Guest Editorial, Simon Mullen and John Clements of Cambridge Cinema Shorts

Hi all,
Recently I shared a post about online submission platforms. I did send a question, out of curiosity, to Simon Mullen, of Cambridge Cinema Shorts, about their choice to accept films on DVD. Since this is not my area of expertise, I knew I would learn something by asking.

As a followup to all of that, Simon and John Clements have written the following guest editorial. I appreciate the time they have given to share their perspective, and, as always, the support they give to filmmakers.  Please feel free to respond in the comment section below.

we are all in this together,



Recently we have been coming under increasing pressure from filmmakers to accept a download rather than for them to mail a DVD plus hard copy permission slip to our festival office.

Please find below the reasoning behind our submissions policy . . .

Online Submission Platforms. A critique . . .

The Cambridge Strawberry Shorts Film Festival is a free to enter film festival with no grant aid and dependent entirely on its audience. We are also a year round exhibitor of films at non-competitive entertainment and educational events, showing a host of quality shorts, with filmmaker permission, to enthusiastic audiences. These are taken from our DVD archive of festival entries going as far back as 10 years.

Our archive is critical to our year round operation. It must be reliable and secure with no barrier to use. Submission Platforms and Video Hosting Services are inadequate to this requirement. Submission Platforms do not provide long term storage without continuing payment and Video Hosting Services are outside of our control. The persistence of their links cannot be relied on.

“Download and store them on hard drives” you say. Which is fine but storage drives would be a continuing cost with a much shorter shelf life than a DVD. Therefore it would mean charging filmmakers considerably higher entry fees than the cost of posting us their entries.

Nothing comes free and this includes the use of Submission Platforms. Some charge the filmmakers, others the festivals. Some charge both! And if there are some that are ‘doing it for free’, well they are most certainly selling your data and having control over your work.

Online submissions are ‘green’ and DVDs are not. The most recent and most spurious claim thrown at us. What utter nonsense! Just because you cant see the huge and unsustainable footprint of the internet, does not mean its not there. And are hard drives plus at least two levels of backup, cheaper, greener and less damaging to the environment than a DVD? A DVD made on a computer you almost certainly already own. But what of the environmental impact of the envelope, delivery etc you say. Well  probably less than the kettle you have just boiled and it gives post people a job.

Then we come to ‘The Cloud‘ imagined by many to be some fluffy magical space that cost nothing and where we could keep your work for ever. In fact it is a vast collection of colossal air conditioned warehouses, each packed with machines sucking enough power, to run a small town. Plus, for any serious, long term user demanding a never ending fee. Yes, and we know that some storage facilities claim that they run on ‘green energy’ which is fine when the sun shines and the wind blows but these facilities require a constant and heavy supply and are certainly still relying on nuclear and fossil fuels to keep running.

And to cap it all we have just read a comment from a no entry fee festival organiser that submission platforms are great because, although they have only been open for submissions for a few weeks they have had over 500 entries and rising! Now all they have to do is watch them all. Good luck!

We give our film submissions the consideration they deserve. A dedicated viewing committee, serious evaluation of work and our (real) audience, quality. How anyone expects a serious (free) festival to view thousands of films has no idea of the process, work and dedication involved in properly assessing a film and programming the event.

It takes little talent to keep pressing the submissions button, sending out video’s of the holiday. Online submissions are turning this side of the industry into just another YouTube. A receptacle of low grade tat but one where some poor soul has to wade through this swamp of rubbish to find the gems still hidden within.

We like to think that anyone with anything worth screening will be prepared to buy a stamp and post a letter.

Cambridge Cinema Shorts

{The views expressed in this article are that of Cambridge Cinema Shorts and do not necessarily reflect those of}

9 thoughts on “Guest Editorial, Simon Mullen and John Clements of Cambridge Cinema Shorts

  1. Thanks Tracy – in case it hasn’t been said – well done! You do a terrific job.

    Kind regards,


    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Thanks. Strong analysis given & ultimately no right or wrong. On a particular note:it’s soul destroying to submit a DVD to get no response or acknowledgment whilst ypur entry fee is taken by festivals. Online submissions have an edge by reducing cost, mailing & time.



    1. It gets worse than not getting a submission response. How many ‘festivals’,although meeting the promise, are simply back to back screenings, shown to an empty room with a hand drawn notice on the door saying ‘Film Festival’? We operate in Cambridge, a cosmopolitan city with a world class university and a film going culture and we have to work really hard to get and keep our audience. I noticed one festival recently, high entrance fee for a three day festival in a town of only 50,000 where nobody but the inhabitants have heard of. You would probably be lucky if all the organisers turned up by the third day.

  3. Hi, I very much appreciate the service you provide. I found this most recent entry on the preference for DVD submissions particularly interesting. To nitpick a little: your guest commentators write: “Recently we have been coming under increasing pressure from filmmakers to except a download”: the word they intended was, of course, “accept” & not “except” which obviously changes the meaning of their sentence dramatically. I also found it interesting that they take things from their “DVD archive of festival entries going as far back as 10 years”. I find that somewhat astounding considering how useless DVD-Rs are as an archival medium. VHS has a much longer shelf-life (unpopular opinion though that may be). Otherwise? THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR CRITICIZING “The Cloud” – I’ve been saying the same thing since the beginning & I could go on in much greater detail.

    – tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE – bringing you unpopular & difficult cinema for 39 years

    1. Hi, Thanks for the spell check. We could do with a decent proof reader. On the life of a DVD, we have had few failures, (just lucky maybe) but if they do fail film makers seem happy to re supply if there is a public screening on offer. Also the brown paper envelopes we keep them in offer an excellent medium for writing archive numbers and viewing committee observations.

  4. Hello there, I also wanted to give my two cents on this matter of Dvd’s vs online submission. As a starting filmmaker it is quite expensive to make a short, even if it’s a ‘low budget’ one. When everything is said and done, there is the cost again of making DCP’s or Blu-rays. Dvd’s are ofcourse cheaper and to send out a DVD to festivals is indeed not the high cost when you do it a couple of times, but when you send you short out to a lot of festivals and to festivals all over the world, then the total cost of it all is going up quite fast. Especially as some festivals require it to be insured, because they don’t want to receive a broken or damaged DVD.

    1. Hi Louis, I take your point about multiple entries running up costs but as there are many festivals out there charging 40, 50, 60 dollars a time you can enter an awful lot of free festivals for the price of one that charges. And while I am on the subject of being free how long do you suppose we remain that way if we have to start buying stacks of hard drives to keep all these entries on?

  5. Hi, I am so pleased to read the support for submissions by DVD. Not everyone uses online platforms. Not everyone is a fan of downloads. I say to all festival organisers, please keep DVD submissions, otherwise some film-makers could feel excluded. Thanks.

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