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‪#‎AskSparky‬, is Slamdance's Q&A series where you can ask ‪#‎Slamdancers‬ questions on Twitter. Our second session took place on June 12th at 11am PST. Josh Mandel, producer and Slamdance alum & programmer was online to answer, in 140 characters or less, questions about filmmaking and programming for Slamdance. The new film he produced, UNCERTAIN TERMS, premieres at LA Film Fest on 6/14.

In case you missed the Q&A, here's how it went down:

JM: Hi guys! @JMMandel here. Today I'm talking @Slamdance programming & producing films. Look forward to your questions. Use #AskSparky hashtag.

Q: First as a filmmaker and then as a Slamdance programmer what advice would you give a filmmaker starting out today?

JM: To kick off our #AskSparky, I'd like to offer a valuable piece of advice to all filmmakers starting out today: watch movies. Lots of them. How can you know what festivals, distributors, audiences are looking for if you don't watch films being made around you?

Q: How do you find the films/filmmakers you produce with?

JM: One of the perks of programming for Slamdance is getting to meet exciting new filmmakers on the verge of breaking out. I found the director of my latest film, UNCERTAIN TERMS, through Slamdance. Nathan was a Shorts alumnus.

Q: What are you most excited about in 2015 programming for Slamdance?

JM: Slamdance 2015 is about expanding the scope and reach, giving more opportunities to filmmakers to connect with audiences.

Q: In terms of time, effort and money, do you think people understand what is involved in the the making of a film?

JM: It's easier than ever to start a film. Crowd-funding, cheaper gear, etc. But, many underestimate one cost: time.

Q: What is the most important part of a short film, for you?

JM: A great short is never too long. Length, style, are secondary. What you're trying to say in your film is key. Voice.

Q: What qualities do you look for in a writer/director you'd consider working with?

JM: Many qualities I look for in a director I want to work with: fresh voice, passion, vision and being a collaborator.

Q: You're the co-captain of Beyond at Slamdance, can you explain to everyone what that category is?

JM: Beyond section showcases films from emerging filmmakers working just beyond their 1st feature, but yet to break out.

Q: What advice would you give to a young filmmaker about how they should distribute their work?

JM: Best advice for distributing your work goes back to watching current films. See which distributors took similar films.

Q: Are you seeing any major trends in your current submissions?

JM: We're early in submissions to note trends. But, we always see trends every year that reflect the state of filmmaking.

Q: Money is a tricky web in film, what are your rules for financing small films?

JM: They say more money means more problems. Micro budget has its own problems. But, major benefit of making small films is the control.

Q: Have you ever found your work available for free online without your permission? How did you feel about that?

JM: I've found earlier films available free online. I'd rather see them on legit sites with higher quality, even for no money.

Q: Any stats on how many Slam films use crowd-funding campaigns?

JM: We'd love to get more stats on Slamdance films using crowd-funding, and not limited to just Kickstarter.

Q: There are some who say that the way to reach audiences today is to give your stuff away for free. Thoughts?

JM: Filmmakers already make too little. Giving away films for free hurts. But, exposure can lead to next film and more money.

Q: What's the most important thing a filmmaker can do to be true to their vision?

JM: Filmmakers can draw inspiration from other films/filmmakers, but should experiment a lot to find their own voice.

Q: If there were one ineffective trend in current indie filmmaking that you could eradicate, what would it be?

JM: Ongoing & ineffective trend in indie film that should die: underwriting characters such that stories lack purpose.

Q: Should young filmmakers still invest in short films or strive for producing their own feature right away?

JM: Shorts are still valuable. Some filmmakers go from directing 1 short to 1st feature. Others need 5 shorts. No rush.

Q: How best for filmmakers who live outside of major film centers to meet collaborators?

JM: Filmmakers are everywhere. A good way to connect with other filmmakers when not in LA, NY etc is at film festivals.

Q: How beneficial can a festival like Slamdance prove to be for foreign filmmakers?

JM: Foreign films shine at Slamdance & introducing foreign filmmakers to US distributors and audiences. Bong Joon-Ho, Marc Forster...

Q: How has Slamdance helped you since your premiere in 2005? #RingersLordoftheFans

JM: Slamdance gave my filmmaking career a jump start with RINGERS. The exposure I got led to distribution and more films. One thing that makes Slamdance unique among other top festivals is that it's programmed 100% by working filmmakers. As a programmer & producer, I work year round to support indie film. UNCERTAIN TERMS was made with the same spirit as the films I program.

Q: So you've got a feature script, a trailer and a package...what's your advice for finding the money to make it come to life?

JM: A good package is important for financing. Seek investors that know your work or like the kind of film you want to make.

JM: Thanks for all the great questions! UNCERTAIN TERMS plays at LA Film Fest on 6/14 & 6/17. Hope to see you there! http://bit.ly/1nLjxQO 

This concluded our 2nd round of #AskSparky! Thanks to Josh Mandel & for all the questions, if yours wasn't answered, join us next time!

Stay tuned @Slamdance for our future #AskSparky Q&As!

