View Full Version : Have a Q about Film Festivals? Ask Here.


WideShot
08-30-2011, 02:00 PM
After 6 years of running an international film festival, being involved in every facet, working with other festival directors, watching thousands of independent films, and screening hundreds, I thought maybe some of you might have a question to ask or two, that you might want the real truth on. So fire away. I will do my best to give you a straight answer, some things are trade secrets so I cannot comment on them but anything else is fair game.

Background on me: After making several short films, I teamed up with my father who has been an independent filmmaker off and on for 40 years and a number of other film/video pros and started what would become the Lakedance International Film Festival in Sandpoint Idaho in 2006, it grew to be the largest festival in the Inland Northwest, and we screened hundreds of indie films and hosted filmmakers from around the world. As we could not grow the festival beyond where it was in Sandpoint, we moved the event last year to Edmonds, Washington, a town by our estimation that was ready to pick up where Sandpoint left off. After a terrific demonstration event last year, we were ready to have a 9 day event this year, but negotiations with one of the major parties necessary stopped, the state of Washington has eliminated their tourism department and film incentive package, relegating the event to a no-go. After 6 years of running film festivals, and having what became a year-round job as festival director, I realized it was preventing me from continuing to make films, so in light of our situation, we have elected to continue our filmmaking careers rather than move the festival again or hold out for all parties in Edmonds to start working together again.

So let me start by answering some FAQs:

Is there some secret thing I can do to get my film into XYZ festival?

A: Yes, a few things: 1) Make an amazing film that will blow the screening committee out of the water. Failing that, just don't make any of the frequent, basic mistakes that many filmmakers make - bad sound levels, DVD doesn't play, acting not very good, dialogue stiff as a board, etc. 2) Have your film presented to the festival by someone of note or repped by a festival insider or agency with pull. this was not the case with us, but is the case elsewhere, it's very true. 3) Make your film the right length for the subject material - A documentary is very difficult to decide the right length, but honestly ask yourself - "can it be any shorter?". There's only so much programming time and theres a lot of films to choose from.

And that's very important to understand - the sheer numbers involved here. Simple math will tell you if a festival screens 100 films a year and receives 1000 submissions, that 1 in 10 gets accepted. Lets say that 50% of the submissions were just not very good or in some way disqualified themselves. That means that your film is competing with 5 other films for a screening slot. Lets say that only 2 of those other films are as good as your film, that means that your film has a 1 in 3 chance of being selected against films that are every bit as "good" and playable as your film. Its simply a numbers game. Now think about Sundance with 10000 entries and they play about 180. Do THAT math! Thats why you shouldn't get too concerned if you only get into 2 or 3 out of 10 fests...

Do I have to follow all of the rules of the festival? What if I don't have what they are asking for?

A: Don't piss off the festival by not following the rules. If they ask you to send in two copies of the DVD and you send one, and you're not Quentin Tarantino, you're already screwing up. Remember, there are reasons the festival asks you to do something - like put your ID# or TRT on the disc - and it usually has to do with their workflow. Don't mess up their workflow unless you want them to send your entry to the round filing bin (we never did this). Very important: If you really don't know about something they are asking for or if it would be a lot of trouble for you to get something to them, ASK THEM. Believe it or not they really will communicate with you (most of the time unless maybe its like a day before the final deadline).

Does sending my film in early help?

A: Getting your film in at the earliest possible time... I can't think of any real disadvantage, only many many advantages. I guess the disadvantage is you have to wait longer to find out if its been accepted. Try not to bug the festival unless it is simply to find out if they received the film and if they need anything else. They have a notification date on their website and they will notify you (or maybe they only notify or post the accepted films, make sure to double check that).

How do I know they even watch my film at all?

A: Really you don't, unless they grade it or send you notes on it. However, if you send it in early, and if you follow their rules, you can feel 99% satisfied that they at least popped it in their DVD machine to check it out. Of course, we watched every film until it disqualified itself or it simply was not going to work for the festival.

What do I really get for getting into a festival? Which one is right for me?

A: If you are new to showing your film at a festival, getting into any festival will be its own reward. Its a wonderful experience to be part of the show, meet other filmmakers, be treated like an accomplished artist, and show your film to an audience. The only thing I would say is investigate the festival a little and make sure at least there is a real festival behind the website and that they don't just show films in a room with whoever shows up. You want a real experience and there are plenty of real fests out there to not waste your time on one that has a dubious reputation.

