Waaaait, is this the Auckland film festival I think it is?

The “Auckland International Film Festival” is Definitely Not the “New Zealand International Film Festival”, mmmkay? David Farrier attempts to work out what’s going on.

Another year, another film festival or film awards. But it all gets a bit confusing when you live in Auckland, New Zealand.

Last year, it was the “New Zealand Film Awards” that appeared out of nowhere, not to be confused with the “New Zealand Film Awards”.

That’s right, same name, different awards.

The mysterious newcomer was born and died last year – their carcass of a website can be found at newzealandfilmawards.com.

The latter lives on – you might know it as The Moas (sponsored by the likes of the NZ Film Commission and NZ On Air) – over here.

The ever-excellent Chris Schultz wrote about the New Zealand Film Awards last year, noting it had absolutely nothing to do with the New Zealand Film Awards.

Yes, I know it’s confusing.

Now there’s a new one, filmmakers: The Auckland International Film Festival, which has absolutely nothing to do with the New Zealand International Film Festival which will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

So what the hell is the Auckland International Film Festival?

Well, we know thanks to their Facebook page that they are a big fan of the VLC video player:

They have a website, with some contact details on it:

I rang the number and it just got an automated robot voice telling me to leave a message. I left a voice message and sent them an email inquiring about their film festival.

In the meantime, I looked around their website which does give a bit of information here and there: I learned that it is $25 to enter a short film, and $35 for a “long movie”.

“How long is ‘long?’” I wondered to myself. Lord of the Rings long? Infinity War long?

So many questions. I hope they get back to me, I thought.

Their website Q&A did assure me that they didn’t want any actual human death entered in their festival: “The movie should have a strong storyline, however we are strictly not accepting any movies about porn, animal cruelty or actual depiction of human death.”

So that’s good I guess.

But … what is this thing?

It seemed to be run by someone who also runs the Chandler International Film Festival that has a very similar website.

If you start googling content on their website, you open up a huge array of similar cut-and-paste film festivals. Here is the copy from the Hollywood Boulevard Film Festival:

The films playing at this Hollywood festival were … not good:

The same outfit that runs all these “festivals” also appears to have formed something called the International Motion Picture Association, which has absolutely nothing to do with the Motion Picture Association.

Knee deep in websites, I was over the moon to see a new email in my inbox. The Auckland Film Festival had replied!

The second year running? This was news me! I had a look back on their Facebook page, and indeed, they did appear to have already run an event:

I guess it’s not entirely new after all.

I sent them another email, feeling slightly miffed their last reply contained no human signing off (call me old fashioned), just a generic “AIFF team”.

They replied with, well, not very much:

This only our second year and we are growing slowly. This is run by group
of filmmakers.

Regards,
AIFF Team

I replied again, asking about what looked like a cut-and-paste website.

David, We just recently changed the homepage design and liked a dynamic creative website rather than a static website like the Chandler one. We will upload the 2018 trailers in few days time. You can call us on 029-124-0176 between 9-5 pm.

Regards
AIFF Team

I called them back twice, and again, it went to voicemail both times. Call me paranoid, but the line did do lots of pausing and clicking before I got to the voicemail.

Then, a man called Anand called me back.

He said he was with the Auckland International Film Festival. “I am a producer, I directed a movie as well – and like you, I also write,” Anand told me.

I asked where he was calling from. He said New Zealand, despite his Facebook page saying he lives in New York.

Anand told me his last movie, Anything For You, was shot in New York and released internationally “in multiple theatres”. I found it on YouTube.

Anand was happy to answer all my questions, but it was a fairly confusing conversation that didn’t seem to go anywhere in particular.

I asked if he saw any sort of clash with the likes of the New Zealand International Film Festival.

“What I thought was, David, like any job or website or technology, there is room for a marketplace and room for everybody. A few people emailed us to tell us last time, ‘We got funding!’. It’s not a competition. I have connections in Hollywood and in India, and Indian companies are wanting to go global, and lots of documentaries are made in India … so there is no competition – our goal is to get more funding [for filmmakers].”

I asked him how this festival tied in with its parent organisation, the International Motion Picture Association – and other festivals like the Hollywood Boulevard Film Festival. 

“Ahhhh it’s true you know, other festival advisers … we have connections with other film festivals that hook us up. We want to send our films to Oscars as well … We are hoping to go there. We do see a lot of good films …”

I got him back on track, asking what his direct connection was to those other festivals. He paused.

“I will have to check with the advisers. I will have to find out. And I will get to back to you on that.”

It was a strange conversation, and I didn’t know how to feel about it. I mean, Anand does seem passionate about the art of filmmaking – the guy has made a 90 minute film. He also appears to have lofty goals for the festival.

“Our big dreams to the level of Cannes!” he said. “We are [also] thinking should we start our own Netflix type site? We are trying different things.”

Before I ended my confusing call, he asked if I had anything to submit to his festival. I told him I didn’t.

For the actual New Zealand International Film Festival, it’s more just a simple issue of things getting really bloody confusing.

“We are aware of some filmmakers being genuinely confused about which festival they have submitted to, especially international applicants who may have found a similarly titled festival when searching online,” said NZIFF director Bill Gosden.

“Unfortunately for them – and us – the law provides us no protection around the name the ‘Auckland International Film Festival’ as it is considered too generic.”

Gosden concluded with some advice: “We always encourage filmmakers to carefully read the fine print when sending their film for consideration to any festival in the world. Consider where your film may be screened, what happens to your film rights once it has screened, ticket prices and who is receiving the income. Competitive Festivals are especially risky, as prizes of little or no value can be used as inducement to pay entry fees.

“NZIFF is a not-for-profit event, we don’t charge submission fees and filmmakers receive a percentage of the box office takings.”

Gosden knows what he’s talking about: this year, the New Zealand International Film Festival celebrates its 50th year in Auckland.

Call me sceptical, but I’m not sure the Auckland International Film Festival will reach that 50-year mark.

And I think I’d feel better about it if Anand – or anyone – could give me a direct answer about where his festival fits in with all the other cut-and-paste festivals I found, all owned by the same outfit. And you know … if there were sponsors … and stuff. Anything even mildly … authoritative.

Because beyond the thrill of having your film played on a screen bigger than your laptop or phone, I really don’t see what filmmakers have to gain from it all, besides the thrill of paying an entry fee.


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