I've submitted my own films to film festivals many times and I have to tell you, film festivals can really annoy filmmakers.

Sitting on the festival side of the fence, there are a lot of things that filmmakers do that really annoy film festivals.

1. Filmmakers who don't read the festival rules and regulations

Each festival has it's own reason for being, and devises a set of rules in order to make sure no one wastes time. Here are Raindance's Rules and Regulations

You wouldn't believe how many phone calls and emails we get from filmmakers who obviously haven't read our rules and regulations.

To have a legitimate query is another thing altogether, and we, like all festivals, welcome those calls.

However, some filmmakers never spend any time researching the profile of the festival they are submitting to, and then complain bitterly of why they weren't selected.

2. Filmmakers who don't complete submission details

Filmmakers who only partly complete their submission forms do 2 things:
firstly, their submission can't be considered and goes into the 'incomplete submission form' pile where it won't be watched and secondly, ties down admin time chasing for the details.

Please fill in the form. If you don't know what a term means, why not try googling something like "Aspect ratio" before you call the office and bemuse one of our interns.

3. Filmmakers who send wrong or incorrect email and telephone numbers

How hard is it to make sure that your contact details are correct? Come on, be professional.

4. Filmmakers who are incommunicado

If you went to all the effort of submitting your film, the least we expect is that you can be reached within a reasonable time ie: 24 hours.

I can't tell you the number of times I have had to email, telephone and leave messages, call other members of the crew trying to reach a producer or director with important information about their film. sometimes I just give up, and we won't screen the film.

5. Filmmakers who are too communicative

The opposite side of the coin is true too. Our Royal Mail postman jokes that the minute he stabs received by Raindance into his computer, filmmakers from around the world start calling us to see (a) if we have received the film (b) what our decision is and (c) why we haven't entered it onto our database.

Geez - the package only arrived three minutes ago!

Another call we hate is from nervous filmmakers asking if we have seen their film yet.

6. Filmmakers who are having fights with their team

We get 10-20 films submitted each year which are then withdrawn (or kicked out) because the person who submitted the film didn't have either the rights or permission of the rest of the cast and crew.

Geez. This seems like a basic thing to get agreed BEFORE you started filming, not when someone on your team hears your film is heading to a festival.

7. Filmmakers who haven't cleared music rights

Festivals like Raindance can't screen your film unless the music rights are cleared. If we get busted, the person who gets the heavy legal writs aren't you, but the festival, and the cinema where your movie plays.

I would say that half the reasons that films don't get into Raindance is uncleared music rights.

8. Filmmakers who send faulty preview discs

I know it's a pain to check every single disc you duplicate before you send them out, but our programmers get really annoyed if they find a faulty disc. I know it's not your fault that someone screwed up, and our programmers know that too, but now your submission goes back to the front of the queue and we have to hope that you will answer your emails (number 4 above) and can send us a new disc in time.

9. Filmmakers who want us to watch their films online

You mean you want me to watch this through an internet connection that might mean that your movie skips or stalls? Worse yet, it might screen on a very small player to avoid connectivity issues. Are you happy with that?

10. Filmmakers who send bad production stills

The most difficult task we have is finding great production stills from the movie to print in our commemorative catalogue (that goes out to agents and distributors) and for our website.

We stopped printing pictures of filmmakers in our catalogue 3 years ago, because the pictures we got of film directors looked like they had been lifted from college yearbooks.

Come on! It's the film industry and the entertainment business. Stills need to be entertaining.

11. Filmmakers with no social network

A festivals job is a lot easier if a filmmaker has a social network, and can alert their followers to an upcoming festival screening.

At Raindance we welcome, and work with filmmakers to try and pack out the screening as much as possible.

Remember that all festivals have limited marketing budgets and the more you can help, the more successful your screening will be.

12. Filmmakers without a press kit

Raindance, like most festivals, evaluate submissions based on the quality of the film. Once a film is selected for the programme it is reviewed and a PR` campaign strategy for each and every film is created - a monstrous amount of work.

Filmmakers without an understanding of the kinds of hooks and strategies a publicist and marketeer needs hamper the success of their festival screening.