If you have been playing the fest circuit, chances are you are over seeing your film played before an audience. Realistically, most of the laughs, chuckles, and comments happen at the same time in most fests with most auds. Time of day, size of crowd and how the on-screen action is taken by a local crowd tends to have something to do with it, but most of the time, the response is the same city to city. So what else do you look for? All the other perks - networking, freebies, awards, other experiences like workshops, and so on. A festival is place to party with your film, meet cool people, and enjoy a new town, but don't expect much more than that.

Will I and my film be discovered if I get into XYZ festival?

Although certainly there are quite a few top-tier festivals with great industry participation, where buzz about your film will equal buzz about you and potentially some interest in your film or career, the fact is the "Napoleon Dynamite" situations are very few and far between (think a needle in a haystack). Don't enter a festival hoping for that, enter because you know the experience will be rewarding (most likely the networking by itself will be worth it). Instead, if you have a great film, consider any buzz or benefits you get from a festival run to be an added bonus that will help the film, not the entirety of the media or live showing attention your film should get. Its your job as a filmmaker to incorporate a festival run into the film's life cycle, not the festival's job to provide a full life cycle to a film.

Let me make an important point here: When you enter a festival, remember that if all that happens is either A) they watched your film and did not accept it, or B) they watched your film and will screen it, that is ALL they are required to do. Anticipating free airfare or lavish parties are not necessarily what you will get from the festival.

That being said, you may just be discovered and your film could be picked up by a distributor, or repped by an agent, it just doesn't happen all that often.

My film was perfect fit for the festival - it was the right length, the right genre, and I'm a local filmmaker (aren't they supposed to be supporting local filmmakers??), but they rejected it - why?

A: There can be all kinds of reasons. Maybe the film didn't play in their DVD player. Maybe you didn't follow a rule, or submitted too late and they didn't have room for your 25 minute "short film". Unless the festival is VERY transparent or you know someone on the inside, you probably won't get an answer directly, so just move on. I had a film I made rejected from a local fest similarly, and the next year the fest went belly-up it turns out they had all kinds of problems going on in-house, so you just never know.

How much does length REALLY matter? If a festival has an under 20 minute short film category will they accept my 21 minute film?

A: Length matters a LOT but is not the total reason a film is accepted or not, it just means the longer a film is, the less room there is for it in the festival. Another reason to send in early is if your film is pushing 18,19,20 minutes, get it in early so they can plan AROUND the film. That's how it worked with us, we would have half a dozen or so A+ short films that it would have taken a totally mind-blowing film to move out of the way, and finally these films would be programmed into slots and moved around until there was no time left to program. Hence why 1-5 minute great films would always find a spot with us (and in most festivals its the same way), and why 20 minute films had to be very good to be in.

You have to think of the audience too - a 20 minute span of time is a long time, and a film has to be entertaining for 20 minutes. If it feels like a 10 minute film stretched to 20 minutes, then it probably won't cut it with the auds. The last thing we as a fest want is for our auds to say "these guys choose crummy short films, I'm not coming back".

So make it as short as possible.

Features are the same thing. But it really comes down to how many venues, days, hours, and programming style a festival has with how flexible they can be on length. One thing is for sure - if they say 20 minute max short film and yours is 25 minutes, ask before you send. They may still tell you yes, but make sure that 25 minutes is good enough to beat out something they had chosen for a 20 minute slot AND a 5 minute slot (2 films!)

What can I do to be a great filmmaker at a festival?

First, realize festivals are not faceless organizations operating inside of a bunker. They are real caring people who love the arts and want to support independent film. Try not to take them and their opinions too seriously (as one fest may reject your film, and another give it the grand prize of the festival!) But try to be a pro-active filmmaker who tries to maximize the experience - start by promoting yourself and your film to anyone who will listen, and get in contact with all the local media outlets and start promoting your film and the screening time - offer to send a screening DVD and point them to a trailer on your website - more often then not you will end up with a great promo on your film! Dont forget about local TV/radio stations and look up the morning news shows as potential places to appear if you are attending the festival. Oh, and try to attend as many of the fests as you can. Even if you can't attend, still try to make an attempt to promote the film. Once at the fest, try to actively promo - hand out postcards, post flyers or posters, talk with people... be very active and network network network.

