Did you know that Cannes is actually a fairly boring city? All eyes are on it during those ten days in May, after all that's exciting, isn't it?
Ken Loach flies in to collect a prize for a surprise-late-career angry social drama. Woody Allen just stands there, still jet-lagged from the flight, looking bored at his own premiere with an ingénue on his arm. Jane Fonda appears on the red carpet to remind you that you can still look fabulous when you're pushing eighty and sponsored by L'Oréal.
Some of those thousands of pictures that were taken during those ten days will be dug up later by journalists profiling this up-and-coming filmmaker who actually was in competition once and only a few people noticed. You can see the jitters in their eyes.
That's only ten days of the year though. Otherwise, it's a resort town on the Cote d'Azur, akin to so many others you cross when driving along the coast -albeit perhaps richer and more boring. You feel like you're in a movie yourself. Isn't it wonderful that something as quaint as a film festival could bring the attention of the world to this smallish town? As the song goes, "there's something happening here/ and what it is ain't exactly clear."
Let's figure out what it is, exactly.
Showing your film
Congratulations! You've just finished your film. You thought you couldn't feel more excited than when your crowdfunding campaign reached 143%, but now that you've got your film in the can (so to speak), you're elated beyond words. You can't wait to show it to the world!
Except you've already figured out that the world isn't waiting for anyone or any film, however brilliant your flick is. Everyone in the business is looking for content, but you've got to prove that what you've got is worth their time and that of the audience. The industry is crowded and the sound of everybody going about their business as usual is very loud.
So your business as usual will have to make dissonant noise. That comes from finding your voice beforehand (Xavier Dolan broke out because his first film was so singular).
But how do you reach your audience? If you've done things right, you already have a strong following on social media. (If you don't, start now!) Now you, an indie filmmaker, need to find your soulmate, an indie film audience. Where are they? They come flocking to indie film festivals, and they'll be excited to shower you with compliments.
Indie film festivals are, generally, more accessible to audiences than the biggies (Cannes or Toronto, for instance). It's fairly common for audiences and filmmakers to share a drink with you afterwards, and chances are that a suit on the prowl for content will come up to you in the queue afterwards.
Filmmakers are a community of passionate people, breathing and living for film. Raindance is one such idiosyncratic community in London, with our film training programme and our industry-facing long courses, embedded in our yearly festival.
A festival is also an occasion to network, booze and schmooze, and meet new people. Perhaps new collaborators, or people who just want to have a chat or congratulate you.
You'll also meet the people you've trained all your life to convince - not producers, the other ones: sales agents; they will have loved your film. Also bear in mind, they'll want to know what's next for you, be ready for that.
All in all, independent film festivals are here to nurture you and to make sure that you get the best possible experience when screening your film, especially if it's for the first time.
Discover. Be discovered.
The industry is changing fast. There are so many trends you need to keep track of and be on top of. A great first festival screening can be an incredible asset in your film's career, that's why you need to choose your festivals wisely. Many festivals are focused on a given niche market, such as a specific genre, for instance, or LGBT films, or highlighting women in film.
You'll also get to see other films that you wouldn't see anywhere else, and you could stumble upon what will become your new favourite film of all time.
Make sure that you submit your baby for the festivals that will take the best care of it. This will only enhance your festival experience: you'll meet like-minded people who only want to exchange and confront points of view and as a bonus, you may also get to travel all the way across the world to talk about your film. Isn't that something?
What's essential in choosing your film festivals, is making sure that they are a part of a clearly defined strategy that will push your film forward. It's fine if you have decided that you're not going to go for traditional distribution.
Some films are made only to run on the festival circuit and will collect a bunch of awards, and will never be seen by the public. They will, however, be used by the filmmakers as a calling card for their next project.
Some films have a career that start in the middle of the summer and end up at the Oscars: if you look at La La Land, a film that cleverly subverted its genre tropes, it premiered at Venice, then went to LFF and Telluride and built a buzz that led it to garnering as many Academy Award nominations as Titanic.
So what do I do?
A film we had at the 24th Raindance Festival didn't have the legal authorisation to get distributed.
Maybe you want your film to get picked up for distribution when you're going around the festival circuit. Maybe you just want to reach out to audiences and try a new digital distribution model that no one has thought of yet, and that will be just one of the ways for which your film will be remembered as groundbreaking.
Whatever you decide, make sure that it's the best choice for you and your film in the long term. We look forward to seeing you at the 25th Raindance Film Festival.