I wrote and article about the Essential Elements of a Press Kit and I found an excellent case study of a great press release

13. Filmmakers who are rude

Ouch! We work our butts off to try and make every single screening a success. At a festival like Raindance with nearly 300 movies and over 250 filmmakers attending from 36 - 40 countries every year, it becomes an organizational challenge, and sometimes we drop the ball. It's not that we hate you or your film, but we certainly will start hating you if you can't be polite while we are trying to sort things out.

Incidentally, I travel to 3 of the greatest film festivals in Europe every year: Rotterdam, Berlin and Cannes. Every year at every festival something goes wrong. It's part of screening in a festival.

14. Filmmakers who don't understand the role of a festival

Our job is to try and deliver a room full of people to appreciate your work. Your job is to deliver a pleasing and entertaining film, and if you attend the festival, be available for interview and Q&A sessions after your screening.

Together, the festival and filmmaker hopes that you get 'discovered' ie: that someone gives you a cheque. That way, we can both say 'this is the film that was discovered at Randance - enhancing both of our press kits.

15. Filmmakers who fall for cons

There are a few con artists out there who are attempting to stand between filmmakers and festivals - thus earnign them a tidy sum for their so-called expertise. No one in the festival circuit that I know, likes, trusts or needs these middle-men (or women). Stay well clear and make sure you don't fall for one of the 5 cons filmmakers fall for.

16. Filmmakers who ignore relationships

The film industry is all about relationships. It is also about staying touch using your social networks. When you are at a festival, you meet not just the harried, hard working and grossly underpaid festival staff, you will also meet other filmmakers - also likely to be harried, over worded and underpaid. A camaraderie can spring up and if you nurture the relationships with the people that you met at a festival, they are certain to pop up in other festivals, perhaps even the Oscars years later. Hard work, but worth a fortune of the sort of thing that money can't buy.

Fade Out

When I started writing this I had no idea how many different ways filmmakers annoyed me. Sixteen now it seems!

Don't think I'm griping or complaining I most certainly am not. For 20 years I have presided over Raindance and had the pleasure of meeting some of the world's most exciting and interesting people - people bursting with energy, passion and talent.

To be in my position to have been touched by so many makes my job, quite simply, the best in the whole damn world.

Yours in filmmaking

Elliot Grove





Elliot Grove
Elliot Grove founded Raindance as a thought experiment: Can you make a film with no money, no training and no experience, he asked? When people like his first intern Edgar Wright started making movies he started the Raindance Film Festival to celebrate their work in 1993, the British Independent Film Awards in 1998. Elliot has produced over 150 short films, and 5 feature films. He has written eight scripts, one of which is currently in pre-production. His first feature film, TABLE 5 (1997) was shot on 35mm and completed for a total of £278.38. He teaches writers and producers in the UK, Europe, Japan and America. In 2006 he produced the multiple-award winning The Living and the Dead.
In 2013 he relaunched the production arm: Raw Talent with the cult film director Ate de Jong. Their first venture was the psychological thriller Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey. finished late 2013.

Here you can watch the 2015 BIFA's from the red carpet to all the awards. Elliot's interview is at 1:27:00

He has written three books which have become industry standards: RAINDANCE WRITERS LAB 2nd Edition (Focal Press 2008), Raindance Producers' Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking (Focal Press 2013) and 130 PROJECTS TO GET YOU INTO FILMMAKING (Barrons 2009). He was awarded a PhD in 2009 for services to film education. His first novel THE BANDIT QUEEN is scheduled for publication next year.

Elliot teaches several courses at Raindance including Lo To No Budget Filmmaking and Writer's Foundation Certificate.

The 24th Raindance Film Festival has now released it's 2016 festival trailer: a homage to Stephen Spielberg who celebrates his 70th birthday this year:


Read articles by Elliot Grove.

23 thoughts on “16 Things Film Festivals Hate About Filmmakers

  1. Ok, actually, a serious gripe here. You won't watch ANY films online? Are you aware how old and bad-looking the DVD format is? Does that mean you'd accept Blu-Ray discs? I have a Blu-Ray burner, but most people do not.

