Image Courtesy of ISFF

Discover What the Largest Short Film Festival in the World and Allegorithmic Have in Common

Marine Caillault on February 1 2018 | Stories, Film/VFX, Events

Meet Stéphanie Grand and Julie Rousson, members of Sauve Qui Peut, the organization in charge of the International Short Film Festival in Clermont-Ferrand, France. This festival, which shares a birthplace with Allegorithmic, is the largest short film festival in the world. Over the years, its growth has helped launch new films and new concepts, as well as new tools.

We are proud to be patrons of the 2018 edition of the festival, which takes place February 2–10, where we will present the 1st Allegorithmic Award for VFX to a short film with the best visual effects as judged by a renowned jury.

How to get movies

Julie: Each year, we call for film submissions in May. National and international films are submitted on our platform, Short Film Depot, and then we make our choices for retrospectives or selections like Le Labo. We have a system of automatic filters, which allows us to receive only movies that fit our criteria - less than 40 minutes for international, less than 60 minutes for national. At the national level, this filter only displays films whose main production company is France. We receive more than 8,000 films per year.

Originally, Short Film Depot was built to find films for festivals that do not require registration fees. At the time of its creation, there were only two platforms; today there are many more. And Short Film Depot has also evolved - we now help find films for festivals that require registration fees, under certain conditions. That is, we must be familiar with it, and know that it's a serious festival. There must be also compensations for the directors: invitations, cash prizes, and so on.

We're really a platform based on ethics; we actually founded a Charter of Ethics for internet platforms that require registration, together with three or four other platforms. Now, there are just over 70 festivals on our platform. This is less than on other platforms, but they are festivals with which we consciously choose to work because they have a real ethical approach. They all have something special.

Stéphanie: For the national selection, we have a committee which meets in small groups. And internationally, we have small groups making pre-selections by country or geographical area. The committee looks at all these choices, then it makes the international selection. You can register from May to October; the final selection occurs from mid- to late November. After that, two more managers join the process, one for the national selection, the other for the international selection. They are the ones who ultimately send the notice of selection and non-selection.

From that moment, we're rushing to receive the DCP format for the films, because we have to think about deadlines for subtitles. These are created by a partner company called Dune; we've been working with them for several years. They check the quality of the DCP because we have a high requirement in terms of production quality, for both sound and images. We also work with PixnProd, a company created by former employees of Sauve Qui Peut.

Julie: We have French and English subtitles. There are sessions with both subtitles in Cocteau and Boris Vian (the two projection rooms of the Maison de la Culture).

Stéphanie: Viewers can also get headphones to follow national competitions live in Cocteau.

How to make a program

Stéphanie: In any case, once we have chosen the films we’ll show, the job isn’t at all finished because we have to build the programs, and make sure the films relate well to one another.

Julie: The national selection is especially thematic. The international group is both thematic and geographical. We try not to have three English films in the same program, for example. And at the same time, if we have geographical diversity, we try to ensure that we don’t have three movies about, say, death, or parenting.

Stéphanie: Yes, this is the strong point of Clermont: the way in which we build the programs, and we’re actually known for the way movies balance one another within the program. And we'll try not to end with a sad movie, which will bring the mood down.

How to make a poster

Stéphanie: The poster is chosen well before the selections and completely independently of the selection. In general, the illustrator is chosen a year in advance, and he or she comes to Clermont, gets an idea of the atmosphere, and participates in the juries. This year, in this case, it is one of the co-founders of the festival, Antoine Lopez, who created the poster. He had achieved this success before--often in collaboration with his wife, Isabelle Pio Lopez, who is a co-author of this poster--with eight other posters.

This year is a bit different: we received a commemorative stamp by ministerial order. We made a request two years ago since national stamps are attributed several times a year, but only 5% to 10% of requests are accepted. For 7 or 8 years, we made custom stamps to be sold at the festival shop, limited to a few thousand copies. This national stamp is on a whole different level; there will be 800,000 issues. So, this year, Antoine Lopez began working on the design of the stamp before working on the poster.

The two visuals respond to each other - the first postmark day of the stamp will take place on Friday, February 2, the day the festival opens, with a temporary post office at the Maison de la Culture.

This year, the entire city of Clermont-Ferrand will wear the colors of the festival. The visual is displayed on the tramway trains, and shown, with the stamp, on 50 public mailboxes in the city and its suburbs, as well as on postal vehicles. This time around, the image of the festival will perpetually be in motion, as well as being shown on the classic static posters in shops, brought there by volunteers.

How the city changes

Julie: I'm not from Clermont, and in my first year there, I remember this strange feeling that the city changed completely in early February. There were many people who came from every corner of the world. I knew about the festival, but I had not at all imagined how the city would react… In my university, there was already a huge queue at eight-thirty in the morning. That's crazy! And it’s incredible to hear people's conversations; they’re really ultra-cinephiles in Clermont - they are able to talk to you about a short film they saw 15 years ago.

