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
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  1. Bryan says:

    If i am looking to get into the film industry it seems you would be a go to guy…Are those festivals easy to access?

  2. This is a very useful rundown on the costs associated with the film festival circuit that most people probably never consider in advance.

    The Success Secrets

  3. Eva says:

    I lived for 3 years in South Korea and one of the things that I enjoyed most was Jeonju’s international Film Festival. Do you know it? It’s great!

    • Shane Kester says:

      Long ago I actually lived in Seoul but the Jeonju international Film Festival wasn’t around then.

  4. Shane,

    Great article!

    I didn’t realize that there was an actual circuit…

    I’ve noticed in these last years that hosting a film festival has become very popular for cities… even Rome started one a few years ago… not a rival to the Venice Film Festival, mind you….

    Definitely will return to your blog for more up-dates on this fascinating world.

    Is Social Media WORKing for you?

  5. Jandy Quismundo says:

    I was just thinking. In stead of going to the movies, wouldn’t it be fun to go to a film festival? I will have to look into that. Typically, what is the entry fee to watch?


  6. G.E. Moon II says:

    This reminds me that I want to go to the Seattle Film Festival next year. I’ve lived in the greater Seattle area for almost 30 years and have yet to attend. Thank you for all of the insightful information.

    Yours In Health!

    G.E. Moon II

  7. Dale Bell says:

    Just like any other business if you want to be noticed and get your product or service out you need to advertise and that cost money. I enjoyed your post.

  8. Darryl Pace says:

    Very interesting insights into a world I know nothing about. Cool post, dude!

    Health, Fitness for Working People — Darryl Pace

  9. Eva says:

    When you mentioned film industry circuit I thougth at first that it was some kind of touristic thing…! fter having read it, it makes a lot of sense!

  10. alam ghafoor says:

    Shane looks like you are the go to man for all things film

  11. The public sees the end product of a movie and most have no idea of what it takes to get it on the screen. Thanks for the background information.
    Yours In Health!

    Dr. Wendy M. Schauer, D.C., R.K.C.
    Come Experience The Power of the Russian KettleBell Revolution at Kettlebell Olympia – Home of A Better Body With Bells!

  12. Shane, your information makes sense. I didnt know that there was so much to the independant film circuit. You could almost set up a guide for people to promote their films.
    Scott Sylvan Bell
    Now go implement!

  13. I bet following a film festival circuit would be a lot of fun. I never knew how films made it into Sundance or Cannes. Very interesting.

    Sabrina Peterson, NASM CPT, CES
    Corrective Exercise for Every Body

  14. Dennis Perry says:

    I’ve never had the opportunity to rub elbows with the stars of the big screen but it sounds like it would be great fun! Thanks for your insights into this interesting field.

  15. I assumed that being a part of the independent fil circuit or life was more compicated and involved than it seems but you have really broken it down. You knowledge will be refreshing to anyone passionate about independent film making.

    Looking forward to more as always!

    Jen Battaglino

    Conquer Your Fear Here

  16. ron says:

    your page looks very good.

  17. Don Hill says:

    Boy, it sounds like there is a lot to invest if your a small outfit trying to make the film festival circuit.


  18. This was a fascinating look inside the film festival industry. I live outside of Austin, which is best known for its live music and SXSW music festival – but they have also been building a film presence and local festival. I had no idea what is involved in trying to win a spot and have your movie premiered or featured. Thanks for the inside scoop!

  19. Hi Shane,

    I like how you point out that there is a process to getting your film in, the marketing of it as you’ve mentioned before, not just send it to the judges and “et voila” magically it gets in and gets booked for distribution.

    Happy Dating and Relationships,

    April Braswellm
    Single Baby Boomer Dating Expert

  20. Alec Grebis says:

    I’m a big movie fan, but I’ve thought of taking it this level. What an exciting experience that must be to be in the middle of it all.

  21. Rae & Mark says:

    This is an eye-opening article, so thanks for that.

    Our only “knowledge”, if you can call it that, is from watching the TV series, Entourage, which we accept may not be representative of real life – after all, it’s a series set in Hollywood, made by Hollywoo.

    Rae & Mark

  22. Rob Northrup says:

    On TV, we see the glamor and the parties.

    It is hard to remember that there are actually people who have to do real work that makes this all happen.

    Seize the Day,
    Survival Rob

  23. When you consider the normal prices in Park City – and where they go during Sundance, shipping and handling has little effect on the big picture. It can easily cost $2000/night for a normal hotel room – if you can get in.

    Do visit High West distillery and see my good friend David Perkins, the owner, while you are there.

  24. Jandy Quismundo says:

    Wow! It must be exciting to live an envied life and be around so many of the elite and the rich and famous in the filming industry! I can’t wait to read more of your articles so I can sound somewhat intelligent after reading your posts, in conversation. Schools now a days are encouraging students to tap into their creative side and film their projects. I will certainly direct them to your site for tips.