Mountain Film Festivals; a good deal for who?

frame grab from short film, "The Ups and Downs of Slammin' the Trail"


I just had an unusual reaction to a congratulatory email informing me I was a finalist in the Kendal Mountain Film Festival....I was disappointed. I had whipped up a last minute film from some footage I had taken of a trail travelogue last year and submitted to Banff and Kendal. I did not expect anything to come of this, and was not surprised to be rejected by Banff. I naturally assumed that Kendal would pass and put this whole thing out of my mind, ready to concentrate on a few projects for next year. When Kendal informed me of my status, I knew what was coming....

Booking studio time to create an HD master
Running a PAL Betacam SP master in PAL format
Creating 4 DVDs per film festival specifications, in PAL format
2 trips to the Seattle studio and a trip to FedEx
Getting this done to meet the deadline for Kendal, who was late in informing me in the first place

All at my expense...bill so far, $325, excluding gas and time

I'm beginning to wonder, what for? To stroke my ego that I got into another film festival? I learned a few years ago, after my first film got into Banff, that lots of festivals invite you to submit, a great deal for them because they bear none of the cost; but creating master tapes adds up in a hurry. Last year I spent over $500 on a film that was also a Kendal finalist, just for the tapes and logistics. Banff is a different story since I like to take the family up there for a mini vacation, and Banff provides 3 nights lodging for filmmakers. I also got to spend 5 days at Banff in the summer of 2006, all expenses paid, working in their studio. I even got a few checks, both for under $1000, for 2 films included on Banff's world tour. So I guess Banff is under it's own category, but the rest of the mountain film festival circuit is simply a filmmaker's exercise in self finance. I'm not even talking about the hardware and software and time involved in creating these films. At this point I'm starting to evaluate why I go through the trouble of creating a film in the first place since I know how much it's going to cost.

Will I stop making films? No, I've got 3 in the burner as I write this, but I'm starting to wonder if it's always going to be a one way street, with all give on my part and no return aside from the satisfaction derived from the process of creation.