Most filmmakers agree that getting your film accepted into a film festival and watching it alongside an audience of devoted film fans is an incredibly gratifying experience. Unfortunately, filmmakers can also expect to be rejected two times for every one time their work is accepted…not great odds.
My recent documentary, The Good Fight: James Farmer Remembers the Civil Rights Movement, was fortunate to enjoy a much better acceptance ratio. I’d like to think it’s because the film is a compelling story and well made, but it may also be because I targeted festivals that had stated missions of supporting documentaries, civil rights, or African-American history, all topics that relate to my film. What’s the point in sending a biography to a fest that focuses on horror films? Knowing your audience is key to getting your film out there.
James Farmer, the subject of my film, was larger than life. A civil rights activist from Marshall, TX, he conducted the nation’s first sit-in, organized the Freedom Rides, worked for Nixon, and introduced the country to affirmative action. He also spent considerable time in prison, barely escaped a Louisiana riot with his life, had two daughters with his white wife, and endured great disappointment at his lack of recognition.
This summer and fall, film festival audiences will get to see Farmer’s story on the silver screen. After premiering in Texas and Virginia, the film screened at festivals in California, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Washington, and England. Upcoming screenings include the International Film Festival – Ireland and the Montreal International Black Film Festival in September, and the International Documentary Film Festival in Ohio, Heartland Film Festival in Indiana, and Duke City Docfest in October.
It’s a great feeling to know that not only will lots of people get to see the film, but that Farmer’s message of equality and nonviolent protest will be communicated to a whole new generation.