When it comes to short films, most festivals have traditionally relaxed their insistence on world or national premieres, happy to offer maximum exposure to new film-makers and not lay claim to them as they often do with feature directors.
That open-door policy is fast changing. Perhaps responding to the deluge of short-film content available on the internet, the Venice film festival this year only accepted world premieres into its competition, leaving some of the festivals dedicated to shorts such as Clermont-Ferrand, Aspen and Palm Springs scratching their heads at the turn of events.
"We lost a couple of short films to Venice," says Kathleen McInnis, who works as a programmer at Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films in addition to her job as festival specialist at Los Angeles' Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television. "It comes in response to the large amount of content out there in the world, and Venice is not going to be the only one which demands world premieres in the future."
McInnis believes the debate about whether short films which have been on YouTube or online belong in film festivals is only going to become more heated. "Festivals are either opening up to the internet and incorporating shorts into the programme without segregation, or they are refusing to programme them if they have been on the net," she explains. "As a film festival, you have to worry about how to get people into seats and keep sponsors happy in addition to showcasing talent. If you are programming films that we can see on the internet, you can argue that you're reducing the value of the festival."
The dilemma comes with the selection of no-budget shorts, which have leapt from the internet to the festival circuit. "If I were a film-maker who made a strong short on film or digitally but who lost out on a festival slot to something that had already been posted on the internet, I'd be pretty unhappy," she says.
She thinks the answer lies with the film-maker. "Make your strategy while you are making your film," she advises. "Young film-makers have to ask what they want the films to do for them. Don't put it on the internet first, since being at a film festival does not hurt your internet play, whereas being on the internet does hurt your festival play."
When it comes to the short, McInnis foresees a period of cut-throat competition between some festivals. "For film-makers, it's going to get harder and for student film-makers, it's promising to be really painful," she says.