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Have film festivals become a racket ?

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  • Have film festivals become a racket ?

    I just joined film freeway and was surprised to see the amount of film festivals out there. It seems like, and I may be wrong, that some of the festivals don't even have venues and are just there to take your money in exchange for the chance to get some cheesy laurel? The legit local festivals tend to be international, so they aren't really local. How do I navigate through all this mess?

  • #2
    I started my freelance career making festival screeners to DVD for indy films. Everybody could work a DVX-100 and FCP but nobody learned DVD Studio Pro. This was 12 years ago. It was a racket then. I think the real benefit in festivals is finding the ones that feature projects you like and have similar values and ideals. Then you get to meet peers and grow as an artist.


    • #3
      I'm submitting a recently completed short to festivals right now, and aside from the big/established festivals I'm having a hard time pulling the trigger submitting to any of the medium/small ones after an experience I had at a Texas FF that's been around for a long time.

      They had a beautiful looking venue, in which they did not show films in the main theater...and had a poor turnout, and a couple of terrible films (though they had a couple decent features in the festival). But on paper it looks great, so I submitted.

      I now see that you can review festivals via film freeway, which hopefully will help cut through the glut of festivals you browse through.


      • #4
        Well, do not submit to online festivals, do not submit to first year around festivals charging more than 10 bucks, do not submit to festivals charging more than 40 bucks which are not listed for academy awards, etc etc.

        Will trade my as-new BMPCC 4K v.1.0 for two new BMPCC 4K V.2.0


        • #5
          Most film institutes and academies have a list of film festivals they consider reputable, that's a good starting point.


          • #6
            Pretty much everything in life can be turned into a racket.
            But there are a lot of good festivals that deliver value.

            Getting to watch your film in a DCP on a huge screen with a happy audience is a thrill.
            The networking/social opportunities are great. You will meet future collaborators and partners. And you'll have a lot of fun.
            And you may get free accommodations, gift bags, vouchers for post and rental services, wine tours, free meals and parties, whatever.

            Over the last few months I've gone to about 7 festivals with my first short film.

            A few takeaways:
            - Unless you have some kind of seismic-level game-changing film, don't bother submitting to the famous festivals. These big festivals have a huge volume of submissions, and they give priority to established filmmakers with buzz worthy projects. Don't forget that festivals rely upon marketing like everyone else. You could have a decent film on your hands, but you may get bumped by a more famous person with marketing value. If you're starting out, focus on getting into really solid medium-sized regional festivals.
            - Focus on your region first. Pretty much every coast/corner/time zone has a half-dozen well managed festivals. Focus on the ones you can easily visit. Which brings us to the next point...
            - Show up and participate. Meet people you like. Compare notes and find ways to collaborate.
            - Remember that it's a numbers game and that you will get into a fraction of the festivals you apply to. It may not have anything to do with the quality of your film. If you want to get into 3 good regional festivals, plan on applying to about 10 of that size/stature.
            - Focus on building your audience, connecting with people, and gaining the experience you will need for your next project.


            • #7
              I'll also add a few tips for evaluating festivals:

              - See how many years it's been around. 10th annual + is good.
              - Check the website. Does it look professionally designed? Do they have good content? Good social media presence? Will they do a good job promoting your work?
              - Check out the lineup in previous years. Do you like the curation? Do you recognize any of the filmmakers or like any of the trailers?

              There are also some resources online for getting started with a shortlist. A few samples:




              And finally:

              Build a spreadsheet to track your submissions, dates, contact info etc.



              • #8
                Great awesome advice. I'm taking this all in. thanks