How to Get Your Film in the Comic Con Film Festival: Lessons from a Filmmaker

steven krimmel directing
Steven Krimmel, bossing people around on set

My name is Steven Krimmel and I’m an actor and independent filmmaker. I have been going to San Diego Comic-Con since 2007 and I’ve only missed one year from then until now. I love it, even though it’s certainly grown since the beginning, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting the high of being surrounded by a bunch of pop-culture enthusiasts with the same passion as me. And since it’s been growing, it’s also gotten a lot more expensive and difficult to get into.

However, the Comic-Con International Film Festival has given me hope when access has been lost because I’ve managed to get films I’ve worked on into the Comic Con film festival twice.

Editor’s Note: Going to San Diego Comic Con? Check out our advanced guide with 30 pro tips for SDCC!

What’s this, a Comic Con Film Festival?

The Comic-Con International Film Festival is the yearly multigenre-embracing festival of this convention. It’s not a conventional film-festival compared to others, as it’s such a small, small part of the chaos that is San Diego Comic-Con. It’s located at several fancy Marriott hotel screening rooms and not a theater, but it’s good environment for people to just stumble in on one’s film (next to the Nintendo gaming lounge).

cci fim festival logo and title
You get it? It’s a film projector guys!

Here are the categories of films they accept:

  • Action/Adventure
  • Animation
  • Comics-oriented
  • Documentary (limited to genre and pop culture topics)
  • Horror/Suspense
  • Humor
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy

Q & A, Part 1: The SDCC Film Festival

Here’s some questions asked by Sunny Mui, Editor of Destroy The Comics (and an old friend from high school), with my responses:

Sunny: Who is it open to? Can anyone apply?

Me: It’s open to all independent filmmakers! Anyone can submit his or her short.

Sunny: What criteria do they use to judge film submissions?

Me: Based on all festivals I’ve submitted to, who knows?! The main matter is that it’s a reasonable length and fits the genre you’ve submitted to. Film festival results can be surprising when it comes to what made the final selections and what didn’t. There are three judges selected every year and it’s ultimately up to whatever they agree fits with their programming. This year includes Tamiko Brownlee, Steve Desmond, and Evil Dead’s Ted Raimi (I’m a long time fan of his and his brother Sam–Ash vs. Evil Dead on Starz!) Last year included Matt Atchity of Rotten Tomatoes.

Sunny: How did you hear about the SDCC film festival?

Me: I’ve been a regular Comic-Con attendee and I have stopped at the festival before. I actually just stumbled into a screening area when deciding to take a break from moving around panel to panel. I had actually seen one actor friend of mine in a sci-fi short the very first time I attended, so it was a happy coincidence that he had a film. I have another friend who had made a superhero short that had gotten the filmmakers in for free (I worked on the movie, but I was not on the list of crew he got in for free). My producing partner, Kristine Gerolaga, and I decided to give it a shot as we had some films we thought would be appropriate for the festival.

The Bloody Short

Last year I had got into Comic-Con through Kristine Gerolaga’s A Period Drama short film and that can be seen on our KrimStine YouTube channel. This short and bloody comedy about a personified period (yeah, a fun and funny movie about a woman’s period) was directed by my girlfriend, and I collaborated as both the editor and as an actor. The short is a series of sketches about how someone lives with their period when it’s around for that week of the month, so it’s gotten some recognition and festival success due to making what can be a painful time relatable, hilarious, and eye opening.

 

a period drama opening title shot
Made with real period blood…

The editing was great because I was able to be playful with style because this short had a lot of freedom in its world to just go crazy. There was fun to be had with split-screens, Batman ’66 style Maxi Pad transitions, Goldeneye N64 kill screens, and also the many cartoonish baseball bat hitting and squishy blood sound effects.

goldeneye style death screen saying vagina in danger
What menstruating is like

The acting was fun; in particular, there’s a moment when my queasy boyfriend character has a hard time dealing with going down on a woman who has just gotten her period. I had some fun with wanting to actually gag when my face is revealed to the camera, so we made a mixture of weird food and drink combinations to put in my mouth that would push me to throw up. If you’re wondering about the food combos, there was garlic, spices, and other things I can’t remember. I’m a picky eater, but honestly I just relied on old-fashioned acting, not method acting, to get grossed out because the taste in my mouth was never awful enough.

Q & A, Part 2: Submitting The Bloody Short to the Film Festival

The following questions from Sunny are one’s that I had Kristine Gerolaga answer herself:

Sunny: What was the original spark or inspiration for the film?

