You have slaved for months, maybe even years to perfect your masterpiece, and now it is time for it to be SEEN. With my feature SEAHORSES, we had an excellent festival run that lasted over a year and spanned the entire globe. I am happy to share some insight to help getting your film in film festivals and beyond. No hard fast rules, just some things I came up with! Here are my TEN TIPS TO SUBMITTING TO FILM FESTIVALS:
1) MAKE SURE YOUR FILM HAS A SOLID WEB PRESENCE
Establish a Facebook page for your film, get some cool promotional artwork together, a provocative promotional key artwork, and most importantly, create an inspiring trailer. All of these things will help get your film get noticed and set you apart from the rest of the crowd. Film festival programmers notice these things.
2) SUBMIT TO THE BIG ONES
It is important to first submit your film to top tier festivals that have a strong built-in audience and prestige factor. Many are longshots, but you still need to try. Sundance, Slamdance, Toronto, LA Film Festival, Cannes, Tribeca, NY Film Festival, SXSW, etc...
3) SUBMIT TO FILM FESTIVALS THAT MATCH YOUR FILM
Go to the film festival's websites. Look at their previous official selections. If you have a microbudget film with unknowns, but the festival that you are looking at only picks films with big stars, chances are that you won't get into the festival. Learn about the film festival and programmer's tastes and preferences before you submit. Find festivals that fit your film!
4) CONNECT WITH FILMMAKERS WHO HAVE BEEN SELECTED
Search out the films that have been selected in the past, connect with the filmmakers of the films and ask them about the experience and the selection process. Many filmmakers are very happy to share and give you insight into the way the festival chooses films. It is a great way to make new friends.
5) USE ANY LOCAL CONNECTION YOU HAVE
If you are from Ohio, and the film festival is in Ohio, tell them about it, even if you haven't been home for years. Everyone loves a good story about the local kid making good. If your actors, your producer, your cinematographer is local to an area, it always helps and never hurts, unless they are wanted in that state.
6) CONNECT WITH FESTIVAL PROGRAMMERS
It is hard work being a film festival programmer, spending hours in darkness without human interaction. As a filmmaker, you can work to connect with programmers in polite, non-obnoxious ways. They really do want to find out about you and your film. There are ways to connect on Facebook, Twitter, Instragram, just make sure you and your film are on their radar. Don't do too much, they are busy! Be friendly, positive and do just enough so they are aware of your existance without being a pest. Many will respect that you are working hard bring your film to their attention. Moreover some festivals want to see that you have act together with a good presence in social media.
7) SUBMIT TO MANY FESTIVALS
A veteran film festival programmer told me that if you have an excellent film, you have a 1 in 10 chance to get into a festival. It does become a numbers game. I know submission fees can be expensive, some fests offer wavers of fees to select filmmakers, all you have to do is ask. You can also submit early to take advantage of the lowest submission fees.
8) REJECTION: DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY
Most films get rejected for various reasons beyond the quality of the film. There are not many slots in festival programs, especially for feature films. Stay positive, friendly and keep plugging along. Sometimes films drop of out festvials for many different reasons and there might be room for your film even after a rejection email. Whatever you do, don't burn your bridges, perhaps your next film will be right for their festival.
9) ACCEPTANCE: GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT
Some film festivals will ask you questions regarding your film before the selection process. Provide them with what you are looking for. You got into the festival, congratulations! Make sure you give the festival everything they need to present, and help promote your film within the time frame they provide.
10) HAVE FUN!
This is a great journey and it should be fun. Have fun with the process. Once you get into the film festival, don't get sucked into the competition aspects of the festival. Connect with the selected filmmakers on social media before the film festival. Promote each others work. See new places, make new friends, enjoy the experience. Remember, the best thing you can do for a filmmaker is support their film!
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!