Suffice to say, I’ve spent a good deal of time at film festivals, both of my own making, and others. I’ve also made films that have had over 100 festival screenings around the world, and won several dozen awards.
In my travels I have been able to look at a film festival experience through the eyes of a filmmaker. As a filmmaker, these are the five things any filmmaker should expect from a film festival, and hopefully, should you be reading this, will have experienced this at Raindance.
Debut filmmakers pour their hearts and souls into creating their movies. But often they have neglected the most important part of the process. Namely, learning how the industry works in order to develop a cohesive sales and marketing strategy to monetise their film.
Learning how the film market functions and how films are bought and sold is perhaps the best use of a festival appearance – if and only if the festival you are attending delivers on this important point.
Before submitting to a film festival I would recommend checking to see what industry events and seminars they have organised. A good festival will have an array of these. in 2019, Raindance, for example, hosted over forty such events. Look for seminars you can attend to discover the latest trends in distribution and finance.
Then of course are the networking opportunities. Use your film festival experience as an ideal opportunity to network with your colleagues. Swap notes and compare tactics. And learn.
The fun part of attending is your actual appearance itself.. Why do you think successful filmmakers sound so good in interviews and look so stylish and ‘cool’ on the red carpet? It’s because they are trained.
A successful film festival will brief filmmakers on how to maximise their festival screening. Filmmakers can learn how to walk the red carpet, conduct interviews and Q&A sessions too.
2. “Wall to wall” service
You should expect a complete service from your festival. From the minute you are accepted to the festival you should have an easy-to-understand precis of how to deliver your finished film. You will also have to deliver the film’s data, ie: photographs, trailers ahead of your screening. These essentail items help the festival create their catalogues and festival website. As a filmmaker you can expect to have clear directions to the screening and the number of guest tickets you have been allocated. At Raindance this is handled by two key departments. The Print Traffic team looks after your original print of your film. The catalogue editorial team looks after the data for the website.
Then there is the question of hospitality. If the festival plans to bring you to the festival, questions like travel and accommodation expenses are handled by a hospitality co-ordinator.
If you are arriving in a new city or a new country consider a few basic items. Do they have a ‘festival angel’ to accompany you making sure you arrive at screenings, interviews and events at the proper time without getting lost.
Additionally, the festival will have their own PR team to assist with interviews and hopefully reviews of your film which can be added to your press kit.
Once your screening have finished ask yourself how your original material is going to be returned to you in time for your next festival.
A film festival should provide these services from start to finish, from wall to wall.
Your film festival should have sector-specific expertise. They should be experienced at total event management, and not just the actual screening itself.
A good festival will be able to attract the people you need to meet. As a filmmaker you want to meet acquisitions executives and festival programmers from other festival later in the year.
And above all, the festival should know how the mechanics of the film industry work from top to bottom. This will enable you to get expert advice about different aspects of your career, and the career of your film.
4. No conflicts of interest
Ask yourself who is running the film festival and why?
Some festivals exist to champion the work of their mates. Others have an editorial policy dictated by a sponsor.
We once turned sponsorship from a major arms manufacturer because they wanted to make sure nothing we programmed would damage their corporate image.
5. A transparent fee structure
All festivals have tight budgets. But sometimes, or so I have heard, festival are known to spring unseen charges onto unsuspecting filmmakers. As a festival attendee myself, and having been burned in the past, it’s a good idea to ask ‘What will this cost’?
I was at the European premiere of a a film I proudly produced – Deadly Virtues. I was summoned to a photocall with the director, Ate de Jong. I assumed that these pictures would be available after the screening. To my horror I was given a bill for many hundreds for the photography session, plus more hundreds for permission to use the pictures themselves
Festivals are increasingly important. It’s at a festival that you start marketing your film. Do your research and make the most of your festival screening. Avoid the pitfalls.
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