3 Questions to Answer Before Submitting to Film Festivals

Important things to ask yourself before you click “Submit” to a film festival!

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You have just put the final touches on your short film/feature film/script/music video and all you want in the world is to get it in front of an audience. Your Withoutabox and Film Freeway accounts are set up and you’re just itching to click “Submit” to a film festival.


Hold your horses, partner.


Submitting to film festivals is expensive, and there are a ton to choose from. If you aren’t thoughtful, you can waste a lot of effort, time, and money on empty festival experiences. Before submitting your film, ask yourself these three questions and set yourself up for success.


1. What Do I Want From My Film?

 Image courtesy of The Verge.


Your film is an extension of your career. Knowing where you’re at in your career, and where you want to be, can be the best indicator of what your need to accomplish with your film. As long as you are honest with yourself, you can’t go wrong.


Networking – Film festivals can be a great place to network with other people in the industry. If networking is your primary goal, you might want to consider taking a more local or regional approach to your festival strategy. Showing your film at multiple festivals in the same city, state, or region will allow you to not only get a feel for how the film industry functions around you, but help you establish yourself in the places that are most accessible to you.


Distribution – Maybe you are looking to get your film in front of potential distributors. If that’s your goal, you’re probably not going to want to submit your film to niche festivals in rural areas that distribution reps can’t easily get to. Know who your potential distributors are and where they are located. Or, look for festivals known for distributor attendance.


Also keep in mind that meeting distributors can also be about networking. You might be more interested in getting to know folks at IFC for your next film than you are for your current film. Making those connections now can have profound effects on your career later.


Fame! – Feel like this film is your golden ticket? You have to be more careful than anybody. Getting your film into a big festival should be your priority, but the bigger the festival, the more likely it is to have strict premiere guidelines. You don’t want your film to premiere early only to be rejected by Sundance for having already been shown. Identify your top three festivals, memorize everything you need to do to get in, and make sure you do exactly that.


2. Who Needs To See My Film?

Image courtesy of Tribeca Film.


This question is more difficult than it seems at first glance. We obviously want our films to be seen by huge audiences populated by powerful producers, adoring film critics, and the exact right niche for our film. If we’re being honest with ourselves, though, we have to look to Question 1 and guide ourselves from there.


Looking to network? Go to filmmaker-friendly fests like Cucalorus and market the hell out of your movie. Make flyers and posters and contact the festival to see where you can post them. Create a social media strategy and use the film’s screening to grow your social media network.


Looking for distribution? Identify the distributors you want and, when you have a screening near them, write a handwritten letter inviting an executive (identify who they are specifically) to attend the screening. Make it classy. This might sound old-school, but that’s the point. You’re trying to make an impression, and being as personal as possible is the best way to do it.


Looking for fame? Get all of your publicity materials in tight order! Whip up a trailer, promote the hell out of your screenings, and make your social media following strong before you premiere. Put your movie out front and center.


3. What Is My Film, Realistically? 

Image courtesy of Eat Drink Films.


What is the market for your film? Who is the audience for your film? What is the best place for your film to be seen after its festival run? These are important questions that will help you find the perfect festivals for your film.


Did you make a genre film? I once met a filmmaker whose gritty crime feature didn’t initially get into the big festivals he thought it would, so he submitted to established niche festivals with more of a horror sensibility. The film went over like gangbusters and grew a reputation that got him into the festivals he was originally interested in. Specificity can be both your best friend and the thing that, strangely enough, broadens your film’s appeal.


How global is your film’s appeal? If you’ve made a comedy about the quirks of Midwest sensibilities, maybe an audience in Copenhagen isn’t the best for your film. However, a very visual thriller might appeal to people around the globe, so consider how local or global your film’s appeal is and move on from there.


Best Film Festivals


While there is no single “best” film festival, if you’re new to the festival circuit, you should definitely keep up with Cannes, TIFF, Sundance, and SXSW as they’re the most oft-discussed fests of the year.


Other than those, the best film festival is the one that works best for your film. For film festival tips, check out Moviemaker’s 50 Films Worth the Entry Fee. Oftentimes, the best festivals are the ones that provide the clearest communication and deliver on expectations. Always make sure to read reviews before submitting to film festivals.


Save More Money for Submission Fees with Royalty Free Music!


Plug time! Finding the right music for your film can be hard work and expensive. Luckily, Amazing Music Tracks has you covered! With music from every genre, our easy-to-search catalog offers great music at reasonable prices. Spend the time and money you save on getting the most out of your film festival experience.


The life of your film is only beginning with its festival run. Asking yourself the right questions beforehand can set your film up for tremendous success down the line. Good luck!

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