If you are anything like me, you spend a majority of your waking moments in front of a computer. So much so, that you might forget about the pleasure of watching films in a darkened theater full of short film enthusiasts. Despite -- or maybe because of -- plentiful online resources, festivals continue to be a relevant and compelling opportunity for filmmakers to understand and connect with audiences. They can also provide fertile ground for self-promotion and career enhancement.
Jeff Drew (http://www.jeffdrewpictures.com) is an independent animation director, illustrator and designer whose recent project, “One Square Mile of Earth,” has charmed audiences at numerous film festivals, including Sundance and SXSW.
Getting back to my online life, I caught up with Jeff (read: emailed him) to ask about the uniquely populated “One Square Mile of Earth” and his festival run.
I see that you've worked in commercials, promos and short film. Can you tell me how “One Square Mile of Earth” developed? What was it like collaborating with The Pajama Men? Was it intended as a web series or created with a festival run in mind?
I met Mark Chavez and Shenoah Allen (the Pajama Men) through mutual friends a few years ago and we really hit it off. I went to one of their improv shows and became an instant fan. I knew right away I had to have them do the voices for a short film that I was working on. So, one day they came over to my house and we did some recording. They read the lines from a script I had written, but the stuff they were saying off-the-cuff was so much funnier. We ended up scrapping that first project all together and out of that One Square Mile of Earth was born. We pitched the project as an animated show to a few major networks, and while there was some serious interest brewing we were ultimately turned away. That has fueled us to create another project, which is "hush hush" at the moment, but hopefully you'll see us on your TV or computer screen sometime in the near future.
How have you found the festival experience? Have you done any specific promotion of the project before or during each festival?
I have to admit that I'm a terrible self-promoter, but thankfully animation showcases at festivals are usually well attended. I rely a lot on word of mouth. Hopefully the work speaks for itself and people will see it and tell their friends. It's also inspiring to be around other filmmakers and fans of film. I don't put too much pressure on myself to "close a deal". Also, film festivals are just plain fun to attend, and I try enjoy myself and collect all the pats on the back I can before coming home and getting back to work.
What kind of exposure has it afforded you? Do you think that festival exposure is important to your career development?
It definitely helps to get your film screened at festivals and have people talking about it. It's like throwing a stone into a lake; it may take a while for the ripples to reach you on shore. I was at Sundance in 2002 for a film called "Walk,” and the exposure I got for that really jump-started my career. I still have a lot of those connections I made eight years later. Festivals have helped my online presence as well and I've secured some commercial work that helps fund my short film addiction.
What's next for the denizens of One Square Mile of Earth?
I'd love to continue with One Square Mile of Earth, I think it would make for a great cult-like show, but that will probably only happen if there is an uprising and the people demand it. Until then, expect to see brand new animated awesomeness from Jeff Drew Pictures and the Pajama Men!