Why Submit To Film Festivals?

By June 22, 2018 Rebel Film Blog

Festival Thoughts

I’m going to be writing a blog that will both offer some insights into how we do things at Rebel, and should also have some wider advice that can be applied to other festivals when you are making decisions to submit; hopefully it should help you achieve a greater success with your film’s festival run, and more importantly than that, improve what you actually achieve personally from that run.

Now this series is going to (hopefully) be a weekly one, and I would say that it is in no particular order – except that everything has to be in a particular order, it’s just that the order really isn’t that important. So if there is a particular topic that interests you then you don’t need to read all the preceding blogs to get the benefit. Dip in and out as you see fit, it will only hurt my feelings a little if you miss a week…

So you’ve finished your film. Awesome! Take a moment to be proud… Alright that’ll do, you made a film, you didn’t end global poverty. Still, it’s pretty exciting, but the works not over yet. So I figure a good place to start is where everyone starts – deciding which festivals to submit to once you are at this stage. Also, if you don’t give this proper consideration it can get pretty expensive, pretty quickly, so it’s worth the time I promise.

Now for the more veteran to the fest circuit there is a fair chance that these considerations came much earlier, and definitely for feature film makers, the intended audience is going to play a massive factor in the production itself. But let’s just assume you got this far with only artistic vision in mind and now you have a film that is awesome, naturally, but don’t know where to screen it.

What are you hoping for?

Firstly, you need to think about what you want to achieve. There’s a whole host of reasons to submit to film festivals, but they are not all going to be of interest to you. So maybe we should take a look at some and decide.


it’s pretty nice to be able to add “award winning filmmaker” to the CV, but it doesn’t really make you stand out these days as awards can sadly be bought at some of the more unscrupulous festivals anyway. There are of course some awards that will make you stand out, like an Oscar, or one from a prestigious festival such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes, Toronto etc. But beyond the career enhancing prospect of these magnificent laurels, it is also a pretty nice feeling to be recognised for producing an excellent film. At Rebel, alongside the jury and audience selections we also try to team up with an expert guest judge, like the incredible Roger Deakins at our Plymouth event, and with a palmarès like his it certainly brings a bit of prestige to that particular award, even if our others are more for bragging rights.

Sales and Press

Really only a consideration for features, but definitely a high priority one. Festivals are a great port of call for distributors as they do the hard work of filtering out the best films from the hundreds of unsolicited ones that land on the desks of distributors every week. At Rebel this is something that we really want to be able to help our filmmakers with, although at the moment we are not big enough to be attractive to distributors. But we are growing… so watch this space.


Connections are important, and festivals offer a great environment to make them. We do our best to encourage the filmmakers to attend, and know this is where the value of our events lie. The beers are flowing and everyone is in a good mood, so great things are likely to happen if you put yourself out there, and it’s always nice to hear of success stories from past editions. Whether that is a film produced by a team that met at the fest, or a young filmmaker able to take a positive review from Roger Deakins with them to their NFTS admission.

Audience and feedback

Increasing your audience is naturally pretty important, and while festivals may be a bit limited in the numbers they reach when compared to VOD or other online options, what they do provide is a live audience to gain insights from. There is no feeling quite like sitting in the audience watching your own film with a bunch of strangers, especially ones that have paid to watch your film. The reactions are honest, unlike your aunty Julies, and can be incredibly encouraging and helpful.

Cut to the chase

There may be some goal that you are pursuing that one or more of these may help with, there may be some entirely different reason for submitting to a particular fest, but we’ll get on to that in a later blog as this one is getting pretty long already. What I will say is that most fests, like ours, are only worth submitting to if you plan on attending.

So what is the moral of the story? Basically, the first thing you should be doing is thinking what you want to achieve, and whether festivals are the best route. For example, for early career filmmakers they can be a great place to meet some like minded people and make friends that will be useful allies down the road, but you don’t necessarily have to have a film in competition to achieve this; why not just turn up and get stuck into some networking events, Rebel fests are basically one long networking event punctuated by some amazing films, so drop by and say hello.

Thanks for reading if you got this far, next week I’ll be looking at how to decide which fests are right for you. Spoiler alert, it’s gonna involve some research. Please feel free to comment below any questions or if you want to add anything on the subject that would be useful.


Author Will Jenkins

More posts by Will Jenkins

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