One of the things about networking is its not just about "what can I gain from being networked with this person", its "what can they gain from you", and more importantly, will they think you for their next project, do they know someone to help you with your next project, etc? At a minimum, starting a great industry/fan supporter base, keeping them informed at what you are working on is essential. And I have seen MANY cases of filmmakers who met at our festival and teamed up in a capacity on a future project. I have seen MANY filmmakers who had a small film at our festival but went on to do bigger and better things. You never know what that person who is having their first film at a film festival might do a year or five from now so stay in touch. Also, if you have a project you are gearing up for next, make sure you are ready to pitch it at a moments notice and try to do so to anyone who is interested.

Finally, please remember to thank the festival staff if you can after the fest if you had a good time. It doesn't take much but remember, they went out of their way to choose your film and give you that experience, a simple "Thank you, really enjoyed it" goes a long ways. While were at it follow up with networked people IMMEDIATELY, email is probably best. Follow up with media too! Remember, when you put that DVD up for sale, or move on to another project, these people already like you and your film so make sure to let them know!

How do I choose the right festivals for my film? How many should I enter?

A: This is decided by your budget, ability to travel, and really, what you want to get out of your festival run. There is a lot to be had - networking, exposure, awards, freebies, etc. but not all is right for all types and profiles of films. We have played great films like Last Stop for Paul, Binta Y La Gran Idea, The Garage, Flyboys, and many more that played over 50 festivals en route to a big exposure run. That costs money, especially if you are planning to travel to the festivals. So here is my quick way to decide how to enter:

1) The closer it is to your home, the more you should enter. If its in your hometown, its quick for you to travel there if accepted and the festival knows it will help in promotions, so it should be a mandatory - if there is a nearby fest, enter it.

2) Regional/state fests you can get to by car and be back at work on Monday is a plus. It is possible to do so by air too, but airfare is not cheap and sometimes awards are not held till Sunday night so either a red-eye or you might be "cough cough wink wink" sick Monday AM.

3) Realize national events that you enter that are far away from your hometown are not going to recognize any "local" benefit to have you be part, so make sure you really choose those events selectively.

4) Events that are a good fit for your film are:
a. Genre fests that meet your genre. Horror films especially.
b. Fests that specialize in your type of film - maybe short films, silents, comedies, whatever.
c. Fests that are underground tend to like gritty indies, fests that are government supported (ie state and city run or funded fests) tend to like more uplifting or mainstreamish kinds of films.

5) How many - well obviously this is a shot in the dark but I would say start with 8-10, mostly local, and then branch out from there. If you get a few acceptances, go on to 15-20. Once you've played the fest circuit enough with films you will know how you want to put together a festival run and what kind of fests you want to play. But remember, it is a numbers game, as I said in the question about what can I do to get accepted, so 5 fests may not accept your film, but another 5 will, and 2 may give you an award. Thats why its VERY important not to take one rejection or two too seriously, If you send your film to 4-6, and it gets into none, you should definitely ask some educated people why.

What should I do after my festival run?

Follow up with everyone - festivals, networked people, fans, friends etc. If you have a newsletter, blog, keep it updated. Finish your fest run by putting your film online or up for sale (or both) and MOVE ON. Don't be the guy flogging your film 20 years after you shot it, and after 147 festival appearances. Make another movie. And another and another. When you get to the point where you are thinking that your film will sell before you get to the fest circuit, that is the time to really start giving back and strategically playing a few fests while serving on panel discussions and as guest juror. Give back a little, its how this industry keeps going.


---


Have any questions you're dying to ask? Hopefully if I don't have the answer one of our resident gurus or others can answer.

Brooksy
08-30-2011, 03:54 PM
Can we make this a Sticky or something. This is a great post.

Question: Rumors are going around about a local festival taking place in my area that the festival programmers had an "agenda" this year and simply picked films based on that? Could there be any truth to this rumor?

indietalk
08-30-2011, 04:03 PM
Fantastic resource. Stuck.

WideShot
08-30-2011, 04:07 PM
Hi Brooksy, I have lots more info, hopefully over time I'll think of more things that can help filmmakers to enter fests.

To answer your question, I don't know specifics about the festival there, maybe you're talking about Beloit, who have made great strides in recent years, but I don't know.

In any case, you should know that all film festivals have an agenda - some are to show great independent films, some to show films that will put butts in seats, some to cater to more higher-profile films which will in turn make their event higher-profile. Some have decisions made by committees, some by one person in an office at a computer.

