Wednesday 1 August 2012


Prairie Tales Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to some common questions about Prairie Tales. If you're a distributor or exhibitor interested in the work of a particular Prairie Tales artist, please contact the Prairie Tales Tour Coordinator.

Frequently Asked Questions (General)
1. What exactly is Prairie Tales?
The straight and simple answer to this question is that Prairie Tales is a feature-length movie composed of short films and videos made by artists based in Alberta. A new edition of Prairie Tales comes out each year, curated by a jury that selects works out of dozens of new shorts submitted by Albertan film and video makers during the winter months. Prairie Tales programs usually run from seventy to ninety minutes in length and contain about fifteen short works.

Prairie Tales is also a program - the initiative sense of the word - that promotes Prairie Tales anthologies for screening at libraries, schools, colleges, universities, community halls, galleries, media arts centres and cinemas across the province of Alberta and beyond.

In addition to securing bookings of the shorts feature, the Prairie Tales program also pays for artists who've made the works in the anthology to visit organizations that have booked an exhibition in order to give workshops or talks or simply to introduce the program and answer questions from the audience afterward. These visits are funded by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts' Travelling Exhibition Program, which pays for the circulation of many different kinds of art and artists through communities across the province each year.

2. Are all the shorts in Prairie Tales about the prairies?
No. To find out more about what kinds of films and videos you'll see in a Prairie Tales program, go to the next question.

3. What kinds of films and videos will I see in a Prairie Tales program?
You'll always see many different kinds of films and videos.

In any given year, a Prairie Tales program will probably feature animated shorts of all sorts - including conventional, hand-made, computer generated and/or stop motion. There are also usually live-action drama and comedy films and videos, as well as more challenging, experimental works. Prairie Tales collections have also included documentaries, essay films, music videos and dance on video and film and even video jams.

Shorts featured in Prairie Tales programs may be made using a wide variety of media, including 16mm, 35mm or Super 8 film, standard and high definition video, digital video, mobile phones - and combinations of any of the above.

4. How long has Prairie Tales been around?
Prairie Tales has been around for twelve years, which is why the most recent (2012) anthology is known as Prairie Tales 14. Each edition of Prairie Tales is numbered that way. Prairie Tales 13 came out in 2011, Prairie Tales 12 in 2010, all the way back to the first Prairie Tales, which came out in 1999.

5. Who's responsible for Prairie Tales?
Prairie Tales is produced jointly by Metro Cinema Society in Edmonton and the Alberta Media Arts Alliance Society (AMAAS), which is currently based in Calgary. Metro Cinema provides administrative support to the program, which receives funding from AMAAS and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts (AFA) through its Travelling Exhibition Program.

Frequently Asked Questions from Media Artists

1. Do works submitted to Prairie Tales have to be about the Prairies?
Absolutely not. The name “Prairie Tales” loosely refers to where our media artists are based (the prairie province of Alberta). It does not at all dictate what the stories must be about. Works can be of any genre and on any theme and may take place in any locale in any language (although if your work is not in English and you want your dialogue to be understood, please include subtitles). There is no special consideration favouring films that do reference or highlight the prairies or Alberta.

2. When can I submit my film or video?
The call for submissions usually goes out in late November or early December of each year. The deadline to submit is usually in late January. Please do not submit works before the call is announced.

3. Can I submit more than one work?
Yes. However, it should be understood by all artists submitting work that in the interest of including a multiplicity of Alberta voices in the anthology, it would be an extraordinary circumstance for the jury to include more than one work by the same media artist in any one Prairie Tales program.

4. If I've been in Prairie Tales once, can I be in it again in subsequent years?

5. Can I submit a work that is almost finished?

No. Regrettably, it’s impossible for us to fairly judge complete works against incomplete works. Accepting incomplete works into the program also leaves both Prairie Tales and the artist in question wide open to too many production liabilities. If your film requires very minor corrections, such as adjustments to the credits or cleaning up a sound flaw here or there, that’s fine. If it’s missing a soundtrack, still has scenes to come, or is in the form of a rough edit, please wait until next year to submit it.

6. What makes my work eligible or ineligible for Prairie Tales?
There are three basic eligibility requirements:

  1. Your work must have been made within the eighteen months period leading up to the submission deadline (usually the last Friday in January).
  2. Alberta must have been your (usually the creator-director’s) primary residence when the work was made and completed. If you feel you or your work qualifies as Albertan on other grounds, please make those clear in your application. The decision of the Tour Coordinator as to its eligibility in such a case is final.
  3. The start to finish (credits included) running time of your work must be 15 minutes or less.

And that’s it, other than a few commonsense requirements that are meant to ensure your work can be fairly adjudicated. These include things like submitting by the deadline, submitting in the proper media (VHS or DVD), and ensuring your submission plays clearly from start to finish on a current standard DVD or video player (i.e. not just for the first 30 seconds and not just on your computer).

We do our best to accommodate human error but unfortunately we cannot guarantee works that are part of incomplete applications or that do not play clearly or in their entirety on our equipment on the day of adjudication will be considered by the jury for inclusion in the program. All this and other information will be outlined on the submission form when it is made available.

7. If my work does not make it into Prairie Tales, can I submit it again next year?
Yes, as long as it still eligible (i.e. if it’s still eighteen months old or less by then).

8. Why did my work not make it into Prairie Tales?
Contrary to popular perception, Prairie Tales does not bill itself as a “best of Alberta” collection. While the primary criterion for inclusion in the exhibiting collection is quality, Prairie Tales typically receives more submissions of calibre than can be accommodated in a cohesive 70-90 minute program of short works. So if your work is in, be assured that’s because it was considered by the jurors to be among the best submissions that year. But if it isn’t, that doesn’t necessarily mean it was not also highly regarded by one of more of the jurors.

