Producer Leky Lin Harnesses Film Festivals' Promotional Power

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The Lottery team. (L–R) Jialiang He (Director of Photography), Jingwei Zhou (Composer), Xixi Liu (Editor) and Leky Lin (Producer). Photo courtesy of Leky Lin.

As producer of the short film The Lottery, Academy of Art University School of Motion Pictures & Television graduate student Leky Lin wasted no time putting classroom teachings into practice. The lessons from Patricia Pawlak’s film distribution and film festival preparation class, in combination with Lin’s work ethic and the strength of the film itself, have propelled The Lottery to remarkable success on the film festival circuit.

A morality tale and a musical rolled into one, The Lottery tells the story of a homeless orphan named Billy who steals a winning lottery ticket from the town drunk, then second guesses his decision. The film’s creative team, comprised of Academy students past and present, includes screenwriter Raiza Centeno and director Hanrui Wang. Invited on board as a producer, Lin was excited by the challenge of working on a musical.

He was also attracted to the film’s message. The Lottery reminds viewers that first impressions aren’t always accurate, and shows how offering compassion and understanding instead of suspicion and contempt can change a situation. For orphans like Billy, “If they have someone to guide them, they can learn from their mistakes and become a good person,” Lin said. 

Pawlak knew The Lottery would stand out at festivals. “It cheers you up. It’s shot well, and on the big screen it submerges you.” Her class gives students the tools to take advantage of the opportunities that film festivals present. A longtime film distribution pro, Pawlak advises students to identify a goal for any festival they attend. Whether the aim is to gain an audience, find a job or secure funding, “That goal will dictate how you maneuver the film festival,” she said.


Poster for The Lottery. Image courtesy of Leky Lin.

Lin’s goal was simple—to get more people to watch The Lottery. Shortfalls in budget and staffing led Lin, who studied marketing as an undergraduate, to focus his energy on the promotional power of film festivals. In April, the film won a Gold Remi Award at WorldFest Houston, a competition that receives more than 4,500 entries each year. Approximately 15 percent win a Remi. 

For The Lottery, that was only the beginning. Thirteen festivals have awarded the film in categories including best short, best musical short, best producer, best young filmmaker, best cinematography and best original screenplay. Eleven more festivals recognized The Lottery with a nomination. “Every time I receive an award, I know it is not an award for myself, it’s for the whole crew and every one of the helpers,” said Lin.

Most recently, The Lottery won the Golden Angel Award for Best Short Film at the Chinese American Film Festival. In addition, it is being screened in cities such as Boston, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Shanghai as part of the North American Chinese Directors Short Film Tour.

In October, the International Family Film Festival (IFFF), which promotes work that expresses respect for positive values, named “The Lottery” Best Student Musical Short Film. “People were riveted when they heard him talk at IFFF,” said Pawlak, who praised Lin’s intelligence, sense of artistry, kindness, charm, energy and hardworking attitude. “He understood that this isn’t magic. You have to do the footwork.”

That includes talking to festival goers about the film, handing out promotional postcards, posting flyers in nearby shops and restaurants, carrying a laptop for impromptu screenings, and meeting as many people as possible. While Lin initially viewed his new film festival connections as soft, one yielded a job on a Chinese director’s feature film, and another led to a friendship with a Taiwanese director. 

“Film festivals are a very good place for a student filmmaker,” said Lin. For those who are shy, like him, Lin recommends reaching out to the volunteer staff, both via email or text before the festival and in person during the event. “They’ll help you so much. They can introduce you to people. If you have someone to act as a referral, it gets you more trust.” 

Lin is exploring distribution avenues for The Lottery too. Inspired by film’s power to change people’s lives, he hopes to partner with organizations that help the homeless in an effort to foster empathy, awareness and hope. He has also pitched short film packages to airlines and bus companies and asked CCTV’s short film channel to broadcast the film.

Given his training, confidence, professionalism and drive, Lin seems well positioned for success—and that’s no coincidence. “It is not arbitrary that he is successful. He listens, learns, applies what he has learned and works hard to reach his goals,” Pawlak wants students to know. “They can do it, too.”