    I founded a film festival where we ONLY accepted online entries. Of course, it's not Raindance.. but just consider that physical formats such as DVD and even Blu-Ray will eventually be non-existent.

    • Totally agree. We shot our film on an Alexa – and the DVD encodes aren't bad – but not have as lush as they look on a Blu-Ray or Vimeo HD. Also an online link is universal. Having to encode for overseas TV standards is a nightmare (unless you can pay someone to do it).

  2. Most festivals I've dealt with have been great – recognising how vital film makers are to festivals (no films = no festivals) and encouraging them all the way (Raindance seems to do this). Others though, seem to be more aloof – treating film makers like some sort of inconvenience.

    Its quite frustrating when you've spent loads of money (usually your own), called in every favour under the sun and poured your soul into a project only to then spend more money entering festivals to receive a wall of silence… some festivals don't even have the decency to send out emails to applicants saying 'thanks but no thanks' they just expect you to just find out on your own.

    Often festivals feel like a very closed shop – where as long as you know the programmer you might get a leg up and if you don't you're destined for a pile that rarely gets watched with any conviction.

    I've heard stories of decisions being made purely on application forms – without ever watching the films. I just hope that's only a story – after all, if you're paying $30-60 to enter a festival I think you deserve the chance for your film to be properly considered* after all, that's $30-60 is more than we get.

    *notwithstanding the fact that some films are genuinely crap and its possible to tell that within seconds that its not worth continuing.

    • I was trying to be funny, to be quite honest! 🙂 I have had some troubles here with festivals — I've been invited to the Vermont Film festival, had mutiple arguments with the Virginia film festival about delivery formats, and been frustrated with the Asheville Cinema festival, who told me, quite frankly, that "local filmmakers aren't really the draw here".. even though they told me my film was "fantastic"..

      "Closed shop" is a good way to put it.

      I'm actually thinking, quite foolishly, of trying to organize another local event, because I think people gathering in dark room and watching as a group is still important.. plus, as a filmmaker, we absolutely *LIVE* for the chance to screen our work to a captive and engaged audience.. it invigorates us as an artist!

      Recently, someone sent me a film on DVD that had won multiple festival awards.. not going to name names, but I must say we (group of 3) were so underwhelmed that we felt we could not continue to watch after 6 minutes of viewing.

      I feel now like it's all a huge game, and that success or failure at festivals is only significant if 1) it's a large festival with recognition; and 2) your film was invited in the first place

      Forgive me for sounding jaded; I genuinely appreciate your thoughtful reply.

  3. Great piece Elliot. My wfe and I are the founders/producers of The Macabre Faire Film Festival in NY…Would love to talk with you some time. 🙂

  4. Hello house, I am Nigerian; Compere, Actor, Presenter and Filmmaker.
    Just concluded the shoots of the first film 2 days ago. I want critiques from the house for this fresh Project:
    THE PATH: "ta n lese"? Many thanx.


  6. Elliot, in one of your night classes you said that as long as the music in your short film is not supporting any form of brand, it is ok to use unlicensed music. I may have misinterpreted that, but that is what I initially thought. Can you tell me which is true?

  7. Well thats me knackered then. I hate social media. I have a twitter and a Facebook account but find it a massive effort to keep them going as I don't really understand them. I'm a film maker not a gossip. I don't wan't to discuss what I had for breakfast like it's a major deal. Or watch the latest Cat video. I just wan't to make a movie and tell a story. I think it's a pitty that a film festival as prominant as Raindance would not consider you as a film maker for not having a twitter following or hundreds of Facebook followers. And even if I did none of them and I mean ZERO of them would travel to the raindance film festival to support my film. I mean really? And I'm pretty certain even films with a loyal and supportive community if not based even just a short driving distance from the festival would not go, never mind having to jump on a plane from the UK to the states. You'd have a job getting people to go from the North East of UK to London. So basically, if you live local to Raindance and can get a bus load of people to actually buy tickets to the festival you get a slot.

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