Which Independent Film Festival

Which Film Festival?

Berlinale Film Festival – East Berlin

This is an important question to the independent film maker.  You can’t possibly submit your film to all the festivals out there.  Some festivals will be more productive for you to attend than others.  If this is your first short film and it’s production value suffers from your non-existent budget and your best friends aren’t the best actors in the world and your story line could use some doctoring and your cinematographer (probably you) could have framed the shots with a little more expertise, you may not want to add your project to the avalanche of DVD submissions at Telluride or Sundance.  You might want to consider your local film festivals, some niche festivals or new festivals that are growing in popularity and garner some experience and recognition at the lower echelons of the festival circuit.  At the Edinburgh International Film Festival this year I listened to a panel of experienced directors, producers and film festival participants explain that if you’ve got something worth competing in the festival circuit, there are some great festivals out there that are not the major big dogs but that in some cases get your film more extensive exposure.  Some of these smaller yet experienced festivals still have a very personal touch and you can (respectfully) contact the people behind the scenes to make yourself known to them and find out what it is they are looking for that year.

Genre Film Festivals

There are some festivals that are solely dedicated to short films, some festivals are dedicated to a specific genre, some festivals have a specific mission or objective.  It wouldn’t sense at all to submit your horror story about a psychopathic cross-dressing serial killer who targets his list of ex-gay lovers in a campaign of lust, greed and revenge, to the Heart of Gold film festival in Australia which “screens short films that are entertaining, funny, thought-provoking, uplifting and present a positive view of the world and humanity.”

Film Festivals and Withoutabox

One of the best resources for the independent film maker to find out about film festivals throughout the world is Withoutabox.com.  Withoutabox is an online resource of a vast number of film festivals their submission deadlines and objectives.  You can set up a “watch list” and receive reminder emails that a certain film festival is approaching.  You can also set Withoutabox up with a festival search criteria that fits your desired festival such as Outside the USA, Start-up Festivals, Established Festivals, Deadlines, Call For Scripts etc.  Withoutabox will have a list of categories of competition and information about the festival.  Most importantly it will have the MISSION & OBJECTIVE section that will tell you what the festival is looking for in their competition.

Why Festivals?

So why go through all this expense and headache of getting your film to a festival?  Why for glory, honor and riches of course.  You spend all this time preparing, shooting, editing, eating, drinking and sleeping your film and now it’s time to show it to more than your friends and family, as well as hear what people really think about it.  The festival can help you accomplish your goal as an independent film maker and move you up the ranks to where it is you want to be.  So where do you want to be.  I as so many young people that say they want to go to film school or get in to film, what do you want to do?  And they don’t have a clue.  There are thousands of jobs you could do from accounting and law, to catering and clean up to acting and producing.  We will talk about some goals of going to “film school” or “getting into film” might be in later blogs.

Written by Shane Kester

The Film Festival Circuit

The last film festival I attended this year was the Edinburgh International Film Festival.  Some of the greatest films were premiers at EIFF including, Dr. Zhivago, Taxi Driver, Blade Runner, Back to the Future, Pulp Fiction and E.T. to name a few.  I’ve made an effort to hit more of the major film festivals in Europe and learn the ropes at each one.  I run across a lot of people that want to do the “film festival circuit” and ask me a lot of good questions and I’m going to answer some of them.YouTube Preview Image

For those of you out there that have heard of the “film festival circuit,” you may catch yourself at some point actually asking, “what is the festival circuit?”  You hear independent film makers say they are going to do the “film festival circuit” with their film but most don’t really understand the process and what it entails.  Most independent film makers think that they will send their finished films to Sundance, Tribeca, Cannes, Venice or a myriad of other top festivals without realizing one thing… they are very hard to get into.  Not just on the basis of merit, because I’ve know a lot of great films that didn’t get accepted for one reason or another that still rose to high acclaim.  There are more reasons why your film might not be accepted to a film festival than there are differing opinions in the world.  Your film could be rejected because it’s not as good as you think it is or it didn’t fit into this years theme or out of the 100,000 plus entries they could only accept 10 entries in your category (dismal odds for anyone).

When contemplating the “film festival circuit,” most independent film makers do not take into consideration the high cost involved with submitting a film.  Just to submit a short film to Sundance you will have to pay between $30-$75 plus shipping.  To submit a feature film it will cost between $40-$100 plus shipping.  Other festivals can cost much more.  If you’re going to do the “film festival circuit,” how many festivals did you plan on submitting to?  Ten festival will run you between $300-$1,000 plus shipping just to see if you can get in.  Thirty submission will run you between $900-$3,000 plus shipping.  This is already exceeds the budgets of most short films. 

Submissions are usually accepted on simple DVD or video formats but if you are accepted to the festival there are usually rules about the medium shown at the festival.  It’s changing, but most of the top festivals still only accept actual celluloid films, especially for the feature catagories.  If they do accept other formats you will probably have to pay for transfers to DigiBeta, HD Cam or 35mm film at an additional cost that you need to be prepared for.  And if your film is going to a foreign festival, you’ll have to pay for translation and subtitling into that language.

Once you get accepted to a festival are you going to attend?  A few days in Park City or Berlin is going to cost you several thousand dollars or more.

You want your film to be seen by more than just your family and friends and film festivals are a great place to celebrate your accomplishment.  The independent film maker needs to always be prepared with a “promotion” budget to do the “film festival circuit.” 

In a follow up article I’ll discuss some of the options for the independent film maker when it comes to which festivals to submit to.  Sometimes bigger isn’t better and some festivals will only accept your film if it is a premier showing in a certain category.  All these tips will help you plan a more successful “film festival circuit.” 

Written by Shane Kester