9. If my work does not make it into Prairie Tales, can I find out why?
Sort of. Prairie Tales can provide artists with very limited, constructive feedback in the form of a summary of notes the jurors took during the curation process that are directly related to your work. Please understand that these opinions are subjective and in no way represent a definitive opinion as to the quality of your work. The Tour Coordinator can provide you with this information upon request.

10. What’s so great about getting my work into Prairie Tales?
We will ask you to join the collection by signing a contract that permits the work to part of the Prairie tales collection for that year for a distribution period of eighteen months in exchange for a fee payable to you. In the past this distribution fee has been $750. Prairie Tales will then work to see that the collection gets played as far and wide as possible during its distribution period.

11. Where does Prairie Tales screen?
Prairie Tales is primarily screened in Alberta at independent cinemas, media arts co-ops, galleries, libraries and community centres. Increasingly it has been screened elsewhere in Canada, including in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Guelph, Fredericton and Swift Current.

12. How many screenings of Prairie Tales are there each year?
Generally there have been anywhere from twelve to twenty-five screenings per year, but the number of exhibitions has generally been growing.

13. Does being in Prairie Tales prevent me from distributing work on my own?
Not at all. We encourage Prairie Tales artist to promote and screen their works independently as much as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions from Exhibitors
1. Does it cost anything to show Prairie Tales?
The fee to screen Prairie Tales is $150. This fee, which is on par with the most economic rental rate generally available for feature films, helps to cover postage, artist fees and fees for workshops that might be held in connection with the screening. It also covers multiple screenings within a period of a few days.

Still too rich for your blood? Talk to us! Or if you're in Alberta, why not program your screening during Arts Days when, thanks to the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Prairie Tales is available to exhibitors free of charge?

2. How can I arrange a showing of Prairie Tales?
Simply contact the Tour Coordinator at and let us know:

  • the date(s) and time(s) you'd like to screen it
  • the location (room, venue, address) you'd like to screen it
  • any other contact information you'd like us to post on our website
  • whether you lack any equipment that would make it possible for you to show the program
We'll send you a DVD or beta copy for the exhibition, along with programs, posters and a promotional kit to help advertise the event. If you have equipment needs, we'll do our best to help you overcome them. After your screening, we'll ask you to help us keep track statistics by sending you a short questionnaire.

And that's pretty much all that's involved.

3. What equipment do I need to show Prairie Tales?
Prairie Tales has been screened in movie theatres, at art galleries and in community centres, on walls outdoors and in, on projection screens and television monitors in front of audiences large and small. Even if all you have is a television and a DVD player, you have all you really need for an exhibition of Prairie Tales. If you don't have any equipment, let us know and we can help you with that, too!

4. Once I've shown Prairie Tales, can I screen it again?
The Prairie Tales exhibition fee of $150 covers multiple screenings within a period of a few days. However, if you'd like to screen it again outside of that initial period, the fee applies all over again. Please note that Prairie Tales programs can only legally be screened during their distribution period, which terminates for each at the end of August the year after it's released. For instance, Prairie Tales 14 is in circulation from August 31, 2012 until August 31, 2013.

5. Is Prairie Tales suitable for all audiences?
Prairie Tales 14 has not yet been rated. Please click here for more information from the Alberta Ratings Board.

If you have any specific concerns about the suitability of Prairie Tales for your audience, please contact the Prairie Tales Tour Coordinator, who will be glad to discuss this question with you.

6. Can I watch Prairie Tales before deciding whether to screen it?
Of course. Just ask us for a preview disk. We'll send it to you right away and you can let us know afterward whether you'd like to go ahead and schedule a screening or not, no hard feelings either way.

7. How do I arrange for an artist visit in association with my screening?
Just tell us what you'd like the artist to do and we'll do our best to match you up with one who fits your needs and is available when your screening is taking place.

Depending on their skills and backgrounds, Prairie Tales visiting artists can teach workshops or give talks on a variety of subjects related to the media arts, including animation (in all of its forms), editing, storytelling with film or video, making Super 8 movies, promoting yourself as a filmmaker, and getting your work seen, just to name a few. Some artists like to give talks about their work and their process, bringing along some more short films they've made to show your audience. Artists can also simply attend your screening in order to introduce the program and stay to answer questions from the audience afterward.

Some exhibitors will request a particular artist based on an interest in their work in the anthology, so another suggestion is to browse the website notes and artists bios for each work in the latest progarm and see if anything piques your interest.

If you're still not quite sure what you want, don't hesitate to talk things over with the Tour Coordinator, but if or once you do, let the Coordinator know:

  • what you'd like the artist to do
  • the date and time you'd like them to do it
  • where you'd like them to do it
  • for how long you'd like to have them (workshops can last as long as three hours, talks are generally not more than thirty minutes to an hour in length)
  • how many people you'd like to serve (particularly in the case of a workshop)
The Tour Coordinator will then contact artists that are suited to fulfill your request and arrange a visit from one of them.

8. How much does an artist visit cost me?
Artist visits cost nothing to you, the exhibitor, unless you request a workshop or class that requires material(s) or equipment that's prohibitively expensive for us to provide. In that case we ask you to either share those particular costs with us, or if they're very high, cover them entirely. But workshops don't have to involve costly materials.

To be very clear, Prairie Tales covers the cost of an artist's travel, accommodation and meals during their visit, and pays them the fee for their services too. You, the exhibitor, don't pay for any of that.