As of June 10 2014, Slamdance Studios' newest release, Bible Quiz, is available on home video and VOD! You can watch the film now on Netflix, iTunes, Amazon Instant, and DVD through Virgil Films.

Bible Quiz, the 2013 Slamdance Film Festival Grand Jury winner, follows seventeen-year-old Mikayla as she memorizes thousands of Bible verses on her quest to win the National Bible Quiz Championship and the heart of JP, her quiz team captain. This John Hughes-eque documentary explores coming of age in the midst of faith, doubt, fierce competition, and teen love.

Praise for Bible Quiz:

"an unpredictable pleasure" - Los Angeles Times

"vulnerable and charming" - LA Weekly

"It’s a nicely drawn character piece that hits so many chords about what it’s like to be a teenager. While the tiny budget and team of newbie filmmakers are almost always in evidence, this doc more than makes up for it in heart". - NonFics.Com

‪#‎AskSparky‬, is Slamdance's new Q&A series where you can ask ‪#‎Slamdancers‬ questions on Twitter! Our first session took place on April 25th at 11am PST. Nicole Teeny, the director of Bible Quiz (2013 Jury Prize Winner for Documentary Feature) was online to answer, in 140 characters or less, questions about her film before its release in LA the same day. The film will play at Downtown Independent through May 1st and you can buy tickets here.

In case you missed the Q&A, here's how it went down:

N: Welcome everyone, this is Nicole! We're staring #AskSparky now. My film @BibleQuizMovie opens today in LA @DowntownIndie! Come see it!!!

Q: How did you decide to make a doc about bible quiz?
N: My younger bro was a quizzer and I grew up around bible quiz (although I never joined).

Q: How do you relate to the characters in your documentary?
N: I'm literally related to Chris in the film—he's my bro! But I empathized with Mikayla—a young girl trying to figure out what she believes while still navigating teenage life.

Q: What's the best memory you have of filming?
N: One of the sweetest memories was when Mikayla admitted she loved JP! As a fellow girl you know when your friend likes someone.

Q: Can you talk about the approach to the film? Is the story you went to film what ended up onscreen?
N: I came in with an open mind but had a story about the competition and JP—When I met Mikayla i knew she was it.

Q: Nicole are any of your characters still doing bible quiz competitions?
N: The two main characters graduated high school which made them ineligible, but the youngest members and coaches continued to do quiz.

Q: What have been some of the biggest challenges you've come up against during the making of Bible Quiz?
N: Finding funding! At some point you realize if you want to make your movie you have to do it for less.

Q: What was the surprise that happened in making the film? What did you not expect?
N: Learning how much work comes after you finish the edit! There's a lot to do with festivals, distribution, online, etc.

Q: Were there alternate endings that you did and what made you ultimately decide on this cut?
N: We had tried flash forwards to their life now, but we decided it was best kept contained to that summer.

Q: How did you meet Mikayla? Did you anticipate such growth and self-awareness when you started filming?
N: When I met Mikayla thru my brother it was clear she was troubled and on a journey, but I did not know where it would lead.

Q: Since you shot for a long time, how did you know when your film was done?
N: A natural stopping point was after they got home from the competition- from there I did follow up interviews.

Q: How did Mikayla and JP react to the film? Especially given Mikayla really opened up about her feelings.
N: I think it's surreal for anyone to see their life in a movie! Especially if it's the high school version of you. Mikayla said she's thankful—she feels self-conscious when it plays, but the doc has changed her life for the better. JP is supportive of Mikayla and proud of her.

Q: Who are some documentarians that inspire you as a filmmaker?
N: I love the work of Errol Morris, Les Blank, Marco Williams, Werner Herzog...too many for one tweet!

Q: With all the extra footage, can make a sequel or like an entirely different film?
N: Haha! Definitely! There's always more than one film lurking in the footage! A lot of difficult cuts had to be made.

Q: Could you please talk about the importance of festival screenings and life after the Slamdance screening?
N: Having screenings in different regions of the country I found were crucial to growing awareness and expanding reach. I tried to screen the film in places that would resonate with the film, regionally and subject-wise.

Q: Some say that the way to reach audiences is to give your stuff away for free. How do you feel about that?
N: I'm not sure, it may work for some but not for others. Tides are always changing and I'm curious to see how the industry evolves.

Q: Bible Quiz has a really honest, sometimes sad, story about growing up. It really made the film such a crowd pleaser and relatable.
N: Thanks!!

Q: Hi Nicole - what's your best advice for recent film school grads looking for experience?
N: If you want to be a filmmaker, just start now! There will never be enough money, resources etc.

Q: What's your next film?
N: I'm working on several projects, both doc and narrative! Stay tuned world!

Q: What areas of production did you have to to adjust/ sacrifice budget to make it for less?
N: Music rights. But it ended up being a blessing because the score Christopher North made was soooooo much better!!!!

Q: What was the inspiration for Bible Quiz?
N: I wanted to give insight into a religious subculture, reveal their humanity without bias or promotion.

N: THANK YOU ALL! Check out the film this week at @DowntownIndie! Find me at @nicoleteeny & @BibleQuizMovie & http://biblequizmovie.com 

Stay tuned @Slamdance for our future #AskSparky Q&As!

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