Getting into a film festival is both the most beautiful and most intimidating experience for a filmmaker. Even the simple act of submitting is enough to strike one with anxiety, wondering if their work will be “accepted” in both a physical and emotional sense. Film festivals are the breaking ground for filmmakers, giving them the opportunity to launch a highly successful career. However, you are bestowed the task of outshining hundreds to thousands of talented filmmakers to catch the attention of festival organizers, producers, and an audience.
To maximize your chances of success, we have prepared a quick list of tips to help you navigate your way into the film festival circuit.
UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENT LEVEL OF FESTIVALS
Film festivals are separated into their own levels. Festivals like Cannes, Sundance are considered “A” level, the upper echelon, the top of the crop. Films that screen at these festivals are often in consideration for an Oscars push. If you are a new filmmaker, you can still submit, but the likelihood of a new filmmaker being screened can be slim, and they are often very expensive to submit to.
As a new filmmaker, you are best off submitting to B and C level festivals. B-festivals are somewhat known, but not as renowned as the ones mentioned above. They often cater to a niche-market. Many horror and comedy festivals are considered B-level. C-level festivals can also be niche-market, and are often DIY or run in smaller towns. As a new filmmaker, your best bet would be to target these festivals. It’s more affordable to submit your film, and your chances of being screened are far greater than that of an A-level.
THE ELECTRONIC PRESS KIT
An electronic press kit (EPK) is a collection of information that would interest anyone looking into your film. Most film EPKs would have your bio, logline, synopsis, valuable clips, the film’s poster and maybe some still frames. If you do all this work up front, you can slightly adjust your press kit to cater to specific festivals you submit to, if need be.
Check out this video for inspiration:
If you are accepted into a B or C level festival, and you don’t have a publicist, you can always take a crack at doing it yourself! It’s not as hard as you think. If you want to build press for your interview, start by asking the festival organizers for a press list. That will be a list of publications and journalists who are attending the festival. Then, use a CRM like Hubspot or Mailchimp to e-blast them some information about your film. Nothing overbearing, just the poster, a short synopsis, some showtimes and a contact number/email should suffice.
Networking is fundamental. Always go to a film festival prepared with business cards for quick exchanges. Another new trend growing in the film industry is keeping a digital copy of your business card on your phone. If you strike up a lengthy conversation with someone, and you have the time, you can text them the digital copy of your card. That way, they have your details, and you already have their phone number saved. Make sure to shake lots of hands and meet as many people as you can. You’ll never know what partnerships can ignite.
While at the festival, it’s a great idea to promote your film as much as possible. Oftentimes, filmmakers will hand out SWAG to attendees as a way to build hype. It’s most effective to give out small and practical items that have an everyday use, and can fit in small bags or pockets. Slapping your brand or film name on lighters, phone chargers, notebooks, pens, buttons, and things of that nature have proven effective in the past.
There are lots of items you can consider that won’t break the bank. In the past people have brought planners, lighters, phone chargers, and even toques with their business or film branding. Clothing can be good, but you have to make sure it’s fashionable and cool enough that somebody would want to wear it in public.
Getting into a film festival is a huge accomplishment, and you should be proud of yourself. Just make sure not to get too into your head about it. There’s nothing worse than someone who flaunts themselves like they’re the best thing in the world. It’ll take away your likability which could remove yourself from an affectionate fanbase or potential collaborators. Hold your head high, but don’t snub anyone around you. Don’t forget, you’re all there for the same reason. The love of film.