So if you’ve come here from part one – Why Submit To Film Festivals?, firstly, thanks for giving me a reason to keep writing this series, but more importantly, you will already have a good idea in your mind why you want to submit your latest film to festivals. So the next logical step is to decide which festivals are a best fit for you.
Now, I’m not going to do the work for you because your personal journey is going to be unique to you, and you’ve got to make those decisions for yourself. But the key to making the right one’s is going to be down to your research, and let’s face it, there’s never been an easier time than now to find the info you are looking for so there’s no real excuse. Of course, there are also some great services out there that will take the legwork out of it for you if you just want to get on with the important business of making films, one that we particularly like is Festival Formula so check them out if you are into your shortcuts to success.
So where should I start? Well, submissions platforms are great resources not only for submitting, duh, but increasingly for doing some good old fashioned sleuthing. So dust off the deerstalker, fire up that pipe, and get on the case. Head over to FilmFreeway for a whole wealth of important info as your starting point on a festival.
But what are we looking for? Well, it’s going to depend on what you are looking to achieve naturally, but there are a whole load of handy searches to narrow the field. You can find Oscar qualifying fests, fests that have been around a while, genre fests, or simply the best reviewed. You can also filter by location (to some extent), and fees, which seems sensible if you have a limited budget. Either way this initial filtering should leave you with a more manageable number of options.
Now comes the more time consuming part, looking into the festivals. Let’s face it, you aren’t going to be short of options, even if you are looking for a pretty niche genre fest there are generally going to be a lot out there, it’s a pretty saturated marketplace at the moment. The problem is not with the number, but with the quality, there are plenty of fairly shifty fests out there so have a think about what value a festival is offering you before you submit.
Without filmmakers there are no fests, so in our opinion they should always be the primary consideration in decision making. This isn’t always the case, so be on the lookout for red flags like poor communication, “everyone wins” award structures, lack of transparency as to who is running the fest, no photos (although first year fests may not have any naturally, so make your own judgements there), inactive social media, events without venues or phone numbers… Generally just anything you would normally be on the lookout for when online shopping.
As I mentioned in the last blog, it is my opinion that at least 99% of festivals are not going to be worth the entry fee unless you plan on attending, ours included. To be excluded from this list you really need to have the kind of credibility or film market that will open doors for your selected filmmakers. So naturally if I was making these decisions I’d want to know what the event was like, photos and reviews will give a great indication of what to expect.
Play Your Cards
To increase my chances of success I’d also be looking for festivals in my list that are close to me, or offer a favourable advantage due to genre or some positive discrimination demographic; although as a heterosexual white male that’s either no festivals, or every fest, depending on who you ask. It is definitely a thing for festival programmers to be favourably bias towards local filmmakers, and it makes sense to be, so take advantage of that. Here at Rebel Film Festival we try to programme at least 25% of our films from the local area and at least 50% from UK based filmmakers. The reason for this is twofold, firstly we are really keen to support grassroots filmmaking locally and grow that community, and secondly, fests rely on the help of filmmakers to grow their audience, so it is important for us to have people that are likely to attend and help spread the word. Any festival that tells you otherwise is either lying or too big to care, either way they may not be the best option because of that.
Okay, so there’s some food for thought there and I think I’ll leave you to it for now. Join me next week as we move onto ways to increase your chance of acceptance from fests; there’s lots of ways so it may be in several parts, or just super long depending on how much time I have over the weekend, but probably several parts because it’s super hot at the moment. As ever, comments/questions very welcome below, and I will always do my best to answer. Cheers.