Kristine: I had seen a couple of great short films that personified hangovers (Charles, Your Hangover) and the wind (Mr. W) and thought it would be fun to do something similar, but specific to people who experience periods. It was also a chance for me to give myself and other women a chance to be at the forefront of a film given the lack of all types of female roles in the mainstream media.

Sunny: How did you decide to submit it to the SDCC film festival? Was the festival just something you found out about and decided to enter, or was it something you had in mind to submit to?

Kristine: We submitted it to SDCC because we had been going to Comic-Con every year and figured that since we are filmmakers we should try to get something into their film festival. It was going to be a stretch for A Period Drama since the films they typically accept are specifically genre or comics related but it fortunately got into their comedy block. It’s also a HUGE plus that getting into their festival gets you free badges to the con!

Sunny: Did you submit the film anywhere else? What, specifically, is the other recognition or success it has had?

Kristine: Yes, we submitted our short to as many festivals as we could afford all over the nation and luckily we got into 11 of them.

film festivals that a period drama has appeared in
A sampling of festivals A Period Drama has appeared in

Our world premiere was at the long running Dances With Films in Hollywood. We were nominated for Best Short Film at the Cinema On the Bayou Film Festival in Louisiana, and we won Best Comedic Short at both the Broad Humor Film Festival and Funniest Film Festival! It was pretty cool to conclude our festival circuit run at Comic-Con. A Period Drama was picked up by Hewes Pictures for distribution and in the meantime while they try to secure distribution you can watch the short at www.kristinegerolaga.com/aperioddrama/

A Not So Painful Screening

There was a lot of love from the festival programmers and it was sweet that they allowed us to have a panel/Q&A while there. Outside of the festival, a lot of the cast and crew were able to dedicate their time on the floor and panels of Comic-Con. It was beautiful to get as many people in as we did because it was a first-time for a lot of the people there.

Q & A, Part 3: The SDCC IFF Screening Process

Sunny: What’s the screening process like? How do you prepare for a film submission?

Me: I can’t say the Comic-Con International Film Festival is an all-out film festival because they’ll just take your DVD and Blu-Ray screener and simply screen that. You have to fill out a form when submitting from the Comic-Con website and it mainly focuses on plot summary, cast/crew info, genre, and running time.

When it comes to what’s asked for, they don’t go looking for a specific format or beyond that for something like a DCP (Digital Cinema Package) as it’s just not that big of a festival. You only have to do the simple task of making a playable and quality DVD or Blu-Ray.

Sunny: How do screening room assignments work? When do they tell you where your screening will be?

Me: The screening room assignment is simply part of the event programming and all film festivals screenings are generally in the Marriott Hotel alongside the convention center.

Sunny: How does bringing cast and crew for the panel work? How do you get them passes and does it cost anything? How many people can you bring?

Me: You can bring up to 6 people for FREE to a screening. 3 cast and crew-members and 3 guests, but we mostly stuck to cast and crew-members for all 6 guests.

Sunny: How does the film festival tell you to prepare? What do they tell you to expect? Do they tell you to bring anything?

Me: The film festival doesn’t need to prepare you for much because the Q & A with the audience is voluntary and can be whatever you want it to be. All they ask is for there to be three panelists that were involved in the film and they ask for the names and info for each panelist.

Sunny: Once you’re actually at SDCC, do you have to meet with any film festival staff before your screening? Do you have to check in with anyone?

Me: Someone does not have to check in with you because you honestly don’t even need to attend your own screening. Last year, Kristine and I spent all of our Saturday enjoying the Hall H panels from Warner Bros. in the morning until Marvel at night. When the last Marvel announcement ended, we rushed on our way to the screening room and I was even a couple minutes late to it! I did the Q & A wearing my free Marvel Studios cap swag.

sunny drinking a pitcher at the podium
Hydro-loading for the panel

Sunny: Can you give a brief general overview of the actual screening?

Me: The movies are all screened back to back with time for Q & A’s in-between. The movies start according to schedule and then you simply walk up to the panelist table for questions. A staff member will eventually tell you when it’s time.

Sunny: What kind of questions did you get during Q & A? Any memorable ones you can share?

Me: The Q & A questions last year were mostly about the inspiration for the movie and difficulties of doing a low-budget independent film that covered so many locations. My main memory was on a production challenge, but there were many questions about how we dealt with the challenges of the film.

Sunny: Any tips on how to prepare for your first panel? Basically, what should a first time film festival panelist expect from the screening audience?

Me: Just be prepared to remember why you made your movie and what you did to accomplish this. As time passes and you move onto another project, that can be easy to forget.

You should also be prepared to be unprepared because there might be a left-field question, but you should be able to answer it to the best of your ability and that’s fine. You might also get asked a question from a crazy person, so be prepared for crazy people who want to be contrarian, controversial, or whose points of views are nonsensical.

