Interview with Festival Director Mike Messier (AVALONIA Film Festival)

Avalonia Festival is named in honor of a continent lost is the mists of time, as if dissipated by magic; thus we are here to celebrate the unique Art of our own world of creation. Avalonia Festival II is now accepting submissions of short films, teasers, trailers, film photography and film posters.

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

Mike Messier: Our website Avalonia Festival sets us apart because we actually give our filmmakers the option to either share their actual film ​(or a teaser or a promotional still image)​ on our site to represent their film. This promotes both the work​ itself​ and the filmmaker​ ​as well as their cast and crew. ​Many or even most other film festivals concentrate so much on the live experience but are negligent to the online community which does not make much sense these days, as it’s very hard to get people to actually attend anything in person, while it’s relatively easy to get them to engage online. For those who can attend our live event on April 20, the admission is free ,while many festivals are very expensive So, Avalonia Festival plays well both as an in-person and an on-line experience. ​

In addition, Avalonia Festival’s Circle of Champions​ i​s a celebration of our Award Winning films with personalized Awards for each film. This is no copy and paste job​ for these Awards​! A lot of work goes into making the website very unique and to actually provide content and a web presence ​Avalonia ​filmmakers can be proud to be a part of!

2) What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2018)?

We will share our Award Winning Films ​at Avalonia Festival II on April 20, 2018 ​in a really great venue called Rhodywood Studios ​in Providence, RI ​with cozy seating, great picture and sound and complimentary snacks. Even better? Free admission for the audience. Winning filmmakers who are able to attend will have a few moments for a Q and A with the live audience.

3) What are the qualifications for the selected films?

Films must be 11 minutes or under to qualify as a “Short Film”, 3 minutes or under to qualify as a “180” film or 60 seconds or less to qualify as a 1 minute movie. We have many categories available to honor all types of films from doc to horror drama to music video to comedy to all points in between. We even have genres for films starring animals. We have no preference whether a film has already premiered at other festivals or is available online. We do prefer if the filmmakers allow us to share their film on our actual website, a status which is both optional for each film and can be changed down the road if need be​ with notice from the filmmaker​. Teasers, film posters and film photography may also enter in their own specific categories.

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

I can’t speak about the fairness of other festivals across the board because there are literally thousands if not tens of thousands of film festivals out there in the world. However, I will say, having entered many festivals myself and being both successful and, at times, disappointed, with my experiences, here are some lessons:

1) Art is a subjective medium, especially film. Being rejected by one, or even a thousand, film fests does not make any particular film “bad.” So do not be discouraged if your particular film is not a “festival darling”. Keep making movies!
2) Some films, quite simply, are just better geared for festivals, given whatever “trend” or “mood”, is going on at the moment of selection. So, that is not to say to conform your style or content to whatever is trendy, but just to say to “give yourself a break.”
3) Look over the fests you are entering and see how they match up in content with what your film is. For instance, there are fests that play specifically to low budget, edgy material. There are fests specific to Vampire films. There are some fests are fests with categories specific for Women Filmmakers, various ethnic groups, LGBQT etc so keep that in mind when choosing which fests to enter.
4) Also, considerations may be made by some fests for filmmakers within driving range of the actual live event. ​It’s more exciting to think that the actual filmmaker will be there in person, and so festivals may have a natural instinct to honor films geographically closer. ​
5) Shorter films usually have an advantage just by logistics. Feature films that have a possibility to make money are much more likely to get a distribution deal of some significance and shorts play better in fests. These things can change, though.

What I really tried to go from the get-go with Avalonia Festival is to have an online presence that honors both the filmmakers and the worldwide audience. If someone gives my website two hours of their time, they can really feel attuned to what the Avalonia Alumni is capable of. I ask any other film festival to show me a better​ -​ or more engaging – and free online – experience than Avalonia Festival.

5) What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

I wanted to provide a festival that would be the type of festival I would like to be a part of as a filmmaker myself.

I wanted to have a festival that had a website that actually gave the name of the winning films and even shared these films online for the biggest possible audience, beyond the seating capacity of whatever venue was used for a live audience. I’m not sure why so many​, otherwise wonderful, ​film fests have​ such lackluster or vague websites but they do. Anyone who wants to hire me to run their film festival website is encouraged to contact me and I’ll help them.

The other motivation is that Avalonia Festival is intended to bring views to my own project Distance from Avalon​ ​which is my Gothic narrative story about a school teacher and his philosophy about parallel universes. When people look into Avalonia Festival, they are also encouraged to look into Distance from Avalon.

6) How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

So far, so good. I found FilmFreeway to be very user friendly as a filmmaker myself, and its entry process helped me win about half of my film and TV Awards. Running Avalonia Festival on it is also​ relatively​ easy, time consuming at times, but nothing I can’t handle. ​

7) Where do you see the festival by 2023?

That’s a great question. My ideal scenario were to be a global expansion and by that time, the Distance from Avalon films will have been made and I’ll be a highly respected and cherished individual. So we will see.

8) What film have you seen the most times in your life?

By now, Disregard the Vampire – A Mike Messier Documentary.

I’ve probably seen the most, because of the three years I put into it. This doc, which you may share with your readers, Matthew, directly lead to the creation of Avalonia Festival. Beyond my own work, Highlander, a fantasy time travel piece from 1986, starring Christopher Lambert, is the film I have seen the most and always enjoyed it.

9) In one sentence, what makes a great film?

A great film exhibits a personal standpoint or observation of the world that both challenges and engages an audience.

10) How is the film scene in your city?

The film scene is my exact city of Wickford, Rhode Island is more or less myself but about 20 minutes north of me my friend Tommy DeNucci of Cranston, RI is getting ready to shoot Vault, a major motion picture in the gangster genre with big names and an hour south of me our mutual buddy David Gere is producing several big action and horror films out of Cromwell, CT. Between the three of us, there are some nice things happening.

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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