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Old February 20th, 2005, 01:52 AM   #1
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Film Festivals (Where to Start?)

As a beginning filmmaker, it's funny that only until recently have I considered submitting some films to film festivals! Frankly, I don't really know where to start here- are there some people out there that know how to get into this kind of thing? What are some general things that happen when a person gets involved in a film festival?

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Corey C.
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Old February 21st, 2005, 12:38 PM   #2
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This question's come up a few times before. There are two things you need.

First, you MUST set up an account at http://www.withoutabox.com - almost every film festival is using it these days so that you can submit your film's information and details and press kit online (and the film itself by mail). Signing up is free and the site will provide you many answers to questions you might have. You can upgrade your account for a fee (optional), and of course you still have to pay to actually submit your film to a festival (but Withoutabox doesn't charge you for this - you just pay the festival through them).

Second, you should consider getting the book by Chris Gore entitled "The Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide" - it is THE guide.

Good luck!
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Old March 4th, 2005, 11:52 AM   #3
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Imran has the right advice!

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Old March 4th, 2005, 08:14 PM   #4
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Interestingly, there's no equivalent of withoutabox for Europe, and Europe has some very nice festivals. Somebody here could make a career out of setting one up.
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Old March 7th, 2005, 11:56 AM   #5
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Corey,

Being a cinematographer, I am not involved in the actual process of submitting films to festivals. But a lot of films that I have shot or been a part of have made the rounds. And the one piece of advice I can offer is, perserverance.

For every festival you get into, there will be at least two that said no. This doesn't mean your work isn't good enough. It just means that, that particular festival found other selections more to thier liking.

Even the best films have a hard time getting into a festival. Competition can be fierce. Competition from a standpoint of volume and quality.

Let me tell you two stories...

I shot a film called Blackwater Elegy for my friend Matthew Porter of 95 These Entertainment. Blackwater Elegy stars Barry Corbin (One Tree Hill, Northern Exposure) and John Cullum (Law & Order: SVU, ER). For every festival that has screened Blackwater Elegy, there are two that turned it down! Yet, Blackwater Elegy has won 6 Best Short Film Awards. John Cullum won the Best Supporting Actor Award at the 2004 Tambay Film Festival for his portrayal of J.T. And I won the Best Cinematography Award at the 2004 Thunderbird International Film Festival for my work on the film. So, did we get turned down because the film wasn't a quality piece? No. It just wasn't to the liking of everybody that was in charge of the selection process.

Now, take for instance a film I shot in 1999 called "Spunko: The Unknown Legend". Spunko was a MiniDV short that was done by a bunch of friends in our spare time on nights and weekends with resources that were begged for, borrowed, and studio time that was "stolen" (a friend working at the local TV station let us in the back door of studio B so we could shoot at 1 A.M. on a Sunday!). Spunko was a no budget mockumentary about a drunk amateur wrestler who made it big as a fashion model. The film wasn't slick, fancy, or by any means "art". However, it premiered at the 2000 Georgia Museum of Art Film Festival! When the selection commitee informed us that the film had been chosen to screen at the festival, they told us that Spunko was the last film they watched. And after sitting through weeks of ultra dramatic, over the top art films, Spunko made them laugh so hard that they had to rewind it and watch it again.

The moral of the story is not to get discouraged. You might make an award winning film that gets turned down twice as much as it gets selected. Or you might make a film that gets seen by just the right person at the right time to make it big. And with a little luck, your film could be both.

One more piece of advice I'll throw your way is to develope a strategy. At $25 to $50 per submission, film festival submissions can get expensive. And if you're getting turned down twice as much as you're getting accepted, you'll likely be spending a lot of money to get your film out there. So develope a strategy of which festivals you're going to submit to and which ones you're going to pass on.

When chosing festivals to submit to, consider the benefits of screening at that particular festival, the cost of submitting to that festival, and the odds of being selected to screen at that particular festival.

I read an article last year that Slamdance is statisticly more difficult to get into than Sundance now. So many people figure that Sundance is just beyond them that they submit to the Slamdance instead. Thus Slamdance has a higher volume of entries, making it tougher to be one fo the the very few official selections.

I suggest you start with smaller festivals that are closer to where you live. The odds of getting into a smaller festival will be better. And if it's not too far away, you can attend the screening of your film and make contacts with the other filmmakers who are screening there as well. This does two very important things for you. One, it gets your work out there which builds your name. And two, it gives you the opportunity to get in touch with other filmmakers in the area who you can collaborate with on your next film, or collaborate with on thier next film.

Don't be afraid to submit your films to the larger festivals around the country. But start by focusing on the festivals closer to home who are more likely to support the local guy. This way you don't blow all your cash just to get turned down by Sundance, SXSW, NY, LA, or Toronto. And you build a network of colleagues to work with.

Imran's advice is good. But without a box isn't a nescesity. And not every film festival uses them. Without a box does make the process easier, and a large percent of festivals do use them. Take the time to research the festivals you're interested in submitting to, to see what their submission guidelines are.
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Old May 26th, 2005, 05:06 AM   #6
 
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Festivals are a scam for the most part. Only the big ones like Sundance and SXSW are worth applying for. Get Chris Gore's "Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide". It will list the ones that might do you well.

