Why enter your film into a film festival?
Film festivals are an important step towards getting distribution for your film. They select the best films and get them an audience and give the film maker an opportunity to make industry connections and, for the best films, the best film festivals will offer an opportunity for distribution via film markets.
Getting accepted into the best film festivals is incredibly competitive but we list 10 tips to help you get your film accepted.
10 tips for film festival success:
(1) Not all film festivals are created equal
With over 7,000 film festivals to choose from it can be confusing and expensive ensuring your film has a successful circuit that won’t break the bank. Thoroughly check out each festival before submitting to make sure it suits your needs. Does it offer plenty of networking events and opportunity to mix with other film makers, is it in a place you’d like to visit, does it screen films in a physical location (ideally cinemas) on a large screen, are there prizes or awards, do you rate its previous winners, what do other filmmakers say about it, are the judges credible, is it a filter festival. The best film festivals will have information on all of these things so that you can decide whether to enter.
(2) Screen, screen, screen
If a film festival tries to restrict you from showing your film online, entering other festivals or insists on premiers it may not be right for you. Unfortunately even some of the more reputable and well-respected festivals try to prohibit you screening at other festivals or releasing your film online. This is utter lunacy that serves the festival not the filmmakers. Many festivals only run once a year, so to comply with such restrictions you could use the most valuable year of your film’s life just waiting to find out if you’ve been accepted. If you take these restrictions seriously you would be reduced to entering just a handful of festivals with very little chance of success so think carefully about it. For certain ‘big name’ films with famous actors this policy makes sense as a global premier with the associated press attention in one place is great marketing for the film, the actors and the festival. However, for the vast majority of films (and all short films) – it makes not sense whatsover as showing the film in one place will not reduce the publicity in the next place. If you are a short film maker and a festival insists on applying such antiquated and self-serving policies either steer clear completely or apply and continue to screen wherever you like (if you get selected let the festival do the detective work). Films are for sharing.
(3) Know the submission rules for film festivals
If you find yourself getting rejected from the the best film festivals, don’t despair there are plenty of excellent niche or local festivals which may offer your film a higher chance of success and will get your film an audience and provide you with the opportunity to make connections. However, for all of the film festivals that you want to submit to, make sure your film is the correct length, genre, and language before submitting. Don’t send your short film to a feature festival, your drama to an animation festival or gore fest to a family friendly film festival.
(4) For short films – it’s all about the length of your film
The most common complaint we hear about short films is they are too long. Embrace the challenge of the genre and make your film as short and concise as possible. When it comes to festivals short is most definitely sweet. Quality screening time is expensive and limited and festivals want to show as many films as possible in the time they have. A 30-min film would take a third of a 90 minute screening so would need to be three times as entertaining as a 10-minute film.
(5) Excite the film festival judges
Film festival judges will be watching dozens of films a day and make a decision very quickly. Make sure your film has an attention grabbing start, that’s well made with good sound. You don’t want your film rejected in the first few minutes because of a dodgy start. Ask some people you trust to watch your film before you finish the edit – ask for very honest feedback and don’t be offended or defensive when they give it. It’s far better being told your film is too long, or the ending is confusing when there’s still time to make changes than when a judge thinks the same and rejects it.
(6) Step into the light
Avoid too many very dark or night scenes – or think of ways to subtlety light them. Projecting films mean they play darker in a cinema and very often ‘mysterious, romantic, scary or atmospheric moments turn in to long black holes during screenings. Many a good film will be rejected because it just won’t play well in a cinema. Make sure your post production team/editor/mate knows it’s intended to play on a big screen and they should brighten accordingly.
(7) Have a laugh
There is always a shortage of good comedies on the film festival circuit which is annoying because there’s nothing like a good laugh to raise the mood in a cinema. With festivals clamouring for the best comedies the secret is to make audiences laugh and you’ve got yourself a golden ticket.
(8) Film festival judges are all ears
Many inexperienced directors make the common mistake of focusing on the camera work and the visuals and simply forget about the importance of good sound – until they get to the edit when it will literally come crashing down. Sound is just as, if not more, important than the visuals so record your sound professionally because a cinema experience won’t help your sound it will amplify its faults.
(9) For short film festivals, think small
Consider making a micro film (under five minutes). They are cheap, fast, fun and best, festivals cannot get enough high quality, delicious bite-sized morsels of entertainment.
(10) Learn from your mistakes
If you don’t get accepted for a film festival politely ask for honest feedback. Good film festivals should be happy to help you improve so you come back even stronger.