Interview With a Pilotmaker
In the coming newsletters we’ll be spotlighting pilotmakers from past festivals and honoring their hard work, motivation and determination. In this issue we talked with the very talented Benjamin Pollack who won the Best Director award at the last year’s ITVFest for his morose comedy, “Dark Room Theater.” After his success at the festival, he won Best Comedy Feature at the FirstGlance Film Festival and was nominated for Best Narrative Feature and Best Horror Feature at the Rome International Film Festival and ShockerFest, respectively. More importantly, Ben is a helluva nice guy who totally deserves his success. So we decided to track him down to see what he’s been up to all year! To stalk Benjamin Pollack on the internet, feel free to visitdarkroomtheater.com, benventionfilms.com, or benjitube.com.
ITVFEST: What experience in creating a TV show or web series did you have before submitting to the festival?
Benjamin Pollack: I was an editor before I became a director, so I had some experience editing television shows. I was nominated for two ACE Eddie awards while studying editing at AFI for two episodes of “The Monk.” Other than that, this was my first attempt at creating a TV show from the ground up.
ITVFEST: What inspired you to make “Dark Room Theater”?
BP: When I was in college I wrote, directed, and acted in 10 episodes of “Dark Room Theater.” Only then, it was a radio theatre program. In 2007, I was raising money for a film project that fell apart at the last minute. Rather than admit defeat I decided to rewrite two of my old radio theatre programs for the big screen, or small screen, or whatever screen would show it.
ITVFEST: What did you gain from submitting to the ITVFest (i.e. exposure, super amazing contacts, prizes, adoration)?
BP: ITVFest was my first festival for “Dark Room Theater” and for me, as a director. Since then, I have been in eleven other festivals and have won or been nominated six times. ITVFest set a standard for me in terms of festivals and gave me the confidence to continue to submit to other festivals and seek distribution.
ITVFEST: What have you been working on in the past 6 months since the festival and how has your experience in making TV helped you in what you’re doing today?
BP: I have been promoting my film, “Dark Room Theater.” As of today I have made a deal with iTunes for digital download rights and I am in negotiations with several television outlets. I also wrote a thriller screenplay called “Dead After Tomorrow” that won Best Horror Screenplay at the 2009 Shriekfest and I wrote a comedy screenplay that just got into the prestigious 2010 Beverly Hills Film Festival.
I am writing a book on the experience called From Zero To Distribution which chronicles the making of “Dark Room Theater” from inception to distribution. If you follow me on Facebook (Mr.Benjamin.Pollack) you’ll get the latest info on the book’s release. I go over everything you need to do this yourself, including DIY distribution. I also include things like my artwork for the one sheet, DVD covers front and back, festival flyers and so on. I also include my press releases that helped me secure distribution, my Facebook ads and a full copy of the fist draft of “Dark Room Theater” for comparison to the final product. I believe that is the biggest lesson I can pass along.
I knew that I wanted to handle distribution myself so I decided to learn as much about the changing world of distribution as I could. I took a few seminars at USC on DIY distribution and did as much reading on the subject as I could. I learned how to approach iTunes, but more importantly, I learned how to promote my project to the point of making money. Had I not promoted the project I would not have been able to make the iTunes deal.
ITVFEST: What advice would you give to someone submitting to the festival or to someone who’s been accepted into the festival?
BP: My advice is, when submitting to a festival, make sure your submission is as professional as possible. Take the time to make a good package with some artwork that represents the quality level of your submission. You should also be finished when you submit. You can tell the festival director that your sound isn’t finished yet, but you can’t tell his or her soul that the sound will make the experience better. If your project isn’t finished, don’t submit it or you will not stand out from the hundreds of other submissions. There is something to be said for putting your best foot forward and you only get one chance to blow people away.
When you are accepted, enjoy it. Make your presence known at the festival, meet folks and mingle as much as you can and take advantage of the seminars and other people’s work.
Congratulations Benjamin Pollack!