The reality of getting a film into a film festival
answering questions about film festivals and what they mean.
So I get these questions asked to me when I tell people I am a film student with a film waiting to get into festivals. I get asked “What is film Festival?”, “Is it like TIFF?” (I’m from Toronto) and “Does it mean anything?”. And the answers to all of those and more are what I am going to be writing about here.
What is a film festival?
So a film festival is a place, for the most part, where films are shown. Now they don’t just show any film, there is an application process. And after they get all their applicants a team sits down and goes through all the submissions in all the different catagories. They then pick the ones that they like and are good and show those. They also pick who should win what prizes, if there are any, and award those prizes. Most festivals are physical events that take place at a location for a specific number of days. All the films that are going to be screened are shown, and the people seeing them are charged admission. Now some festivals do this all on a very big scale with a huge application fee as well as admission fee. They host red carpets and have huge celebrities and massive movies that are going to be screened all over the world shown there. But that is not true for most festivals, only of the huge ones like Cannes or Toronto, or Raindance. All of those are huge festivals, that people fly out to, to attend. There are so many more local festivals that showcase local filmmakers that are amazing content but will almost never get the distribution deal that something like “A Star is Born” would. These are the bread and butter of the film festival circuit for most filmmakers, these smaller festivals.
How do you get into a festival?
You take the film you made, which really should be step one, and post it to some sort of video website. Something like either Vimeo or YouTube, but the key point is that you don’t list it. You take the shareable link and post it on another website, FilmFreeway, and then use that to apply. For some festivals anyway. Here you pay and submit your film to different festivals. Sounds simple right? Applying actually isn’t that hard of a process, and after you have done it once it feels less intimidating and almost fun. Then the hard part happens. You get a notification date when you apply. This is the date that you will most likely get an email about whether or not you got in. And so after you do the application process, applying as early as possible to get the lowest rate possible, you just have to sit back and wait. Sometimes for almost a year.
What if I don’t get in?
Well if you get the most politely worded email that, although your film is very good, you don’t make the cut. You just sit back and hope that another festival likes your work enough. This is all a waiting game, and sometimes you lose. But there is a fee for playing the game.
Is it expensive?
The answer to this questions is both a yes and a no. There are some film festivals that are either free to apply to or have a small fee somewhere around five dollars. But on the other side of the table, there are some festivals, like Cannes that can cost fifty or more dollars to apply to. Now most festivals have categories, and short films usually have cheaper fees, but cheaper could still be four dollars.
Why does it matter?
Well, let’s say you are a student, specifically a film student. You make a documentary. You use equipment provided by the school with a budget form the school. Its an amazing documentary, and it has a good message. People should see it. So how do you get it out to people to see? Film Festivals. Student films for the most part, only ever do a festival run for a year or two, and then are used to get the student’s jobs after that. But what if your not a student and you make an amazing documentary, but don’t have a distributor? How are you going to show the film industry that someone should choose to put this into peoples TV’s or cinemas. The answer is you take it to film festivals. The magic of well-made films that are eventually picked up and shown in some capacity that isn’t made by giant studios that have a massive budget come from someone seeing them at a festival.
How do you pay for all of this?
The answer to this is the budget of the film. Some money should be set aside, before you start spending anything, to submit to film festivals. So it should be built right into the film budget.
Why should I care?
Well, there are film festivals literally everywhere, so going to a film festival in your area should be relatively simple. And most local festivals have local creators making jobs and contributing to the economy. So show your local community some love and go see a film at your local festival, it should be good, as the festivals are curated, and it will support local production. If you care about the arts and seeing locally made content, go to one fo the local film festivals in your area.
Does it mean anything?
Well to many people saying that you got into a film festival means very little, other then you did something right. But to those other filmmakers that hear it, it means that you got recognized for doing a good job, and your film is good. So for the film making community it means a lot, for the rest of you, it just means that you should see the film.
So those are the most common film questions that I get regarding film festivals answered. I hope that taught you a little about film festivals and a touch about the film industry. If you liked this please give it a like.