Submitting to Film Festivals: How to not lose your money

There is a bit a of racket in film festivals. They charge for submissions. Of course, this is designed to help cover the costs of the staff and critics who review the films as well as defer some of the expenses of the festival, but it’s still a bit of a racket, given that they charge everyone who comes to see the film as well.

Here are few tips to save some money and hassle on getting into film festivals:

  • Be choosy – Not every film festival is right for every film. The goal is to find the festivals has the audience you’re looking for. A slasher horror movie is a bit out of place at Cannes. It’s also not likely to be accepted. Pick the festivals you really want to be in. This can keep your submission costs down and keep you from pulling out your hair.
  • Submit early – If you have to ship a DVD and paperwork to Budapest, the Postal Service is a much less expensive option than a FedEx overnight package. Plan ahead and make it easier on yourself. Try to submit early enough that you can have your package delivered in the first wave.
  • Hand deliver – There is no excuse for not submitting to every film festival you live near. If you’re in LA, London, Paris, or New York, you could make a career out of submitting to the film festivals that are right in your area. Walk your film into their offices with a bag of coffee or some of your product placement beer. If you’re shaking hands and laughing with the crew of the festival, there’s almost no way they won’t consider your film.
  • Go small – Look for the smaller festivals that happen earlier in the year. These festivals might seem insignificant, but often they are watched by the larger festivals’ programmers to get a feel for what’s coming up. The key is to get seen everywhere you can.
  • Don’t forget the online festivals (hint: TMFF) – Still the stepchildren of film festivals, they are increasingly gathering an audience. Already a few larger films have gotten their start at online film festivals. They are often cheap or free to enter.
  • Offer premiere status – Don’t waste it, but if a premiere at Tribeca will get you on the screen, go for it.
  • Offer talent – Imply, don’t promise, that your star, a B-list actor who is well-liked, might attend. If your executive producer has been nominated for an Academy-award, their presence is a boon to any festival. Drop names, but not promises.
  • Share your screener via Vimeo – Many foreign and newer film festivals like the online option for the films. This can allow their programmers to be anywhere and watch films. It also keeps them from having to worry about having a ton of mail coming in.
  • Make a connection – Find the programmers on Facebook, Twitter, wherever, and make contact. Let these gatekeepers see you as a person, not just as a film. If you are an identity in their minds, they are far more likely to entertain the idea of scheduling your film.
  • Don’t forget the little people – If the only person that you get to speak at the festival is an assistant programmer who is a film school intern, massage their ego. Connect with them. Give them gifts if you have them. Send them autographed photos so that they feel appreciated. They might not be the final arbiter now, but soon, and they still have influence, even as an intern.
  • Finally, ask for a fee waiver – Ask if they can waive the submission fee. (Note: If the programmer asks to see your film, just send the film. Make them come back for the fee. They probably won’t.) If you are sending in the film on your own, ask if there’s a way that they can waive the fee. Many do it routinely. It never hurts to ask.

The key to getting your film on-screen at festivals is to sell it. You know that you made the next great classic (insert genre here) film, but so did everyone else. Sell yourself and sell your film.

Article written by Bob Peryea for The Monthly Film Festival ~ Image: Nyfa.Org.Uk



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