here, and plenty of talent and gear floating around. I have been very fortunate to work with a wonderful collection of talented people over and over again, to the point where I can often write scripts with specific actors in mind. The only real challenge is our legendary rainfall, which makes it a headache to film outside, so you may want to write a lot of interior scenes! That said, I shot a completely exterior feature this summer and we had great weather every single filming day, so you never know.

_____

Robert David Duncan is an actor, filmmaker and founder of Fat Punk Productions and the Miniature Film Festival. With over 30 titles in production ranging from micro shorts to feature length films, Robert has over 100 official selections in festivals around the world, and also serves as a judge and panel speaker at festivals. He teaches acting and filmmaking and is the author of the books “Acting: A guided learning journey” and “Micro Short Filmmaking: A guided learning journey.” You can check out his IMDb page here: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm5399017

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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