Many festivals also choose a theme for a year, so be careful you don't mistake a theme for a personal agenda.

What festival programmers are looking for from fest to fest and year to year is a moving target, but usually doesn't radically change unless there is a big swing in festival politics or personnel. As I said in my first post, don't be dissuaded if you enter a local fest and your film is an absolute perfect fit for it, and they reject it. It could be due to a lot of different things, but certainly, a programmers agenda could have conflicted with your film too.

Dreadylocks
08-30-2011, 04:12 PM
Awesome post! Thanks for the insight.

And welcome back, Mr Moderator. :)

Brooksy
08-30-2011, 04:20 PM
Interesting. Thanks.

As far as Beloit goes not talking about that Festival. I was in that festival last year. Actually kind of disappointed in it. Mostly in the venue. Our film was shown in the back of a Cafe on a television. Sound was poor and there were things going on up front that distracted from the films. I was impressed with the films that were shown. For the most part they were all very entertaining and I was happy to have a film put in among them.

I did have another question regarding work in progress films. When festivals say that a person can submit a work in progress film, does that significantly lower there chances then if they sent in a completed piece? Do festival programmers look at "work in progress" films differently at all? Are they more forgiving?

Along those lines do programmers look at all aspects of production value right away or is that something that is pushed down the list a little bit when considering a film? I understand that it all starts with the story but if the story is great how much would a programmer forgive bad production value?

Thanks again for the knowledge. It's appreciated.

NickClapper
08-30-2011, 04:20 PM
That's a really excellent post.

Here's hoping harmonica44 will read it and stop asking questions about what you need to do to make a festival worthy film.

I've actually been having thoughts about festivals. I only submitted Woolies to 4 and I only submitted in the UK (because I'm not sure that it would make any real sense in the US). Three of the four festivals I submitted to were free entry (or at least free earlybird entry) so I actually only paid 20 overall. I'm not sure whether to say 'that's that' or to try and submit it to a few more festivals. At the moment I'm having a decent return (2 for 2) but I know one is out the picture because I misread the entry criteria and the other one is the one I'm most excited for.

Any how I'm not sure at what point to just say enough is enough. I'm probably not going to be making a short on that scale for at least a year (although my collaboration with Phil_UK is almost ready) so I'm tempted to submit to a few more. I'd love a few more 'Official Selections' or, dare I say it, awards to my, and the short's, name.

Great post :)

Brooksy
08-30-2011, 04:25 PM
Just thought of another question. When I make a film my main goal is not to be artsy or super deep. I prefer a straight film that is simply entertaining, that is the way most of my films are. Is there a genre of festivals that I should try to stay away from? Would looking at the previous years festival picks be a good indicator of what a fest might be looking for?

I also understand you can only speak from what you know and have experience so any info here is helpful.

On a personal note we are finishing up on two different short films and this thread comes at an absolute perfect time. So again I can't thank you enough. I personally believe in fate so I think this is a great sign.

WideShot
08-30-2011, 05:14 PM
Fantastic resource. Stuck.

Thanks indie :)

Awesome post! Thanks for the insight.

And welcome back, Mr Moderator. :)

Thank you for that :) Trevor is fine :)

...As far as Beloit goes not talking about that Festival. I was in that festival last year. Actually kind of disappointed in it. Mostly in the venue. Our film was shown in the back of a Cafe on a television. Sound was poor and there were things going on up front that distracted from the films. I was impressed with the films that were shown. For the most part they were all very entertaining and I was happy to have a film put in among them.

Sad to hear that as I had read and heard good things. We went the other way and shows films in a 550 seat historic theater and then last year a 220 seat historic beautiful theater, never making an exception to that because we felt it was important to the auds and filmmaker to have their film shown in as special of an environ as possible. Its very important you share these things too with fellow filmmakers so they can make a judgement as to whether they want to enter that festival.

I did have another question regarding work in progress films. When festivals say that a person can submit a work in progress film, does that significantly lower there chances then if they sent in a completed piece? Do festival programmers look at "work in progress" films differently at all? Are they more forgiving?

Actually, its the other way around. Most festivals are looking for completed films but because submission windows are sometimes 6 months outside of the festival dates, many fests will accept a WIP, but not typically do they mean a film that is VERY incomplete, just that if your soundtrack is not completed yet (very typical for indies to have a temp track while waiting for the final soundtrack), or if you are still editing a couple of scenes down, or haven't finished the titles. We'd all prefer to know that we're looking at the final movie if for no other reason than it makes programming and judging much easier. You need to make sure you let them know what elements you are still working on - ie titles and soundtrack, because otherwise they might assume it is complete and reject your film for not having those elements. Also you might let them know your ETA for those elements being completed if you have it already.

