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Festival Circuit For Short Films Part 1

Festival Circuit For Short Films

Before you set off to promote your short film, at film festivals, you have to clearly identify the goals for your film. Is it just to show it to the world at the festival, perhaps to find a sales agent? Or could it be to find an investor for it or maybe for your next film?

Once you have set your goals, you will be able to choose the right festival for your film. It seems obvious but you have to remember that each festival is different and not every festival is attended by the industry delegates (if this is what you looking for, for instance).

Festivals are also divided into ones that are only for short films and documentaries, for example, and ones, where major players are feature films and shorts, are only screened as sideshows or out of the competition.

What I usually do (since my aim is always to get screened at as many festivals as I can, to get the biggest possible exposure) is to make a list of all the festivals for shorts, that my film qualifies for. Every month I check all the festivals that are marked for deadlines which are due within the next month or two. I repeat this process for about a year.

Many other filmmakers’ methods are to divide festivals into categories starting with the most prestigious such as the festivals below.


Clermont Ferrand (France)
Hamburg (Germany)
Milano (Italy)
Encounters (UK)

Palm Springs(USA)
Aspen Shortsfest(USA)

If you want to go this way, make a list of the most important festivals (check our comprehensive database) and first submit your short to these ones. If you aren’t going to be accepted to any of them, start sending your film to the festivals from your 2nd list, etc.

Most festivals usually don’t want to accept films that are older than two years. So even if you are lucky, you only have two years of festival circuit with your short.

Some festivals (mainly the American ones) have submission fees and you have to decide how much money you are willing to put aside for the submission fees. My rule is to only pay for the most prestigious ones and hope for the best. There are loads of festivals around the world which screen shorts so if you have no money, you still have a good chance that your film will be screened somewhere around the globe.

Talking about money. Film festivals are expensive (regardless of whether you have to pay submission fees or not) so keep a close eye on your budget:   the money spent on postage, promotional materials, submission copies and screening copies, etc.
And this is even before you get accepted to any of them and you decide to go. Of course, sometimes the festival organizers are willing to pay for the participants’ accommodation and stuff but it’s not always this way. And even if they do, it’s useful to have some pocket money.

Over the past few years, online submission services have become quite popular, especially for the paid festivals. The most well-known websites in this field are:

Before you submit your film to any festival make sure that you have all the contracts signed and all the clearances for the music or images have been sorted out. If you don’t have the legalities under your belt, it might be difficult for the festival to accept your film, not to mention trying to sell it to a distributor or gaining a sales agent.

Of course, don’t forget to read the rules and regulations thoroughly before you send your film. It might turn out that there is something you don’t like about the festival (the other day I was just about to send my film to a festival in Italy but I decided to go through the regulations once more and it turned out that the festival wanted me to give them the full rights to screen my film on TV and Internet anytime and anywhere free of charge. That kind of deal could exclude me from selling the film to TV myself or finding an agent who would be willing to represent the film.)

Usually, I send a submission letter to each festival together with a CD with all the press materials on it. I know that some festivals say that press kits end up in the bin but then, once you get accepted to the festival, its staff will ask for all the materials you could include in the press kit. That is why I usually put everything in one envelope. (it saves both, money and time)

Don’t forget to keep a record of all your:
–    Awards.
–    Festival appearances.
–    Upcoming festivals.
–    Screenings.
–    Other events.

You may also check out: 

Festival Circuit For Short Films Part 2

Case Study of a Short Film: “The Man With The Spying Glass” part 1

Case Study of a Short Film: “The Man With The Spying Glass” part 2


Filed under: film festivals

About the Author

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Magda Olchawska is an award-winning independent filmmaker, writer and screenwriter. She writes not only about making films and writing but also about financially independent and sustainable lifestyle. Her current projects include Ecotopia Universe and School Runs.

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