Stéphanie: The principle of the ISFF (International Short Film Festival) is that no screening room projects only one program. We play each selection at least once in the Maison de la Culture (a cultural space created in 1979, specializing in live shows), but otherwise they are shown in 11 rooms; half of the rooms play the selection on even hours, the other half on odd hours. Since we are in the town center, you can reach all the projection locations within 15 to 20 minutes.

The simple idea that we've had in Clermont was to retain our audience with the ticketing. The essence of our attendees is an audience of subscribers coming back from one year to the next. We offer a subscription that is not nominative; the ticket is not reserved for a single session, so it can be shared between people. Festival-goers can attend several sessions.

In addition, everyday members of the public are mixed in with professionals. The latter do not have priority access to the rooms; they queue, just like the public. This shared experience is also one of the strengths of the festival.

Madam Black - a film by Ivan Barge

Julie: We invite all the directors selected in the competition to come to Clermont-Ferrand. When they come from a foreign country, they are often present during the entire competition. We organize exchanges with the public, conferences, presentations, and we give people the opportunity to leave notes in a box for the directors.

Two years ago, we had a director from New Zealand (Ivan Barge) who came up with a movie called Madam Black, the story of a man who accidentally runs over a cat with his car. The cat’s owner is a little girl; to stop her from being sad, the man stuffs the cat, and travels around the world with it, sending photos back to the little girl.

And this director brought his stuffed cat to Clermont. Someone left a message in his box: "Your movie is my second favorite movie of the festival!" He was so proud of his message! He got the Prix du Public and came up on stage with his cat, which was wearing a nice dress for the occasion…

How films live beyond the festival

Stéphanie: We try to continue working throughout the year with the people who live in Clermont or its surroundings, and who might be unable to attend the sessions in the city center. Once the awards are distributed, we meet with the coordinator of regionalization concerning movies that won or were otherwise notable, and we bring those movies to the people.

We don’t necessarily go into movie theaters. Sometimes we find ourselves in local halls, which incidentally may not have the equipment we need. We adapt. We want to bring the film closer to the public. We have a presentation, and there may be a debate… Movies can have a life beyond the festival, and sometimes even in other festivals, which can ask us to prepare movies in a ‘Carte Blanche to Clermont’ program, for example.

Julie: Recently, a distributor of short films from Quebec created the first festival of short movies on Facebook! He sent an email to Facebook, saying, "I want to set up a free festival of short films on your platform." Facebook agreed. At first it began with films from Canada, and specifically Quebec, and then later we met in Cannes. He said that he wanted us to curate a French section. So, we launched the Weekend of the French Short Film, beginning December 2017.

We scheduled eight films, which were available to watch online in groups of four, for 24 hours each group. These films weren’t only shown to people who had ‘liked’ the festival’s page; Facebook’s own algorithms determined who might be interested in seeing them. It was very successful.

How the festival has parallel lives

Stéphanie: During the festival, there are also a lot of educational events, attended by Allegorithmic, through workshops and the temporary School of Cinema. We welcome film schools and design studios, as well as companies. That way, the audience and young people can see a real movie set, and learn about what all the jobs are on a set. We tend to think about the more artistic professions first, but there are also make-up artists, hairstylists, electricians and so on. This means to show that there are common trades that can bring someone to work on a movie set.

The workshops are open to all. Teams come and have demonstrations - and, in fact, there will be a team from Allegorithmic. This is a part of the partnership we have with Allegorithmic, which is really a sponsorship that also provides an award for special effects. These effects are not necessarily visible, which might surprise the public - and that's fine. It's a great way to discover that even in movies where you don't necessarily see special effects, they are present.

We also created a club of local partners, called the Buena Vista Local Club. We brought in local businesses, with the aim of helping them experience the festival in a different manner. If professional links are created between members, so much the better, but the overall intention was to create a series of events that catered to them. This year, the Buena Vista Local Club members will come to the film market. We really try to develop synergies that go beyond simple monetary concerns, which allow us to create strong partnerships.

The festival is very well known abroad, like Allegorithmic, and we have wanted to better publicize Allegorithmic to local media. I was sad to realize that Allegorithmic is not as celebrated locally - it’s really a great success story from Auvergne. We are very proud to see structures succeed in film - and in video games, which is a related world - and we want to support them.

So, when Allegorithmic comes to give a prize during the ceremony, we are happy that people will know that it’s a successful company that was born in Clermont. That was the philosophy behind our partnership.

Julie: I am sure there are a lot of people in Clermont who know Allegorithmic, but who don’t know they know it.

Stéphanie: We also want to highlight Substance, because you are also working on hidden materials, things that people don’t necessarily see but that are important nonetheless - vital, even, for the existence of these productions. For that, we firmly intend to create a partnership that grows over the years.

All you need to know about the International Short Film Festival is on this website.

All photos in this article belong to the International Short Film Festival.

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