Along those lines do programmers look at all aspects of production value right away or is that something that is pushed down the list a little bit when considering a film? I understand that it all starts with the story but if the story is great how much would a programmer forgive bad production value?

Again, every fest is going to be different and their workflows are all different. San Francisco IFF is very different than a college film festival, hence the college fest might have a couple of volunteers who watch the films as they come in and pass along the best to the head programmer, most larger well established fests have teams of screening committees that divide up the DVD's to be watched and then proceed to whittle it down round by round until it gets to the head programmer who makes the decision. It is very rare for a film festival to blind screen a movie, accept it, and judge it all in one effort. Most times, the screeners who watch your film after it has been checked in by a volunteer or intern have nothing to do with the judging process, they just weed out the obviously unacceptable films (which is a subjective term).

Production Values, on the other hand, are one of the things that should be #1 on your list when making your movie. High production values and decent story wins 9 times out of 10 in the first part of the selection process over low production values and excellent story. If the whole film is great and maybe the video is not HD or the sound is just a little off, then the screener will likely forgive it. If its obviously not good sound and good video, then sadly the film with the HD picture and terrific sound track will probably make it to round two and yours won't. Probably.

Remember, its a numbers game, give the screeners and programming committee less reasons to reject your film by making less mistakes and in the end producing a better film than most of the other films that are competing for that slot and you stand a much greater chance of getting in. Once you get into the "acceptable" stack, thats when story, character, plot, acting, etc all mean much more, especially when it comes to judging.

And yes, our festival had a 10 point grading system for cinematography, editing, direction, acting, music, etc. So if your cinematography was only a 7 your film was a 99.7 right off the bat, if the rest were 10s. To my recollection I never saw a perfect 100 judging sheet, and we played some pretty amazing movies. Its hard to make a film that does well in all 10 categories, but the best seem to do it.


That's a really excellent post.
Any how I'm not sure at what point to just say enough is enough. I'm probably not going to be making a short on that scale for at least a year (although my collaboration with Phil_UK is almost ready) so I'm tempted to submit to a few more. I'd love a few more 'Official Selections' or, dare I say it, awards to my, and the short's, name.

I haven't seen your film but congrats on getting into a couple of festivals. The how many or when do I stop is a subjective one. You need to get the most from each film you do, especially if youre not just turning around and making another tomorrow. Some people do AMAZING 48 hour film competition shorts, and submit them to other fests, but understandably since they are involved on short films it seems every month, they really only need to play half a dozen fests with their film to get what they wanted to get from it, and they're ready to move on to their next project. If you think your film could play more fests and you want more official selections go for it. If you want awards and think the film has a reasonable chance at some, go for it. If you want to network more for your next projects, by all means get into some more fests and get some contacts! You may find your next DP, 1st AD, producer, agent, actor, etc there. You may show at a fest and it turns out someone amazing saw your film and you saw theirs and you party with them all night and you stay in touch for years after... this happened to me at a festival with one of my shorts . I'm telling you, making a film is sort of the price of admission, at least to me, to getting into the networking circles of a film festival and beyond.

Just thought of another question. When I make a film my main goal is not to be artsy or super deep. I prefer a straight film that is simply entertaining, that is the way most of my films are. Is there a genre of festivals that I should try to stay away from? Would looking at the previous years festival picks be a good indicator of what a fest might be looking for?

Film festivals should be a mix of straight entertainment, provocative, thought provoking, experimental, etc, in my opinion. That being said, classically entertaining films won't fare well at underground gritty fests or similar because thats not what they're looking for. Look at past film selections, read their mission statement, read their call for entries carefully. If they're not specific enough, or if you can't tell, feel free to contact them.

On a personal note we are finishing up on two different short films and this thread comes at an absolute perfect time. So again I can't thank you enough. I personally believe in fate so I think this is a great sign.

No problem, I was a filmmaker on the other side of film festivals a little while ago. Last year I was negotiating with some of the most powerful people in the biz, and have been down the rabbit hole of film festivals about as far as it goes.

