Memories Behind the Scenes

Updating and reorganizing the Masters page brings back a lot of memories, not all of them good. Okay, that’s not nearly as bad as it sounds. It’s all really just a reminder of how far the festival has come.

Back when Minraed started SimsFilmFest (back then we called it SIFF, short for Sims International Film Festival), it was a Sims 3 only festival that was put together because she was impressed with what people were doing with The Sims 3 when it came out. It would be a number of seasons before it was even open to Sims 2 directors.

Looking back on those first few seasons I get seriously annoyed and I am surprised that the festival grew into what it has become. It was obvious that things were being made up as they went along. Categories weren’t consistent and neither were award designs. There wasn’t much in the way of rules either, other than things had to be made in The Sims 3. I hate to say this, but those first few seasons were really elitist.

People like to complain that SimsFilmFest isn’t “fair” and is a “popularity contest.” You should have been around at the start. You have no idea. The first Masters were picked by Minraed and Minraed alone. There was no criteria for Masters. These were just her favourites and what she thought were the best projects out there. Years later she was still comparing everyone who came after to her favourite directors from the early seasons. This was annoying as were so many other things going on behind the scenes.

I don’t want to talk about those things because they may end up painting Minraed in a bad light, and that isn’t what I want. Even though she has, for the most part, left the Sims Community, without her there would be no SimsFilmFest. She is the one that originally envisioned this festival and gave it life, even if it was originally a way for her to acknowledge directors that she liked and favoured. Things had to start somewhere.

What is important though, is that the behind the scenes machinations was the catalyst for Gus and I to fight for many of the rules that the festival adopted and that we still have today. Early on it wasn’t fair, and as it grew that became more and more obvious and more and more of a problem that we wanted to solve. Things didn’t always go smoothly as we fought for the changes. Minraed fought against them and complained that the festival wasn’t “as fun” with all the rules, but with more and more participants, and the addition of Sims 2 machinima, there needed to be rules. Handing out awards based on whims wasn’t going to work any more There were so many things about the festival that Min didn’t have the patience for and ultimately that played a part in her stepping down. Gus and I prevailed, and we pushed to make things more transparent, where everyone knew how things were decided and what went into making those decisions, and hopefully put an end to the rumor mill.

As staff members came and went, it was obvious that some of them talked about what went on behind the scenes at some point. As much as we tried to prevent drama from coming to the festival to keep things a pleasant environment for everyone, there was drama behind the scenes. Some seasons were worse than others. We had people join the staff to promote their own work thinking joining the SimsFilmFest staff would make them popular. Minraed even offered to make one of them Masters to make up for what she felt were previous slights. Ironically, one of them was already a Master but there was crap record keeping in those days and it would have never been discovered that they had been competing in the wrong category for seasons if I hadn’t been going through old magazines. I also went on strike and pulled all my projects that season in protest of the title of Master being given out just to say “I’m sorry for this thing I did.” I threw a tantrum of epic proportions, going as far as to quit the staff. Gus and Peacemaker totally supported me in this (and would have vacated with me). To this day I am thankful for their much calmer and rational brains in dealing with the situation. I am happy to say those calmer minds prevailed.

For everything that people claim isn’t fair about the festival, Gus and I (and later Peacemaker) fought to make and keep fair. Everything we did, every fit I threw (there was really only the one and it was epic), was to make sure that SimsFilmFest was enjoyable to everyone who participated and as fair as we could make it. We insisted that things move from PollDaddy, where people could vote multiple times and use voting bots easily, to Google Forms where you had to be logged in to vote, ensuring that there was only one vote per email. That use of PollDaddy created a huge mess one season because someone used a bot to cast votes for them. One of my entries was affected by it all. I could have said nothing and won that category, but instead I made everyone on staff aware of it and stalked the results because I was mad someone would do that. If I was going to win anything, it was going to be based on my talent, not someone who thought that I should win. Something similar happened a few years later when one of the staff member’s accounts got hacked by an ex.

I will admit that the last few seasons have been plagued with problems due to staff going missing and my health being unstable. There is a lot to do for the festival and not always the people to do what we need, let alone want, to do. Some seasons are total chaos, like this past season. This is a big reason why we went to once a year. The problem is, there is no time of the year that is good for everyone on staff. Add real life problems and commitments to the mix…all we can do is our best. The show must, and will, go on. Even if there are technical difficulties. We have fought too hard to bring the festival to where it is now for it not to. When Minraed stepped down four years ago, the festival nearly came to an end. In fact, it would have if I hadn’t taken over. I’m not saying that to brag. It is the cold hard truth. In fact, I wouldn’t have taken over the festival and would have let it die if Gus and Peacemaker hadn’t been on board with helping me run it. That transition was utter hell and we were worried that SimsFilmFest wouldn’t survive it.

I will be the first to admit there is a good deal of room for improvement, there always will be, and we’re working on it. At least we aren’t making things up as we go anymore. We know what we are doing most of the time. The festival is so much different from what it was in the start. It’s gone from a way for one person to bring public attention to machinima she personally liked to a full-blown Sims machinima festival that showcases a wide variety of machinima from directors regardless of their skill level. I’m pretty proud of this festival and glad that I became a part of it early on. I’ve learned so much and discovered so many wonderful machinimas and their talented directors through the festival. I am looking forward to seeing what the coming years bring us.

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