Don't waste lots of money applying!
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Old May 26th, 2005, 12:39 PM   #7
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Laurence, no need to be so cynical or sensational. There are some that are scams - that charge tons and offer no value. But most festivals do exactly what they say they're going to do, which is simply provide you a venue to have your films watched by people. You pay the fee for entry which covers their operating costs. Most operators of festivals will tell you that they barely make any money if at all, save the really big ones. They are usually started by filmmakers to support filmmakers.

Nothing scam-like about that unless a particular festival you encounter is doing something different from the above.
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Old May 26th, 2005, 01:52 PM   #8
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Choose your festivals wisely. Make sure they have some merit. By this I mean, that they are well known/well attended. Have been around for a while. Have people there that you WANT to meet, or see your film. Offer something that you need/want.... acclaim, recognition, cash awards, options, exposure. If they don't offer all or most of these things, don't enter.

I've spent the morning preparing submissions for my documentary, and some scripts. I'll spend over two hunderd dollars on festivals today. You can bet I peruse the list carefully.

Our film "After Twilight" was chosen to screen in Los Angeles on the 12th of June. It was selected by the Texas Film Commision for the Texas Filmmakers Showcase. Having garnered some acclaim at festivals prior to this,(gold award last month at Worldfest) it helped in the Commision's decision. It's the only film from Houston being screened at Raleigh Studios'The Chaplin Theatre. This is an invitation only event, that the commision hosts each year for Industry folks in LA to see what sort of crews, locations and filmmakers are in Texas. I'll drive down from San Mateo to be there. www.nu-classicfilms.com

My point being, sure the BIG festivals are great to enter and win, but the mid sized festivals offer crediblity and acclaim that can open other doors as well.

Last edited by Richard Alvarez; May 26th, 2005 at 04:26 PM.
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Old May 26th, 2005, 04:22 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Imran Zaidi
They are usually started by filmmakers to support filmmakers..
That's what I did with the Voices of Local Film (www.pbfilmsociety.org) at the Palm Beach International Film Festival (www.pbifilmfest.org).

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Old May 27th, 2005, 01:11 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurence Maher
Festivals are a scam for the most part. Only the big ones like Sundance and SXSW are worth applying for. Get Chris Gore's "Ultimate Film Festival Survival Guide". It will list the ones that might do you well.

Don't waste lots of money applying!
Come on Laurence
That borders on mean spirited and sounds extremely jaded... Just because after years and years, your film hasn't been released or had the success you had hoped for doesn't mean it can't work for others. For many people these smaller less known festivals are the road to bigger ones and or theatrical opportunities. An aspiring film maker opens themselves up for advice and all you can say is all festivals are a scam... and don't waste your money!
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Old May 27th, 2005, 12:57 PM   #11
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My recommendation

I have been in a few smaller festivals such as NFC, and 48hfp and those are all time based contests which are a lot of fun. I found myself at the end, really getting absolutely nothing out of it and no reason to why I didnt make the Top50 or any feedback. I have registered for the Filmerica Challenge this year, and hope others decide to check it out. They seem to be growing rapidly and are promising the Top 50 Films to be streamed online. Registration is only $99 and at least you can win prizes and be seen. Thats all I have ever realy wanted, is just for people to see my films, small or large. anyways, I would love to compete with more and more people and I have heard they are starting to fill up, so check it out. www.filmerica.com. I think Videomaker did some blurb last month on them.

PS. they also are doing it time based.. im excited.
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Old May 27th, 2005, 01:23 PM   #12
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James, those 48 or 72 hours things aren't festivals - those are competitions or challenges or whatever you want to call them, but they aren't 'festivals' in the traditional sense as being discussed here. Whatever the label, these are much different entities, with much different screening methods, and much different audiences.

By the way, are you affiliated with Filmerica yourself or through friends? It seems you posted on them a couple of times today on this forum, and I see you're also based in Oregon. Just want to make sure you're not simply pushing a site for some purpose since that's not the purpose of this thread. If not, I apologize in advance.
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Old May 27th, 2005, 01:28 PM   #13
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Nope

I am from oregon, and know the owners but not affiliated. There are actually a few teams from Portland. I am just excited about it, and saw a posting about insomniac. I ran into this forum by searching for film challenges and saw insomniacs. I signed up for a team and figure I would share with others. You are right, this is not a festival, That topic reply can be removed, as I dont want it to take away from the original festival request. This is how I got started though. :)

Thanks,
James

Last edited by James Patty; May 27th, 2005 at 02:46 PM.
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Old December 13th, 2005, 05:32 AM   #14
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Would it be possible to put up a list of those that are considered as established or definitely worth submitting to? I only ask as a beginner, and as someone in the UK. There may be a whole bunch of festivals in the US that are well known to people who are in the US or know the field well, that I will know nothing about.

I have searched some of the links in this section of the forum, and I have also googled film festivals. It's becoming apparent that on a small budget, submitting to a large proportion of them will be out of the question. For a newcomer, it really would be more hit and miss than for someone who at least has a bit of form or knowledge of the terrain.
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Old December 13th, 2005, 06:05 AM   #15
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www.withoutabox.com is your best bet. There are over 2000 film fests in America, I think, and more in the world. I thought I read that somewhere.

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