Webfest Berlin Founder and Director, Meredith Burkholder - AMA

Hi, I am the founder and director of the first international, digital short form series festival in Germany – Webfest Berlin. I studied Art History at Boston University before beginning my career as a freelance producer for photography and television in New York City. We’re gearing up for a big 3rd edition of Webfest Berlin will take place on September 8-9, 2017. I can answer questions about Webfest Berlin, web series festivals, and the international web series market. What are these ‘webfests’ and what can they do for your series?? I’ll let you in on the secret :slight_smile:

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Hi Meredith! Why did you start Berlin Webfest, and why did you make it specific to web series?

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What’s something that would make you immediately disregard a submission? Also how important are cover letters?

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Hi Bri! I started Webfest Berlin after being pretty burned out from working in commerical advertising and reality TV. I moved to Berlin from NYC and started helping out on a web series which then won the grand jury prize at the Melbourne WebFest which meant it got into the Marseille Webfest and LA WebFest, and I thought, Berlin NEEDS this. It’s something I’m truly passionate about, moving the industry forward and in a direction where independent creators can get their work seen and tell different kinds of stories and generally be creative and break the rules!

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Awesome! What web series were you working on?

Hi Meredith! Thanks for taking the time. I guess for most festivals in general I’m most curious in the judging criteria…What do you value most when evaluating a series or what’s the ranking of elements? Production quality? Writing? Acting? Unique voice? Something else?

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Has anyone ever asked you to waive submission fees? What would your response to that be? I’ve read articles about how in order for filmmakers to keep costs down they should always ask for a waived fee, just in case.

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The only thing that makes me not watch a submission, is if it doesn’t follow the rules of submission. Episodes MUST be shorter than 20 min and you MUST have subtitles if it’s not in English. If we find those errors, we always ask the creator if they have those things before disqualifying it. Other than that, we watch and consider everything. One big thing that can knock a show out of competition pretty quickly though is bad sound. If you can’t hear it, you can’t judge it.
Cover letters aren’t the most important part of a submission, clearly, the content is. BUT it is nice to know where someone is coming from, especially if it’s in the pilot category.

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Mission Backup Earth :slight_smile:

Hi Meredith, I’m the writer/co-creator of “20 Seconds To Live”. We won an award at your fest last year! Bummed we couldn’t make it, but we heard it was awesome! My question: with webfests generally screening work already available online, do you see many shows being “acquired” at your fest or is it more about exposing the show to a new audience and making relationships that can lead to other projects?

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I can’t take any credit for that though, I just helped out managing the set.

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Cool, though! You were a producer, or a production manager, or what?

Any tips about what kinds of cover letters will set their accompanying shows apart?

The most important is to be unique. Tell a story that hasn’t been told before, tell a story that’s told in a different way. Web series are where you can break the rules, so try new things! If it’s really something special and engaging, you can easily overcome a less than perfect production value.

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Hey Meredith,
Thanks for joining us, and for taking the time to answer our questions for this AMA. I’m the writer/creator of THE LATE, LATE NEWS (a cable news parody/satire), in addition to my duties as a writer for the web series news blog Snobby Robot.

In terms of comedy, does topical satire/parody tend to do well in web series fests? Also, besides the obvious elements that can make or break a comedy (laughs, great stories and characters) what do you look for when judging a comedy web series?

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What do filmmakers gain from being accepted into your festival, if they can’t personally attend because they’re in another country or city? Or any festival, really? I’m very limited by my location but still want to submit widely.

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We offer discount codes to certain institutions or for limited time offers. I get a LOT of requests to waive submission fees and we generally say no. I don’t think it’s fair to other creators who have paid the fee. We’re all in the same boat, making a series or a festival independently means we’re all looking for funding and sponsors and a way to make ends meet. I just don’t think it’s right to offer waivers when other people in the same position are finding a way to get the submission fee in their budget.

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So what would be your advice to filmmakers who want to give their work a chance in the festival circuit who blow their budget after only two or three festival submissions?

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I think she might be at work so I’m asking this question on behalf of @mkatiehunter- do you prefer creators pick an episode to submit individually, or do you want to see a playlist? And what is your opinion on making a single file of the entire season?

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Do you take viewership size into consideration when reviewing submissions? If so, would it be better for a web series creator to submit a show if the audience is of a significant size (say, 100,000 viewers or so)?

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