It’s About Perspective Not Awards


It’s been a few years but I finally got up the gumption to enter a couple of my short films in the Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival.

If you know me, I’m not only my own worst critic but I hate promoting my own work and bringing any kind of attention upon myself. So, I quietly entered two films, “The Standing People” and “An Iowa Morning“.

I’m always a little nervous when I see the email from the festival. I know it’s either a congratulations, your film was selected or a we’re sorry but your film didn’t make the cut this year.

I thought “An Iowa Morning” had a chance to get in since it was along the vein of what I had in the festival in previous years.

“The Standing People” was more of an outside chance. It was done for UWOL an international film challenge that I participate in. This particular challenge was a charity challenge and when that film won, Last Hope Animal Rescue had over $400 donated to help animals in need find new homes.

Double clicking on the email, my heart skipped a beat as I read that both films were official selections of CRIFF.

The festival was fantastic and it was nice to be surrounded by so much passion for filmmaking.

To make along story short so I can get to the heart of why I’m writing this, the films swept their category, not only winning the Silver Eddy award but the Gold Eddy as well.

Filming nature and wildlife scenes like this early morning fog at Indian Creek Nature Center is my greatest joy

Early Morning Fog at Indian Creek Nature Center

This post isn’t about tooting my horn that I won. If you know me, you know that’s the furthest thing from my mind. The purpose of this post is to talk about perspective.

As filmmakers it doesn’t matter if you like to make horror films or nature and wildlife films. What matters is that you have passion. I haven’t met a filmmaker yet that wasn’t passionate about their films and the story that they tell.

Passion however can cause you to lose your objectivity and I think when you lose your objectivity you stop growing as a filmmaker.

The thing I love about the Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival is there is a judges critique the Sunday after the festival ends.

What is so special about CRIFF’s critiques is that you can sign up for one even if your film wasn’t selected to screen at the festival.

Think about that for a moment. Even if your film is rejected, you have an opportunity to meet with the judges and find out why it didn’t make the cut.

So Why Is That Important?

An outside critique is a great way to get perspective on your film from people who don’t know you or have any reason to sugar coat their thoughts about your film.

Think about it, do you really think a significant other or friend is going to pick apart you film and be brutally honest? They may share what they thought didn’t work so well from them but are they really going to give you the raw truth?

 It’s Not About Knocking You Down

A film critique isn’t about knocking you or your film down. It’s about people’s thoughts about what you can do to grow as a filmmaker. You may not always agree with what they have to say but it’s important to realize that if they feel that way about your film, others probably do too.

A good critique will not only tell you what didn’t work or needs improvement. It will also let you know what worked and what you should keep on doing.

 Ask Questions

A film critique by a panel of judges shouldn’t be one-sided. You should ask questions. What did they like best about the film, what was their favorite shot, what was their least favorite.  This is your opportunity to get feedback, don’t be afraid to ask them what you want to know to become a better filmmaker.

Next time you have an opportunity to have your work critiqued, take it. I pretty much guarantee that if you are open to other people’s feedback you will walk away with a plan to take your nature and wildlife films to the next level.

And as always, shoot the ordinary and make it extraordinary!

Kevin J Railsback is a wildlife and nature filmmaker


By | 2016-11-06T09:39:01+00:00 April 21st, 2015|Categories: Filmmaking Naturally News|8 Comments

About the Author:

Award-winning filmmaker Kevin J Railsback has traveled as far as Africa to test HD cameras for Panasonic.
His stunning nature and wildlife footage has appeared in productions on National Geographic, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel as well as in commercials for such corporate giants as AT&T.


  1. Mark
    April 22, 2015 at 8:59 pm - Reply

    That’s really great Kevin! Congrats!!! After years in a camera club I got a bit turned off by the whole critique aspect, though I know it can be helpful if the judges can hone in on what you were trying to accomplish, and figuring out if you did that, or needed a little something here or there. My experience was that most of the judges were quite biased in their own right, and all images that won their praise tended to look very much the same.
    Mark invites you to read…Fresh and ResponsibleMy Profile

    • Kevin J Railsback April 22, 2015 at 11:11 pm - Reply


      For whatever reason I think there is a big difference in critiques between still images and films. Not sure why but since I’ve had both I can say that the photography critiques were more biased and generally not as productive to me as the film critiques have been.

      From the films I saw at the festival they were prey diverse. In my category there was a zombie film as well as a metal music video. SO to see my mellow nature and wildlife stuff up against those types of films was certainly interesting.

      I like this particular festival that I attended because they have grading sheets so that they can grade all films to the same standard. Of course personal bias will always come in to play but I really like a third party’s perspective on my work good or bad because after I while I lose mu objectivity with my own work.

      • Mark
        April 25, 2015 at 1:38 pm - Reply

        That’s very interesting to have your film grouped with zombie and metal! What a contrast!
        Mark invites you to read…Earth Day 2015My Profile

        • Kevin J Railsback April 25, 2015 at 5:15 pm - Reply


          Is the freestyle category so anything goes. Not sure how you can judge a zombie, heavy, metal and nature flick and decide a winner but I’m sure they have some kind of judging criteria that they follow to help them out.

  2. Wendy Tomlinson
    April 25, 2015 at 2:08 pm - Reply

    Oh well done, what an incredibly achievement. I love the image in this post by the way. The colours are stunning.
    Wendy Tomlinson invites you to read…Never say “I can’t find my keys” again ~ Time Management tip 10My Profile

    • Kevin J Railsback April 25, 2015 at 5:14 pm - Reply

      Hey Wendy,

      Those flowers were just on the side of a trail going through the tall grass prairie that’s close to my house. I’m sure so many people passed right by and failed to notice them but nature seems to call out to me and I am rewarded with gems like these!

      Thanks for the comment! I really appreciate it!!

  3. Stephanie Volkert
    May 31, 2015 at 12:20 pm - Reply

    I love that “The Standing People” was done for an animal charity. I’ve been involved in animal rescue for almost my whole life.

    I get that whole “not promoting yourself” thing. Everyone keeps telling me I need to be selling my photos, or asking why I’m not trying to be a professional photographer, but it’s hard to put myself out there like that. Rejection sucks. And I don’t feel that I’m ready for either of those yet. I feel like I have more to learn still.

    The flower still is just beautiful. Thank you for sharing it at the Macro Monday Mixer.

    • Kevin J Railsback May 31, 2015 at 9:28 pm - Reply


      It’s nice in that the winning filmmaker of the charity film challenge gets to choose the charity that the prize money goes to. I’ve worked with Last Hope Animal Rescue for quite a while so it was a no brainer to choose them. 🙂

      I don’t think I worry about rejection as much as setting the bar too high for myself.

      I tend to see what I can do better next time instead of what I did well this time.
      I’m really not a toot my own horn guy so I guess I need to find a way to bring people in without saying hey look over here! 😉

      I clicked on a lot of the links. Seems like a fair amount of photographers put up posts of just an image and do a write up on it. I take frame grabs from my footage and put them in posts but I guess it was ok putting the link up on your site. 🙂

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