A Short that Makes You Smile

I set out to direct a movie about a month afterward and this was one written by a dear actor/writer/producer friend of mine, Ashley Campbell. While she intended to turn the film into a satirical comedy about how people are getting plastic surgery to look the same, I instead turned it into a satirical horror movie called Those Lips.

Those Lips Teaser Trailer from Ashley Erin Campbell on Vimeo.

I also did the editing and visual effects for the movie as well. There is a comic-book nature to the movie in its bright pastel colors that clash with the grim and horrific parallel world that exists within this plastic surgeon’s office.

Q & A, Part 4: Directing Your Own Film and Final Tips

Sunny: Any fun stories or memorable moments from the directing experience? Anything memorable from the editing, or VFX side?

Me: The whole movie was fun because we were going back and forth between this bright and colorful world of a plastic surgery waiting room to a Nightmare world representing the alternate reality of a plastic surgery office (Like a torture chamber right out of Saw or Hostel). It was fun finding out ways to cut back and forth from light to darkness seamlessly. This also includes having one of our main actors, Ileana Huxley, playing every woman in these worlds as we’re pushing the idea that everyone looks the same.

It was neat to put her in different wardrobe and bloody bandages between worlds. There’s also one fun VFX shot where I include three versions of Ileana Huxley in the same shot as we move from light to darkness. This moment is only a few seconds of screen-time, but it took the longest to shoot due to makeup/wardrobe changes.

3 women sitting next to each other in the those lips film short with creepy stares
CREEPY STARE

Sunny: Any final tips on how to get your film accepted into the SDCC film festival? What did you personally focus on to make your film good?

Me: I would say the first step to getting your film accepted into the SDCC International Film Festival is to just submit it. You never know what will get your film accepted, but it never hurts to try.

For this project specifically, I just focused on making something that was fun. I was trying to strike a balance between simplicity and more ambitious camera/editing ideas. I also wanted to make a movie that was very stylistic, but I also wanted it to serve the story and not be flashy for the sake of flashiness. I hope this shines through in this movie and that it feels tight and deliberate with the story it’s trying to tell.

This Won’t Be the Last

I just have to thank the Comic-Con judges for letting me screen Those Lips at the 2017 Comic-Con International Film Festival. Thanks!

those lips movie poster
Have you heard the tale of Those Lips, the plump? I thought not, it’s not a tale the Jedi would tell you.

Be sure to check the short out if you’re at San Diego Comic-Con 2017 this year. It should be fun because it’s during the horror and suspense category of films! It plays Thursday, July 20, 10:40pm at the Marriott Grand Ballroom 3 & 4.

If you want to learn more about me and  my background, my website is www.stevenkrimmel.com and I can be found on IMDb at my profile page here. If you want to see some of the work I do along with Kristine Gerolaga, our shared YouTube channel is KrimStine.

On our YouTube channel, you can watch the comedic Café Expose series I’ve been doing that includes a full range of strange characters interviewed for a podcast.

You can find out more about Ashley Campbell, the writer and lead actor of this year’s Those Lips at: http://www.ashleyerincampbell.com/ or you can check out her IMDB profile page here.

You can also see Those Lips at the Burbank International Film Festival. It will be playing at AMC 16 in Burbank, California between Sep 6, 2017 – Sep 10, 2017.

Thanks again Comic-Con! And for those of you that are attending, I hope to see you there!

Steven Krimmel

Steven Krimmel

Steven Krimmel was born in Fremont, California on September 6, 1988. He paid his way through film school by working as a 35mm film projectionist at his hometown movie theater. After receiving a B.A. degree in Cinema from San Francisco State University in 2010, he’s been focusing on acting and filmmaking under “Kriyative Productions.”

Steven’s short film, “Disconnection,” has won Best Short Drama at the 2013 DIY Film Festival. This short was also featured in the first episode of “Nu Point of View: The Emerging Latino Filmmakers” hosted by Gina Rodriguez of “Jane the Virgin.”
Steven Krimmel

Post Author: Steven Krimmel

Steven Krimmel was born in Fremont, California on September 6, 1988. He paid his way through film school by working as a 35mm film projectionist at his hometown movie theater. After receiving a B.A. degree in Cinema from San Francisco State University in 2010, he’s been focusing on acting and filmmaking under “Kriyative Productions.”Steven’s short film, “Disconnection,” has won Best Short Drama at the 2013 DIY Film Festival. This short was also featured in the first episode of “Nu Point of View: The Emerging Latino Filmmakers” hosted by Gina Rodriguez of “Jane the Virgin.”