Brooksy
08-30-2011, 10:05 PM
Awesome. Thanks so much for not only creating this thread but also taking the time to help us all out. Much appreciated.

Cracker Funk
08-30-2011, 10:36 PM
I have a question:

Why do you hate me?

I just wanna be loved, is that so wrong?

Cracker Funk
08-30-2011, 10:42 PM
some things are trade secrets so I cannot comment on them

I do not understand this. How could a film festival have trade secrets? I'm completely lost on that.

Also, you mentioned that running the festival was a full-time, year-round job. What?! I'm so confused.

WideShot
08-31-2011, 08:51 PM
I do not understand this. How could a film festival have trade secrets? I'm completely lost on that.

It's probably better that way.

Also, you mentioned that running the festival was a full-time, year-round job. What?! I'm so confused.

Running a festival that requires seemingly endless fund raising, submission windows that are as far as 8-9 months for the event, negotiating contracts, graphics and websites, managing technology and supplies, maintaining and growing relationships and marketing the fest is a year round job, especially if you count trying to stay visible and organize for the next year's fest during the offseason.

It is much much easier to make a movie than to run a major film festival.

Did you have a question about film festivals?

Ernest Worthing
08-31-2011, 08:59 PM
Excellent info, thanks!

Cracker Funk
09-01-2011, 03:07 AM
Did you have a question about film festivals?

Yeah, I asked two, and you answered at least one of them (not gonna hold you to answering the other one, since it was about trade secrets).

My first post (I hope it was clear) was of course intended to be funny (as in, I've taken so many rejections). My second post was sincere, and I did ask a question. I still don't really understand how it could be a year-round, full-time job. That's a lot of hours. Care to elaborate? You don't have to. I'm only curious, so it's okay by me, if you leave your original answer to that question as the full answer.

EDIT: I apologize if my questions seem confrontational. They are my honest reactions. I simply don't understand how this could take so much time, and to be honest, I'm skeptical. But this isn't meant as an attack, just an inquiry that is coupled with genuine shock and initial disbelief. No ill-will intended towards you.

Uranium City
09-01-2011, 10:31 AM
Last year, I directed five films with three different producers and in some cases all five were submitted to the same festival.

Might this simple fact (regardless of the content/quality of the films) hurt their chances? That the same director had a lot of films submitted?

Brooksy
09-01-2011, 02:03 PM
All the fests that I have been looking at seem to have an earlybird price between $20-$30 dollars. Give and take a little bit. My question is why this amount? Is there some kind of math formula or is it just because there is a standard set?

WideShot
09-02-2011, 11:39 PM
Yeah, I asked two, and you answered at least one of them (not gonna hold you to answering the other one, since it was about trade secrets).

Festivals have a lot of specific ways they do business and make decisions. Because I happen to know and communicate with a lot of Festival Directors, I will not answer specific questions about film festivals inner workings which is not public knowledge.

My first post (I hope it was clear) was of course intended to be funny (as in, I've taken so many rejections). My second post was sincere, and I did ask a question. I still don't really understand how it could be a year-round, full-time job. That's a lot of hours. Care to elaborate? You don't have to. I'm only curious, so it's okay by me, if you leave your original answer to that question as the full answer.

On the first, I can 99.9% guarantee it was not personal on the rejection. Sure there is the occasional RJ that some festivals will do because of time of the year, personal agenda, etc. but for the most part it is a screener in a room popping your film in a dvd player, and deciding out of the stack they have how many are to be passed on. It may be 1 out of 5 it may be 10 out of 15, it depends on the festival.

On the second, I can only say that we had to fundraise as much as it would take to make a ultra-low budget feature, every year, in a five month period of time. That, by itself, with the hundreds of relationships it takes to maintain and grow, requires about 6-7 months, the hardcore planning of the event overlapping but taking about 8-10 months. We start accepting submissions and are actively "in business" in ever capacity 8-10 months out of the year. For a fest that is multi-day, on a semi-national radar, that means a 11-12 month a year job for the top staff like the fest director. And there are many who work with the festivals, who put in a lot of work that never gets credited.

The festival entrant who sees "XYZ international film festival" on WAB, enters, gets an acceptance letterk, attends, does a Q&A, and goes home, has no idea the amount of work that took place to bring them there.

EDIT: I apologize if my questions seem confrontational. They are my honest reactions. I simply don't understand how this could take so much time, and to be honest, I'm skeptical. But this isn't meant as an attack, just an inquiry that is coupled with genuine shock and initial disbelief. No ill-will intended towards you.

