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Old March 12th, 2007, 01:08 AM   #1
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Film Festival Stories / Feedback

I was wondering how picky big film festivals are. I am thinking about submitting a documentary I am finishing up to a few festivals like sxsw, big muddy, hot docs, hollywood hd/dv, worldfest, etc...

Any film makers on here have any experiences they would like to share about submitting there films. I hear its pretty hard to get accepted. I have also heard that its really only worth your time and money to send to the larger film fests because they are the only ones that have distributors and film people in the audience.

I have a friend that made a pretty darn good documentary; he sent to about 15 of the large film fest and didn't get accepted to one! He received great reviews from viewers and he actually got picked up by a distribution company, he was kinda blown away that he didn't get a screening.

Any stories or experiences reguarding film fests would be really helpful. Good and bad feedback welcome! =)


p.s. I am aware of withoutabox and its a great source.
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Old March 13th, 2007, 01:37 AM   #2
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no stories at all?

Did anyone submit any films to any fests this year?
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Old March 13th, 2007, 07:55 AM   #3
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not everyone who submits to a film festival wants to get picked up by a major distributor. i just wanted the experience of seeing my stuff on the big screen, in front of an audience. and the Q&A and interactivity is fun, when they stage it.

DV really suffers--at least mine did--from blow-ups, so it was helpful to see how that affected the image. there's a level of quality required for blow-ups that TV can conceal. so i learned a lot from the film festivals that i participated in. it improved my business, which is corporate video. so that was a nice fringe benefit.

it's expensive, though. you have to consider the best possible environment to place your particular film.

one tip i'd offer. if you're shooting 16:9, make sure that you either provide a letterboxed version, or you make sure that they set the projector to accommodate the aspect ratio. i was really surprised by how many festivals are screening a 4:3 standard and had to watch my movie get squished. that was kind of hard! they even have spaces for this on the applications, they even ask, but they may not attend to this in actuality.

i met several people in my community who are important contacts to me--since i intend to stay here for awhile, that means way more to me than meeting bigwigs at big festivals. also, those same folks are themselves sort of big names, highly accomplished, and they very humbly screen locally, because they want to take part in their own community as well. you'd be surprised who you can meet.
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Old March 13th, 2007, 02:31 PM   #4
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Different festivals have their different strengths and weaknesses. Certainly if getting picked up for distribution is your primary goal, then why focus on the smaller fests? Of course, you're bound to be one small fish amoung many.

Only you can decide what your goal is for your project. I've won numerous awards for screenwriting. These awards resulted in contacts from agents... but just as important, options and the fact that when I am feeling 'blocked' I get to look up at the awards, and know that someone who isn't related to me feels I'm pretty good at it. Validation is what that's about. Maybe you need it. Maybe you don't. Maybe the award will give it to you... but if that's ALL you're looking for, you won't like the rejections.

I've also won awards for filmmaking. My documentary American Jouster won a Gold Remi Award at Worldfest Houston, (But didn't screen) While it premiered at Breckenridge Film Festival in Colorado, and won a Videographers award. Did THAT get me distribution? No. I submitted to distributors even when I was submitting to festivals. The project isn't a 'good fit' for the broadcasters. I did get some offers from distributors... but their offers' weren't particularly appealing. (I made my own deal with a worldwide catalogue). Still, having 'accolades' and trophies are a nice thing to put on resumes, and helps to impress clients. I spent probably a thousand dollars entering film festivals...twenty or thirty fests at anywhere from 20 to 50 dollars a pop.

You should do your homework. Find out which festivals are right for your film. Is it indy related? Does it screen everything? Is it genre specific? Is it new, or established?

Start by deciding what you want from a festival, then hunt for those that might fulfill your needs.

And DO use withoutabox... it's handy and a good place to start.

Side note. I was at SXSW back in... 2003 I think. Standing in line to see Bush's Brain. There was a 'buyer' standing in line behind my business partner and me. We got into a long discussion about the market. He pointed out that they go to more and more 'small' fests... because the good films are snatched up before the get to the big ones... so take that for what it's worth. HE spent his time travelling around the country looking for docs at the smaller fests. I can't remember the name of the company offhand.. but they distributed the doc about the spelling bee... "Spellbound".

Last edited by Richard Alvarez; March 13th, 2007 at 10:58 PM. Reason: additional information.
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Old March 13th, 2007, 07:47 PM   #5
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Thanks for the info and comments guys.

That doc looks pretty cool Richard. So when you screened your work at Breckenridge Film Festival did you get to show it to a pretty large audience? Thats all I think I would really want out of a festival is to be able to show my work to other people and get to see it on the "big screen".

How do you know what distribution companys to send your work too? I did a google search and a lot of "distributors" come up. Do you have a particular source online that helped you find some to send to?

Here is a link to my friends doc he is still waiting to hear back from worldfest and a few others. (its a pretty emotional doc) * just scroll down past the flyer and click enter at the bottom.
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