16 Things Film Festivals Hate About Filmmakers

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 on DVD

You mean you want me to watch this through an iold computer that has a DVD player that might mean your movie skips or stalls? 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



Photo Credit David Martinez / BIFA 2018

Few people know more filmmakers and screenwriters than Elliot Grove. Elliot is the founder of Raindance Film Festival (1993) and the British Independent Film Awards (1998). He has produced over 700 hundred short films and five feature films: the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead (2006), Deadly Virtues (2013), AMBER (2017), Love is Thicker Than Water (2018) and the SWSX Grand Jury Prize winner Alice (2019). He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Raindance BREXiT trailer 2019

Elliot has written three books which have become industry standards: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay, now in its second edition, Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking and Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice).

In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.

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