It takes a rediculous amount of time. Planning, executing, fundraising, etc. Way more than I could have ever believed before we started. But it was also wonderful when it happened kind of like making a film to have all of it going on, because of the work I and we did. Just ask someone else who has run a fest that runs more than 1 day how much work it is.

Last year, I directed five films with three different producers and in some cases all five were submitted to the same festival. Might this simple fact (regardless of the content/quality of the films) hurt their chances? That the same director had a lot of films submitted?

Not as far as I know. From a passion and business perspective seeing multiple entries from the same filmmaker is great, it means they really have taken to our fest. That assumes someone is watching the entries as they come in. More likely the interns that check in the films have no idea that #1088 has anything to do with #1344 or #1588, and the films are watched accordingly. It is only in the final stages (at a say 300+ entries festival), after pre-screening that the programmers might pay attention to the names of the filmmakers, where they are from, etc, in making a decision on what films to accept. At that stage if you entered 5 films and one or two were lesser films, it might make the decision a little easier to accept another film in 1 or 2 of yours stead. Like I said, you need to know that the screening process is very isolated generally from the programming (and generally final acceptance) or the initial check-in process.

All the fests that I have been looking at seem to have an earlybird price between $20-$30 dollars. Give and take a little bit. My question is why this amount? Is there some kind of math formula or is it just because there is a standard set?

There is a simple formula we set. Earlybird is as cheap as we can make it because we want as many submissions (especially quality submissions) at this time as possible. We have the most amount of time at this point to do everything from screen to judge to prep them for the schedule. This is one important thing, aside, to understand about festivals. When you sign the entry form and submit the entry, you are BOUND by their terms. You have agreed that they can show your film as submitted or with an exhibition copy. It may be 9 months from the event but if they love your film they can already be figuring what time slot to plug it into and how to display your posters, thats just how it goes behind the scenes.

So the deadlines all are incremental increases, with late and final chance being much more because it is much more of a PITA to process those entries.

We also have to factor in Withoutabox or other costs involved, as they take a percentage of every festival submission. For Mr. Funk, this is one area I can't divulge, as its a trade secret, but they take enough that most fests have to get above $20 for the minimum deadline just to be able to cover manpower.

Kholi
09-02-2011, 11:55 PM
Man, there's a lot of great info there! I can't even read it all in one sitting.

It is indeed a YEAR 'round job runnin' a festival. It was probably mentioned, but the process of getting sponsors, organizing venues, etc so on and so forth doesn't happen a month before the festival.

- Cataloging films and storing hard copies.
- Going through Without-a-box submissions.
- Watching entries down to decide WHO's getting in
- Scheduling the subsmissions that do get in
- Getting volunteers to help run the festival
- feeding volunteers and yourself for the days running

So on, so forth, and so much more.

Gotta hand it to those that run them, and do it annually, it's an incredible effort.

Will be back to read more!

Kholi
09-03-2011, 01:48 PM
Here's a Q:

Is it bad to submit a feature film that's not completely done (sound design still going in, stuff like that). Maybe the dialogue is clean but the design isn't there yet?

How does that affect the decisions of programmers?

Medicine Crow
09-04-2011, 12:08 PM
First of all; great thread! really appreciate the info, so thanks :)
I have a question:
What's your thoughts on European filmmakers submitting films to American film festivals?
I mean, would it be worth it, considering that there are slim chances (for many) to be able to attend the festival(s) personally.
Of course having the fact that the film(s) get accepted in mind :)

WideShot
09-05-2011, 10:39 AM
Man, there's a lot of great info there! I can't even read it all in one sitting.

It is indeed a YEAR 'round job runnin' a festival. It was probably mentioned, but the process of getting sponsors, organizing venues, etc so on and so forth doesn't happen a month before the festival.

And it sounds like you have experiences to share yourself!


Here's a Q:

Is it bad to submit a feature film that's not completely done (sound design still going in, stuff like that). Maybe the dialogue is clean but the design isn't there yet?

How does that affect the decisions of programmers?


Work in Progress is quite common for films. See my answer above for more description. You should very carefully look to see whether WIP's are accepted, and if it is unclear from the call for entries, ask the festival in an email, state exactly what is still being worked on. Not having a music soundtrack is typically the most common reason for submitting a WIP.

