Today I’ll be sharing with you my top 10 tips for Film Festival Submissions – let’s begin!
1.First things first – know your film – before doing any submissions and diving into the world of the festival circuit ask yourself – have you got a film that festival programmers want? The best way to answer that question is to get objective feedback from people who are not attached to you or your film emotionally and have an idea regarding what the festival circuit are looking for. In a nutshell, festivals are looking for films which are original, edgy, innovative, boundary pushing and take a huge risk that shows a confident filmmaker who doesn’t hold back. A film that is straightforward, full of cliches and predictable (regardless of if it is well made or poorly made) will be a difficult sell.
2. Set your (realistic) goals – the first step is always to unpack your film and identify if it’s going to be of interest to film festivals. Next comes your goals. Ask yourself – what do I want to achieve from the festival circuit with my film? Be specific – is it networking and meeting more contacts, is it getting exposure around the world and lots of international official selection laurels/or a distribution deal? Knowing what you want to achieve and how strong your film is will increase your chances of success on the circuit.
3.Do your research – spend time researching the world of film festivals and seeing which fests would be a potentially good fit for your film Research the Oscar, BAFTA, BIFA & Independent Spirit award qualifying festivals (a google search will bring up these documents) so you can get to know these types of festivals and what they’re looking for. Always look at their previous winner’s page – that’s super useful. Film freeway’s database is useful as you can learn a lot about festivals on the festivals ‘about’ pages. I’d also encourage you to speak with other filmmakers regarding their previous festival experiences as this too is very useful.
4.Ensure you create a comprehensive Film Freeway Project Page Part 1 – Synopsis. The next couple of points revolve around building an impressive & strong film freeway project page. In my view, a professional film freeway page is essential. It’s always important to create a strong and striking first impression when you submit your film to festivals. First up is a succinct and ‘to the point’ synopsis. Keep your synopsis short. Ensure that it is a clear and easy to understand summary of your film and emphasize its uniqueness and originality. Writing a very long repetitive & drawn-out synopsis will not grab the festival programmer’s attention and remember – they are very pressed for time.
5. Ensure that you create a comprehensive Film Freeway Project Page Part 2 Poster – You will certainly need to create a poster for your film (and this applies to both short films and feature films) as festivals will request it when they invite your film to screen. It is one of their deliverables that they require. Sometimes festivals will download your poster directly from film freeway. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that you get your poster professionally made by a designer and not created by yourself in Canva or paintbrush for example.
6. Ensure you create a comprehensive Film Freeway Project Page Part 3 Trailer – once again (ooh a Deja Vu!) you will certainly need to create a trailer for your film (and this applies to both short films and feature films) as festivals will request it when they invite your film to screen as it is one of their deliverables that they require so they can promote your film on their social media and website. Sometimes festivals will download your trailer directly from film freeway. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that you get your trailer professionally edited by editors who make trailers for a living.
7.Ensure you create a comprehensive Film Freeway Project Page Part 4 Directors Bio & Statement – similar to a synopsis we don’t want the director’s biography to be his or her life story. All it needs to be is a paragraph (or 2 paragraphs maximum) giving an overview of their career and the key highlights so far (i.e., working as a Production Manager on James Bond Goldeneye or winning the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival). A director’s statement can be tricky to write however what it essentially boils down to is the director’s explaining his or her vision specifically why the film needed to be made, why it is an important story that needs to be seen and why it looks the way that it does.
8. Ensure you create a comprehensive Film Freeway Project Page Part 5 – upload Stills or Screenshots not BTS. Festivals don’t use behind the scenes on set type of images in their PR and marketing materials. Instead, they use stills or screenshots. Always ensure that you upload high resolution images which are striking & poignant images from the film to make it stand out.
9.Budgets – before doing any submissions remember to set your film freeway account to the currency that you’ll be using to cover the cost of the submission fees. Paying for fees in USD currency but coming from a U.K. bank account or a British credit/debit card means you will be charged a lot of commission by your greedy bank. Switch the payment to GBP you can do this in your account settings. Banks tend to charge per festival submission which can add up and seriously inflate your submission fee budget dramatically.
10. Get organized – it is vitally important to keep a spreadsheet of your submissions, so that you don’t lose track of the submissions that you have completed so far and where you are at. I would encourage you to put together a spreadsheet that includes the full details of the festival (name, dates it takes place, date of your submission, territory etc.), your submission tracking number, cost of the submission fee and status (accepted, pass or in consideration) so that you have it all together in one database – more on this topic in a future article!
Do you have a topic that you’d like me cover in a future column? DM me on Instagram @rebekahfilmdr and let’s connect. I’d love to know what else I can help you with. In my next article I’ll be discussing how to get into an A-list film festival. See you soon!