Submitting Films to Film Festivals
If you are short of money, you need to find as many free of charge festivals as possible and keep a detailed budget of all your pre-festival expenses such as:
– Promotional materials.
– Submission copies.
– Screening copies.
– Festival fees.
When it comes to submission fees you, as a filmmaker, have to decide whether this specific festival is worth paying the fee or not. Most European festivals are free of charge. Most North American festivals need to be paid for, and some of them are pretty expensive. I usually pay for the most prestigious festivals for shorts, and I typically advise my colleagues to set a fee limit and stick to it such as £50 or so. Apparently, it depends on how high you value your movie and what chances you see for it being accepted. Otherwise, you might spend more money on the submission fees than you spend on making the film
Once the festival gets your submission form and your film, they usually get in touch just to let you know that they have got it. But it happens, and not that seldom, that the festival doesn’t get in touch and then you are left wondering. In that case, you have got two options choices. You can either e-mail them, asking politely if they have got your film or you wait until the call for submission ends and you will be able to check the website to see if your movie was accepted
Some festivals don’t inform you that your film was received but put that information on their site. That is when you need your record book of the festivals you submitted your film to. It might be time-consuming but making a film is time-consuming and promoting it shouldn’t be any different.
If you want to write to the festival organisers regarding your submission, I would first advise you to check the festival website and see when the call for submissions ends. You will see if any information regarding films accepted has been posted on it. If nothing is given, you can write a nice e-mail asking when the decision, about submissions, is going to be made. You probably won’t have time for it but still, don’t be a nuisance and, don’t write to each festival a million times each day.
Once you have been accepted to the festival, send the festival programmer/director a thank you e-mail or card and start thinking about whether you are going to make it to the festival or not.
Of course part of any competition is a rejection. Unfortunately, you will most probably get loads of rejection emails from festivals before you get accepted to any of them but it doesn’t mean that your film is bad. You have to remember that each programmer has a different taste in movies and that it may be a different taste to yours. I know that often it’s hard to handle the rejection, especially when it seems like everything that bounces back is a rejection. That is why it’s always good to have your support team next to you, to comfort you.
If you are accepted to the festival and decide to attend it (remember only go if you can really afford it, your next film may need the budget more), you need to research it and organize the logistics for your travel and stay (ask the festival organisers if they will cover the travel and/or hotel expenses, some festivals participate in the costs). You will have to, or you should at least, research the local media and focus groups that might be interested in your film and be prepared marketing wise.
If you have not thought about your film’s visual identity before, this is the time to do it. Contact an excellent graphic designer who can help you create a poster, postcards, stickers and of course your business cards, without which you don’t attend any festival!!! If you have some extra money, you can also create some other promotional materials such as pendants, badges, t-shirts or something similar that could help you to create goodie bags.
Of course, we live in the era of the internet so don’t forget about the website for your film where all the marketing and press information are included such as:
– Synopsis (various lengths).
– Cast and crew list.
– Trailer & clip reel.
– Bio/filmography for the original cast and crew.
– Posters (if you have any).
– Contact information.
– Screening times and places.
All the information ought to be easily downloadable for the media, bloggers, etc.
If you don’t have the resources to build the website for your film or if you have a short film and don’t want to spend any extra money on the website, you can try our film summaries page that will help you build the website.
It is also handy to have someone to help you put posters and fliers around the town once you get to the festival. You can either use your crew members who are travelling with you or use your family if they are coming.
It is vital to know who you are going to take with you to the festival. If it’s only going to be cast and crew or if it’s going to be the professional help as well (such as a publicist, a PR representative, a sales agent, lawyers etc.). Of course, it all depends on your budget and what you are planning to achieve at the festival. Most feature films want to be sold to distributors, and most short films want to either get a sales agent or try to find someone interested in their next project. A short film is still your calling card, and it’s very unlikely that it’s going to make you filthy rich.
Before you arrive at the festival try to get hold of a delegate book/list and arrange meetings with people you would like to talk to. Don’t forget to let the media know that you are willing and available for interviews.
While at the festival do not forget to attend as many panels, screenings, discussions, Q&A’s as you can. Prepare yourself for introducing your film and for the Q&A sessions.
If you still have some time, check the venue where your film is going to be screened as well as talk to the operator about the screening ration, sound etc.
When the festival is over, you have to go back home (sooner or later). Once you’re home, check your list of the goals that you set yourself for the festival and cross off what you managed to achieve. Fulfil all the promises you made regarding screeners or future projects. Follow up with the press letting them know that you can provide any information they need. Also get in touch with other filmmakers who you met at the festival and start getting ready for the next festival or the next film.
You may also check out:
Festival Circuit for Short Films Part 1
Case Study of a Short Film: “The Man With The Spying Glass” part 2