Monday, 21 November 2011

Film Festivals

When you make a film, you have several options regarding how to get your film seen. One of your options is to enter it into film festivals. When we completed 'The Innocence of War' back in 2009, we began looking into entering it into short film festivals.

Our Experiences:
Going into it, we didn't know that much about film festivals. We sought advice from lecturers about what to look for. We wanted to make sure we would get decent exposure, a chance to network with other filmmakers and, if there was an submission fee, it would be worth us paying. So Cal did a lot of research into what short film festivals there were and found out more information about them.

One criteria that almost all festivals asked is that our film was not available in the public domain. ie. it was not publicly available on YouTube. Instead, we uploaded it to Vimeo with password protection and supplied the password to the film festivals so that they could consider our film for selection.

Over the next few months, we submitted The Innocence of War into over a dozen different short film festivals, mainly through Withoutabox. Some of them were just simple showings in small venues around the country, whereas some offered us the chance to introduce our film in front of the audience and conduct a Q&A session after the film, and these were the ones we chose to personally attend.

One such festival was Shortcutz London. Although the film was being shown in a bar in Camden rather than a cinema, Shortcutz gave us the opportunity to introduce our film beforehand then answer questions from the host and the audience. This turned out to be an amazing experience. Both the host and the audience were genuinely interested in our film and asked us some excellent questions about, giving us a chance to talk about our creative and technical decisions.

Another festival we submitted the film to was the Fargo Film Festival in North Dakota, USA. For obvious reasons, we couldn't attend this festival personally, but we were pleasantly surprised to discover some time after we submitted the film that it had won 2nd place! As well as being very proud that we had been recognised for our work, it was also a great marketing tool to further promote our work.

Our Advice:
If you are going to submit your work into film festivals, make sure you consider certain things:
  • Submission Fee - Some festivals charge you a fee just to consider your film for their festival, with no guarantee that it will be selected and exhibited. Unfortunately, there are plenty of festivals that will happily just take your money and give you nothing in return, so beware of festivals like this. If you are going to enter them, make sure that the festival will be a genuinely good opportunity for your to exhibit and market your film.
  • Location - Not all festivals show their films in cinemas. In fact, a lot of festivals are held in bars, clubs, cafes, galleries, etc. Before you enter your film, check out where it is going to be held. You don't want spend your time and money traveling to a film festival to learn that your film is being shown in an empty basement underneath a bar.
  • Networking - When you're considering submitting your film to a festival, always check out what opportunities there are for networking. Find out if there is a meet and greet, Q&A, post-screening discussion, etc. These sessions are great opportunities to get feedback on your film and promote your film and yourselves as filmmakers.
  • Reputation - Checking out what the festival was like in previous years can tell you what to expect this time around. Investigate the standard of films from previous years, what the films went on to do, who and how many attended, etc. Also, being accepted into the right festivals can give you a credit on IMDb.

The Lowdown:
To summarise, don't feel like you should apply to absolutely everywhere regardless of cost. By all means enter your film to all free festivals to maximise exposure, but pick and choose the festivals with a submission fee to make sure you're not wasting your money.

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