The Film Festival Labyrinth

11 Oct

Independent filmmakers dream of screening their films at top film festivals across the globe.  Though acceptance at top fests may not lead to instant success, it sure will point you in the right direction.

Unfortunately, for the filmmaker on a budget (name one that isn’t), festival submission fees add up fast, ranging from $35 to $200!  As a result, one cannot take a scattershot approach.  So with nearly 4000 festivals in North America alone, how does one decide which to submit to?

I definitely don’t have the answer, and now that I’m submitting Girlfriend 19 to festivals, I wish I had one.  Of course, if your film is pretty good, then you owe it to yourself, your cast and your crew to go for the big ones.  But then what?  There are a ton of other great festivals around the world that are worth submitting to, but, again, one must be budget conscious.  $50 here, $50 there adds up fast.

Navigating the festival world has been nothing less than labyrinthine.  There are books, seminars, and word-of-mouth, but, in the end, it’s like dating: you have no idea who will be a good match and it takes a lot of expensive dates to find out…

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3 Responses to “The Film Festival Labyrinth”

  1. Jim October 14, 2011 at 9:15 am #

    This is a serious problem. One tactic I use is that I never apply to a festival OTHER than during the “earlybird” deadline period when the entry fee is the lowest. This requires significant planning and lead time, but saves $10 every time, more or less.

    One warning: I refuse to use the “online screener” feature of WAB. If you read the fine print in the Terms & Conditions, you are basically giving away the film to WAB ->IMDB -> Amazon, which I kinda don’t want to do for free.

    • Christopher October 14, 2011 at 9:47 am #

      Good to hear from you, Jim. I was shocked when I saw some of the earlybird dates. I think it was London Independent which had an earlybird deadline in July, 2011 and the festival takes place in April, 2012! That’s nuts….

      A friend of mine, who co-founded the LA Film Festival and who is now a film festival consultant, believes that one’s chances are increased when they submit their film about 3 weeks before the Late deadline. That means more pay! His reasoning is that the festival programmers are fully awake at that point and on high alert for films to program. I’m sure others would argue that it’s too late at that point…

      But, yeah, $10 saved here and there adds up!

      And believe me, there is nothing attractive to me about the online screener. You absolutely cannot be sure what your film is going to look like as they screen it on their computer. And that clause in the terms you pointed out is ridiculous – thanks for the heads up.

      Hope to hear from you again :)

      -Christopher

      • Jim October 14, 2011 at 10:03 am #

        For five years, I was on the committee of our little local shorts festival, the Carrboro Film Festival. Passing around DVDs is a pain, but I totally agree with you: I am very concerned with the variety of possible computer screens and viewing conditions for the online screeners. It makes the logistics of judging easier at the expense of the visual quality of the films. Not a good tradeoff in my opinion.

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