But again, if you are submitting a WIP, make SURE to do 3 things: 1) Be clear about what you are still working on, and include that with the submission, write it on DVD (AKA "WIP: Temp Sound Track, Missing End Credits - 9/5/2011"). 2) Understand that you have only 2 weeks to a month generally to finish the movie. Maybe a little more. But you MUST have it completed by a certain date, usually the final deadline. They will let you know when that is. 3) It is better to finish the film and then submit than to send a WIP. WIP's are typically only going to be well received when it is a higher profile or AMAZING film that the festival will say "We'll wait for the final copy and hold a place!" If the movie is not good in the WIP, they won't hold a spot for it.


First of all; great thread! really appreciate the info, so thanks :)
I have a question:
What's your thoughts on European filmmakers submitting films to American film festivals?
I mean, would it be worth it, considering that there are slim chances (for many) to be able to attend the festival(s) personally.
Of course having the fact that the film(s) get accepted in mind :)

I loved getting movies from other countries. They are fresh approaches to filmmaking, we are afterall an international film festival and tried to book at least 35+% international films (a soft % for sure). Some of our best most memorable films were subtitled. Fat Stupid Rabbit from Russia, Capri You Love from Germany, The Vistors from Germany and of course Binta Y La Gran Idea from Spain, shot in Senegal. Many Northeast European shorts too.

It was truly amazing the high percentage of excellent films from foreign countries we would get, albeit the overall count of entries was much less.

One cool thing was getting Agnieszka 2039 and screening for our audiences, what would become the "most successful Polish Short film ever", absolutely mind-blowing visuals, and then the next year getting a follow up by the same filmmaker after I commented I would love to see what they could do with a narrative film, and we got "Alicja Wonderland", another awesome film.

One film we had in 2006 was from India and was completely symbolic, almost dreamlike, and was about a family living in isolation in the ruins in the desert, having to survive and deal with the birth, raising and death of their child who died due to a terrorist act. I had audience members come up to me (I was also the onstage talent in 2006), and tell me how much they loved the movie.

But you should really look at the history of films a festival has played to judge how much they play of foreign vs domestic films.

george m
11-04-2011, 04:00 PM
Hi,

My first run with the ff circuit. I see some have screenplay categories as well. Is it not a good idea to submit a screenplay as well as the produced script/film?

Thanks.

Gonzo_Entertainment
11-07-2011, 10:50 AM
Typically you'd only submit a screenplay that hadn't been produced. That would be the main reason for submitting it, to try and get some buzz around it and maybe get it produced.

george m
11-07-2011, 02:08 PM
Thanks, I kinda thought that ws it.

Another question, probably pretty stupid. I was thinking about the submission page in WAB you are given 1 selection for presentation format. From some of your comments earlier, I wondered if I have dvd and bluray and select bluray and they have a limited number of those players, I might get selected if I had I had chosen dvd instead? Is that a thing? Pretty stupid?

Ziggy
01-18-2012, 12:42 PM
This whole thread is great. trevor I wish I'd read this two months ago. Anyone with festival experience know if on a feature, when they watch the movie, do they do what readers do and basically judge the film on the first ten minutes? Do they shut it off if the beginning doesn't grab them?

Dreadylocks
01-18-2012, 04:43 PM
I just read a great book called 'How Not to Make a Short Film.' A really easy and informative read. Written by a Sundance programmer.

brianluce
01-18-2012, 11:37 PM
I just read a great book called 'How Not to Make a Short Film.' A really easy and informative read. Written by a Sundance programmer.

Got some IT Cliff's Notes? Love to hear.

Big Bang Cinema
11-02-2012, 09:29 PM
Do u guys know any short festival deadline until december or jan?
I only found MECAL 2013, XV International Short Film Festival of Barcelona (Spain).

sol15g
02-16-2013, 08:53 PM
Thanks for the useful information.

gorillaonabike
04-16-2013, 06:15 AM
A couple of questions, please... and by the way, thanks for this tremendous resource!

So a couple of questions:

"2) Have your film presented to the festival by someone of note or repped by a festival insider or agency with pull. this was not the case with us, but is the case elsewhere, it's very true."

In terms of the 'agency with pull,' what does this mean? Are there agencies which can place short films with festivals (if they are good enough...?)

As it happens, I have a festival insider in a major festival and will be going to him (if I can shoot a short which is good enough). However, this is only one festival.

What are your thoughts around this?