Favorites from the 2018 My Rode Reel Film Festival

My Rode Reel is an annual film contest hosted each summer by Rode Microphones. It's global, has no entry fees, and the only requirements for submitting are that teams also produce a short behind the scenes video that shows how they used a Rode product to make their movie. Because of this, it's one of the most gloriously diverse and entertaining film contests I've participated in, with teams from all over the world, of all different skill and budget levels, creating all different kinds of movie. It's one of the few festivals I know of where a team of scrappy kids in England making a low budget monster movie can go up against a slick production company's documentary from South Africa, who are competing with a group of Skateboarding Japanese teenagers making a donut commercial, and all of them have an equal shot at getting their films seen by a global audience and winning some truly cool prizes.

The Behind the Scenes component also makes it a great place to learn from this smorgasbord of short filmmaking, and can be almost as entertaining as the films themselves.

Recycling Man - Oliver Topp

What I love about this is how scrappy the whole thing is, both in the film itself and behind the scenes (seriously, watch the behind the scenes...SO MUCH DUCT TAPE I LOVE IT). The title had me primed for a very different kind of movie (a superhero, maybe?), and I liked how that subverted my expectations with what I actually got. The creature and sound design are clever and on point. Plus there’s a cute dog in it...always a plus.

Fishy Wish - Przemysław Stański

Coming out of Poland, two neighbors battle over a magic wish granting fish. It’s little touches from this that make it one of my favorites this year...the voice of the fish saying “Okay!”, the hiss the one neighbor gives when he sees his opponent sneaking onto his land, the slow sound of frogs and crickets as a little denouement at the end. This was the winner of the Judges’ award for this year, and it was a well deserved win. This short also holds a special place in my heart, because from the behind the scenes footage it looks like they used a Panasonic GH4, my personal camera of choice for the past several years.

Tokyo, the City that’s always drunk - Video Curazy

Something I look for in a short film is that it captures the feeling of a specific moment. A tone poem to an experience. ‘Tokyo, the City that’s always drunk’ does this for a night of heavy drinking in a vivid locale. The editing makes this a standout, the way the cuts slide from one moment to the next, the whole thing blurring together in a way where I’m not quite sure how we got from point A to point B, but it doesn’t matter because I’m just enjoying the ride.

Action Cop II - Revengance - Cannon Fodder Production

More cheese than the state of Wisconsin. I came for the Tank suit, but I stayed for the over-the-top-dgaf story and the Pinteresque pauses. I only wish there were more Arnold Style one liners. And please give the Tank his own spinoff short!

Keep Me Posted - Paer Waldemar Tobias Nilsson

A surrealist horror that combines a childlike sense of whimsy with a very adult fear (who among us doesn’t dread the arrival of bills, tickets, court summons, and other sneaky modern daybusting terrors slipping through our mail slots?)


It’s exactly what it says on the tin, and then some. I don’t know that it works so well as a donut commercial - ‘food products I want to ingest’ and ‘things that make good wheels for transport’ remain two VERY separate categories in my mind. But this is some stylish madness. And it’s my favorite film of this year’s My Rode Reel film crop.

And one last film, though this one is kind of a cheat, since it’s actually from the 2016 My Rode Reel film festival, but I’ve got to give a shout out to Dognap by JKK films. This remains one of my favorite online shorts, period, and was the first movie to really make me fall in love with the My Rode Reel film festival. The fights are nuts, the twists are epic, and it’s got a cute dog too.

And some shameless self-promotion, check out our 2018 My Rode Reel entry - DRIP!

How about you? If you’re also watching, I’d love to hear what films stood out to you in the comments section!



Track that beat - Finding Music for Filmmaking

A couple weeks ago, I led a team in William and Mary’s annual 24 Speed film competition. It’s something we do every year, writing, shooting, and editing a short movie within 24 hours. This year, one of my main goals was to rock the festival (literally). And to do that, we needed some jams. Not just any jams, but good accessible jams, that we could legally used without risking copyright infringement. 

Thankfully I stumbled on the Free Music Archive, a source of songs with Creative Commons license. If you haven’t heard of creative commons, and you too are into low budget film making, let me let you in on a little secret…it’s awesome. Creative Commons material is available for independent filmmakers and assorted creative types to remix and use as they see fit (depending on the license). 

A list of Creative Commons' Licenses 

A list of Creative Commons' Licenses 


Creative Commons licenses come in several flavors, but if you’re looking for music to add that extra spice to your independent film (and don’t want to shell out a bunch of money to license songs), your best friends will either be Public Domain or Creative Commons Attribution licensed music. Public Domain media can be used without restrictions, Creative Commons Attribution licensed material means you need to give a shout out to (aka Attribute) the title of the song and the artist at some point in your movie (usually in the credits).

Generally, if you're using the music for films you want to submit to festivals, you can only use items that are just under Attribution license (or Public Domain works), and not the others (because a festival submission may be considered commercial, and have restrictions on how the film can be shared). 

The song attribution part of the credits for Medley: Fish, out of Water

The song attribution part of the credits for Medley: Fish, out of Water



To show an example of what kinds of songs you might find on a site like, let’s delve into the (fishy fishy) guts of Laughing with the Storm’s film - Medley: Fish, Out of Water

Pull Your Socks Up - by Jim Rooster

We wanted a gonzo song to lead into our gonzo movie, and the opening piece of this delivered. However, we also wanted a song that matured over the course of the movie, which this one does once the song actually gets going.


Cyphon - by Jason Staczek

For our first mini-film, we needed a tense song to represent the Rookie’s growing anxiety, as well as provide the right mood for our mini action scene. 


Trace Route - by Boxcat Games

Providing the extra energy we wanted during the sting operation. 


One Minute 35 - by Salakapakka Sound System

The Rookie’s anxiety finally gets the best of him

I Am a Man Who Will Fight for Your Honor - by Chris Zabriskie

Our required song for the competition, also helping set the mood for our tone poem ‘Misfit Tribe’


Purse Peekin’ - by The Coachwhips

And to bring us home, the Coachwhips' delightful blend of hard rock energy and hilariously unintelligible lyrics.


A couple of other sites that also provide Creative Commons or Public Domain licensed music that you can use in your films are (don’t forget to check the License information before you use a song in a video!) :

Youtube Audio Library


If you want to know more about finding music for filmmaking, and something is either confusing or not covered here, feel free to drop us a line at: 

And if you know of another site that you use to find fair-use music for independent filmmaking, please share it in the comments! We can always use new jams. 




Balrog - As seen in Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Not the first Balrog I’ve done, but this one is based off this picture:

Even though it’s an ominous, apocalyptic image, there’s something kind of…adorable. I think it’s the tiny ember eyes in that big fiery magma shell. I wanted to do a version of the Balrog that stayed true to that image’s badass nature while also capturing some of that same cuteness.

Original Tumblr post here.