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  • Writer's pictureAfrika Jonee'

Master Director Tommy Burns Tells You How To Ace Your First Film Festival

Tribeca Film Festival

The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence

- Confucius

Tommy Burns gave me my first job in Film and TV...

I was his cable wrangler on a Finesse Mitchell Stand up Live Taping. He was the Lead Camera Op.

He got me work as a PA and AC the entire first year of my career. He choose and trained me for a Media Manager career.

And since I transitioned into being strictly a Media Management Company, he still refers me for work...

He's also a super talented and seasoned Writer/ Director/ DP who cares about his crews and is dedicated to mentoring newbies who want a REAL career in the TV and Film Business...

We are super lucky to have had him as moderator on our last couple of panels.



He makes difficult concepts easy to understand for our Subscribers (and all the other lucky duckies that come to learn and network).

And he is the perfect person to answer this question from Summer, one of our Amazing Rule The Set Volunteers.

So I presented her question to him...

And here is his sage advice...

(This is for you Summer ;))


Summer asks Rule The Set:

"The documentary I finished a few months ago will be premiering at the National Black Film Festival soon.

This is my first festival..

Do you have any advice on what I should do/bring?"

Tommy Answers:

"Well, after seeing the trailer, if you have time to recut it, there are some minor changes I would make.

1. Put some of the more poignant statements made by your cast right up front in the documentary so we don't have to wait to find out what this is about.

So, for instance, when the girl says she's been to more funerals than graduations and she's buried her best friend and friends from middle school; I would put at least one of those sound bites right at the beginning.

And it brings us in like, "OK what is this about?" Then we can show a little bit of the footage from the beginning of the trailer to get us into it.

2. Also if you can, re-record the voiceover. I know it's hard to get a sound booth sometimes but you can literally go inside a small closet with all the coats and everything in there.

coat closet

Take a microphone in there and record your voiceover.

It's clean. It's soundproof.

The sound doesn't bounce all around and it sounds very very passable. It's actually pretty good.

Go into a small coat closet with all the stuff in it... squeeze in there and take the mic in there... even your iPhone or what have you and go in and record your voice over. You'll be surprised at how clean it is.

So that's some basic advice I would give after watching the trailer.

As far as going to the festival...

1. Make sure you have a means by which people can contact you professionally, not necessarily in your personal e-mail.

2. Be there. Go to the workshops. Go to other people's projects. Go to other people's screenings.

Go up and meet them.

Talk to them about what what they did and what you like about it. Let them know what you did and what you're doing.

That's real important.

That's how you network and meet people and find out what they're doing because people are always interested in people that are doing what they're doing.

Every time I go to a festival or a convention I go to as many of the workshops and screenings as possible. I make sure that I go and introduce myself to people.

I talk to them about what I'm doing, some of the things that I've done and what I'm planning on doing.

What I found is, at times, I've been at these things and people have come up to me and they say, "Hey you're the guy that blah... Or, "I heard you do this."

They'll find you.

And that's how you network and make connections as well.

That's advice I would give as far as what to do when you're at the film festival.

Before going to the festival...

1. Be prepared to describe your project in one minute. A compelling one minute.

I know everybody says two or three minutes you need to be able to describe it in one minute.

one minute

A minute goes by pretty fast when you're talking, believe it or not, so you need to be able to describe it in one minute. And in that minute the first sentence needs to be compelling...

This movie is about a drug dealer who uses dogs as the plugs instead of children.

I mean, I want to see that. These are some well trained dogs, right?

They collect the money and everything.(laughs) They can't be arrested. You know. I'm just saying.

Just me saying that makes you interested. That's that's the kind of first sentence you want to have... something that makes people go hmmmm.

Of course I just made that up off the top of my head. But you understand my point. Then the rest of it after that first 5 to 10 seconds is the description.

But you need to be able to do that in one minute and wrap it up at the end.

I would practice that.

That takes practice because you'll think you have it, "Oh I got it." But then you may not remember it. You might say it perfectly one time and then you think, "OK I got it."

Once you say it perfectly and you've got it, just keep saying it over and over.

Then you'll find that you might tweak one word or you might tweak where this word goes, or you moved the sentence around just like writing and you'll get it.

You'll get it to a really good tight interesting one minute. It'll make people want to go see the project and it'll make people like you. It will also give people a sense that you know your project.

So that's my advice."

Now, we’d love to hear from you.

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Wishing you the very Best,


If you want to fast track your progress and get the 1 on 1 help you need to format your resume and start working in the Film & TV Business immediately, enroll in the next Production Assistant Certification & Set Etiquette Intensive.

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