What do you want to become?
Filmmaker Outreach Programmer
Alternate Career Titles:
Film Programmer, Festival Director, Festival Associate Director, Festival Programmer
Career Overview: Filmmaker Outreach Programmers reach out to filmmakers to solicit films for film festivals or alternate programming. They watch and review short films and feature films for film festival programming.
General Salary Range: $42,000 to $120,000
Become a Filmmaker Outreach Programmer
Filmmaker Outreach Programmer Yaniv Waisman is living a very interesting life devoted to creativity and watching short films. “I do two things: I have a company that produces content for TV and the internet such as commercials, infomercials, and now 360 VR content. I also run a website called Los Cortos (translated to “the shorts”). It’s a nonprofit organization that promotes Latino filmmakers and their short films,” says the tenured Waisman.
Waisman is also currently launching a website called “afterthefestivals.com” that’s for any short film or filmmaker that has been on the festival circuit and is looking to connect and find a further life for their film: “In other words, I look at a lot of short films every day,” says Waisman.
“I am always trying to find different festivals that I can help. I’ve worked with Newport Beach Film Festival, Fig in LA, Short and Sweet, New Filmmakers in LA, Santiago Horror Film Festival, and more. I am a Programmer for the Short and Sweet Festival that is divided by theater, dance, and film. I’m in charge of the Latino section, and there’s also a student section. So, yes, I watch so many shorts. And I try to organize the films into a good program that’s not too dark, or too long. You can’t have all drama, or all horror films unless the festival is geared towards that. You need a good mix so the audience has a good experience when attending the festival. Even if you have a lot of one genre you still want a few lighter pieces so it’s not too heavy.”
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Waisman stresses volunteering will send you on the right path for a career in festivals and film watching. “Every festival, every one, looks for volunteers. That’s the best way to do it. That’s the best way to watch a lot and to learn the ins and out of the festival. You don’t always have to be in the same city as the festival to be a Programmer, as you can screen films online. Every film festival really needs help with everything. That’s how you start to meet everyone and see what people are doing. That’s the best way. You do have to protect yourself though and after you’ve volunteered and done a good job, the next time you need to be paid.”
Education & Training
“I know there are some film criticism classes where you watch films and you talk about the films — that’s a great education. I am originally from Venezuela, and everyone who knows me from that country calls me if they want to be involved in the industry. In my mind, there are two ways to do it. Art school and film school are great because you can be behind the camera, but it’s also really important to take business classes. Take marketing and accounting. If you go to a bigger university, absolutely take those classes. You really need to do both. It’s harder to get ahead if you don’t have those skills. You have to know how to market yourself, and how to do a budget.”
Waisman says the DIY path is possible but more difficult: “Even if you just start making things, you really have to have those marketing skills. You need to know how to exploit your skills. You also need to think about yourself when you make your budget. Add a salary for yourself. This is a hard lesson for young filmmakers. You also need a budget for marketing. All festivals require a fee. You need a Graphic Designer for posters. You need to print posters. There are a ton of things you need to promote the short film that you just created. It’s your business card. Before you shoot it you have to figure out what you want to do with it, and budget appropriately.”
Experience & Skills
Waisman says, above all else, you have to love, love movies to want to do this: “Really that’s it… You also have to really enjoy watching some crappy movies to find the gems. You will see everything. I’ve seen short films that are really bad. I’ve seen other short films that are unbelievable and blew me away. You will watch amazing stories that people will tell in just a few minutes. You also have to be very objective because you can see stuff that is really good, but it might not be your kind of film — it’s still good though — there’s production value, and story value. You may not like horror movies but if it’s good, it’s good. That’s where the objectivity comes in.”
“I know all different people, so I cannot mention just one thing that will help for this career. Patience helps. You have to sit through a lot of films. If you are in the screening and judging film arena you just need time and patience,” Waisman says. “You will watch so many films. I don’t even know how many short films I’ve seen this year alone. With the website I run, I receive films every day. You really, really need to love it.”
Waisman still struggles with work and life balance, but he has started to set rules for himself. “I sometimes work from home and what I do is at 7 pm, no matter what, I am done. On weekends, I am not opening my computer to work, unless it’s an emergency and we are on a deadline, or the festival is actually happening. Working from home is really dangerous. You can find yourself working all the time, so I put limits on myself. Otherwise, you will burn out. I follow those limits unless it’s deadline time. Take time for friends and family. In LA, there are events almost every night related to film, so I also have to pick and choose. Although, if you are just starting, it is a good idea to go to as many events as possible.”
“For my website, it’s still a small non-profit and I volunteer a lot of my work, but I also get donations and grants, “Waisman says. “Right now I do commercials and infomercials to pay the bills. Going to all these events and talking to film festival organizers is the way to find employment. That’s how you can go from festival to festival. At the beginning, it’s a lot of volunteering hours because it’s hard to get in, but even Sundance advertises jobs on Indeed. There are places where you can find festivals with job openings. If you go to any festival website you will see their Career Page and what they are looking for. Here’s where a marketing background really helps. All the people I have met through festivals are truly amazing people. People do help each other in this career path, as that, after all, is the point of a film festival — to help filmmakers. You likely will not get rich working in the film festival world, but you will be rewarded with a wealth of awesome people to help you.”
Most people on this career path begin by volunteering. Once a Programmer is able to land a paid gig, this job will often be an independent contractor role. However, after working in this role for some time, a Programmer can make a healthy salary, especially at more well-known festivals.
Unions, Groups, Social Media, and Associations
“There is so much social media around film and film festivals that you have to target what you consume,” Waisman states. “The key words I use are ‘festivals,’ and ‘short films,’ and I track social media comments that way. So on social media, I can see everyone talking about festivals — I can interact with them, and if it is related to what I need, I reach out to a filmmaker and ask them to send me their short. You can also find a hashtag for your city and see what’s going on. There is just so much going on for film on social media so you do need a strategy to dig through it all. But even more importantly, go to events, go to festivals in your city, connect with other people in real life.”
- “There are a lot of resources online to watch short films. Start watching shorts.
- Go to events. There are always cheap student rates, or they might even be free. You will see more films in less time at a festival and you will meet so many people at those events. It’s worth it.”
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
What’s the #1 mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
“Loving it too much. Kidding. But also don’t push people too much. Don’t try to sell people immediately. You have to first have the connections. Don’t be too pushy.”
What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?
“‘If I volunteer this year, can we make it a paid job next year?’
Don’t let yourself volunteer too much. Find a way to earn money, and don’t be afraid to ask for it. Ask for the next step.”
If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?
Yaniv Waisman is a Producer who combines the creative side with the business side of the industry, with a BFA in Film and Video from Rhode Island School of Design and an MBA from The Anderson School of Business at UCLA.
He is the Founder and Executive Producer at Crexels, a Hispanic production and post-production company based in Los Angeles that has trans-created more than 200 long form and short form informercials, works with multinational companies to create Hispanic content and now (going crazy) is creating 360º videos.
Waisman is also the Founder and Director of Los Cortos, a non-profit organization and website that helps promote hispanic talent creating short films, with more than 100K page views in 2017 and more than 180 short films from around the world. Waisman is also working as a Programmer for the LA-based Short and Sweet Film Festival.